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Secret second code found hiding within human DNA

Secret second code found hiding within human DNA

Published December 13, 2013

news.com.au
  • dna molecules.jpg
    AP GRAPHICSBANK

Scientists have long believed that DNA tells the cells how to make proteins. But the discovery of a new, second DNA code overnight suggests the body speaks two different languages.

The findings in the journal Science may have big implications for how medical experts use the genomes of patients to interpret and diagnose diseases, researchers said.

The newfound genetic code within deoxyribonucleic acid, the hereditary material that exists in nearly every cell of the body, was written right on top of the DNA code scientists had already cracked.

‘A basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture.’

– John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine

Rather than concerning itself with proteins, this one instructs the cells on how genes are controlled.

Its discovery means DNA changes, or mutations that come with age or in response to viruses, may be doing more than what scientists previously thought, he said.

“For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said lead author John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine.

“Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture,” he said.

“Many DNA changes that appear to alter protein sequences may actually cause disease by disrupting gene control programs or even both mechanisms simultaneously.”

Scientists already knew that the genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons.

But now researchers have figured out that some of these codons have two meanings. Coined duons, these new elements of DNA language have one meaning related to protein sequence and another that is related to gene control.

The latter instructions “appear to stabilise certain beneficial features of proteins and how they are made,” the study said.

The discovery was made as part of the international collaboration of research groups known as the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project, or ENCODE.

It is funded by the US National Human Genome Research Institute with the goal of finding out where and how the directions for biological functions are stored in the human genome.

Get more science and technology news at news.com.au.

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Smart Bra For Eating Disorders

Doctor knows breast: Microsoft working on a ‘smart bra’ to help stop emotional binge eating

Published December 04, 2013

news.com.au
  • prototype-bra-microsoft.jpg

    A diagram of the prototype bra. (UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER/MICROSOFT RESEARCH.)

Put the Ben and Jerry’s down. Microsoft researchers have been developing a mood-sensing ‘smart bra’ that could prevent overeating when stressed.

Those who head straight to KFC when stressed, anxious, upset or worried will know the feelings of brief satisfaction followed by wallowing guilt. But this vicious cycle could be intervened before it even happens thanks to a ‘smart bra’ from Microsoft that offers “just-in-time-support for emotional eating”.

The ‘smart bra’ is fitted with sensors that monitor real-time bio-signals such as heart rate and respiration, which are key emotional signs Microsoft has identified prior to an emotional binge, and will intervene.

It then streams the data via Bluetooth to a mobile phone, alerting the wearer that the chance of stress-related eating is about to occur.

The study revealed those who were made aware of their eating habit are more likely to think twice about opening the fridge.

High stress can trigger emotional overeating in both women and men, although a Microsoft executive told Discovery News that it was mainly women who succumbed.

In a paper outlining the results of a pilot project involving four women who wore the prototype garments, researchers said information on stress levels delivered in a timely fashion “served as a health intervention to encourage the person to be more active or consume less food”.

One participant of the study noted: “I was eating without being aware of it, but by having to log both my eating habits and my emotions, I became aware of triggers for emotional eating, and also more aware of the health (or lack thereof) in my diet.”

While another stated: “I became more conscious when I was about to eat or drink and self-reflected on why I was consuming something.”

Why Microsoft chose a bra for their high-tech system is because  “the bra form-factor allowed us to collect EKG (electrocardiagram) near the heart,” the researchers stated. However the prototype was limited because its batteries only lasted for four hours at a time, they said.

“We conclude that building a wearable, physiological system (to combat overeating) is feasible.

However, we will continue to explore how to build a robust, real-world system that stands up to every day challenges with regards to battery life, comfortability, and being suitable for both men and women,” the researchers said.

In other news relating to the convergence of technology and undergarments, a Japanese toy manufacturer is reporting strong sales after releasing a series of underwear for mobile phones.

The snug rubber items fit over the base of a mobile phone, protecting the on switch from accidental pressings. They make a phone look less naked – and yet somehow more sexual – at the same time.

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How Facebook can tell a break-up is coming before you do

How Facebook can tell a break-up is coming before you do

Published October 29, 2013

news.com.au
  • facebook-dating.jpg
    NEWS.COM.AU / REUTERS

Facebook can predict when you’re going to break up.

Yes, apparently the fate of your relationship is not written in the stars but in your social circle.

Cornell University researcher Jon Kleinberg and Facebook senior engineer Lars Backstrom proved as much when they presented their co-written research paper at a social computing conference in February.

The researchers took the datasets of 1.3 million Facebook users listed as being in a relationship, and found that the more well connected their mutual friends were, the more likely they were to break up.

This theory is described as dispersion.

Couples with high dispersion have mutual friends who are not well connected.

Couples with low dispersion have mutual friends who are well connected.

Therefore the Facebook theory suggests if you and your partner share the same social circle on Facebook (low dispersion), you’re less likely to have your own lives and therefore the relationship is more likely to implode.

A healthy relationship, according to Facebook, is one where both partners have connections to a lot of different groups of people, even if those friendships aren’t particularly strong.

“Instead of embededness, we propose that the link between and an individual u and v his or her partner should display a ‘dispersed’ structure: the mutual neighbours of u and v are not well connected to one another and hence u and v act jointly as the only intermediaries between these different parts of the network,” the researchers wrote in the study.

In a nutshell, get your own damn lives and friends.

Of course, this algorithm might not take into account the fact that some couples don’t take their social circles on Facebook particularly seriously and therefore might look like they don’t have as wide group of friends when they actually do.

Probably because they are out living their lives.

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Woman Slowly Turning to Stone

Woman suffers from rare ‘stone man syndrome’

Published October 01, 2013

news.com.au

Despite suffering from a rare disease which is turning her body into a statue, Ashely Kurpiel considers herself blessed.

The Daily Mail reports that Ms Kurpiel, 31, is one of just 700 people in the world who suffer from Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva (FOP), an incurable disease sometimes known as ‘stone man syndrome’ because of how it slowly immobilizes the body.

The condition arises from a mutation of the body’s repair mechanism which causes muscles, tendons and ligaments to convert to bone material when damaged.

Ms Kurpiel was diagnosed with the condition when she was three years old – six months after her right arm was amputated by surgeons who wrongly suspected she had cancer.

However she has managed to make the most of what movement she has. She has met the Dalai Lama, walked down the aisle in 2002 and has taken up surfing.

Ms Kurpiel has set up a GoFundMe page to try and raise money for a surfing trip.

“My condition has made me who I am – an optimistic person with an inner strength and determination to succeed,” she said. “If I want to do something, then I normally find a way to do it. I don’t know how much longer I will have movement in my body, so I want to experience as much as I can now.”

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