Clues to Your Health Are Hidden at 6.6 Million Spots in Your DNA. With a sophisticated new algorithm, scientists have found a way to forecast an individual’s risks for five deadly diseases. Health Section, New York TImes, by Gina Kolata, 13 August 2018

Scientists have created a powerful new tool to calculate a person’s inherited risks for heart disease, breast cancer and three other serious conditions.

By surveying changes in DNA at 6.6 million places in the human genome, investigators at the Broad Institute and Harvard University were able to identify many more people at risk than do the usual genetic tests, which take into account very few genes.

Of 100 heart attack patients, for example, the standard methods will identify two who have a single genetic mutation that place them at increased risk. But the new tool will find 20 of them, the scientists reported on Monday in the journal Nature Genetics.

The researchers are now building a website that will allow anyone to upload genetic data from a company like 23andMe or Users will receive risk scores for heart disease, breast cancer, Type 2 diabetes, chronic inflammatory bowel disease and atrial fibrillation.

Read more: Clues to Your Health Are Hidden at 6.6 Million Spots in Your DNA


Give a Cow a Brush, and Watch It Scratch That Itch, under Trilobites, The New York Times by JoAnna Klein, 8 August 2018.  Some researchers think mechanical brushes aren’t just some spa amenity for dairy cows — they’re important to the animal’s well-being. Do I have your attention now?

Cows, like dogs and people, like a good scratch. Outside, they’ll rub their bodies against fence posts or trees to remove parasites or just stay clean. Some do it so much, they can break radio transmission towers if you don’t fence it off.

But many dairy cows in the United States never go to pasture. And even when they do, cows may spend winters tied up in a barn. So if a cow has an itch to scratch — what’s a cow to do?

In a lot of places, nothing.

But in some places, there’s the mechanical brush.

Read more and see the video:  Give a Cow a Brush, and Watch It Scratch That Itch


The ‘Zombie Gene’ That May Protect Elephants From Cancer, from Matter, The New York Times by Carl Zimmer, 14 August 2018.  With such enormous bodies, elephants should be particularly prone to tumors. But an ancient gene in their DNA, somehow resurrected, seems to shield the animals.

Elephants ought to get a lot of cancer. They’re huge animals, weighing as much as eight tons. It takes a lot of cells to make up that much elephant.

All of those cells arose from a single fertilized egg, and each time a cell divides, there’s a chance that it will gain a mutation — one that may lead to cancer.

Strangely, however, elephants aren’t more prone to cancer than smaller animals. Some research even suggests they get less cancer than humans do.

On Tuesday, a team of researchers reported what may be a partial solution to that mystery: Elephants protect themselves with a unique gene that aggressively kills off cells whose DNA has been damaged.

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