Here’s what we really know about transgender genetics—so far

In an awesome piece over at the Genetic Literacy project, Ricki Lewis what is known (and what is largely overblown) about transgender genetics.

TL;DR: It’s a bit too soon to screen for transgender genes, beyond the usual genome wide association studies, and we really should be asking ourselves if, ethically, this is a road we want to go down.

Also, journalist can run with an abstract and things get out of hand quickly. But I’m fairly certain we all already knew that.

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Who owns your DNA? Ancestry.com does

“For the price of $99 dollars and a small saliva sample, AncestryDNA customers get an analysis of their genetic ethnicity and a list of potential relatives identified by genetic matching. Ancestry.com, on the other hand, gets free ownership of your genetic information forever. Technically, Ancestry.com will own your DNA even after you’re dead.”

Want to know more? Read about it here.

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The Genetic Oddity that gives Cephalopods their Smarts (All Hail Cthulhu!)

It’s no secret on this blog that I’m fascinated by the intelligence, and recent increase in population size of cephalopods (and by extension their potential to take over our world…).

Octopuses can open jars, squid communicate with their own Morse code and cuttlefish start learning to identify prey when they’re just embryos.

And it turns out that their intellect might be related to the way that they edit their genes. Read about it here.

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The explanation and importance of N50 (or lack there of)

It’s pretty hard to quantify how “good” a genome or transcriptome assembly is. How do you tell you got it right? How complete is it?

One way to determine if it’s a good is N50, which is kind of a confusing concept. It’s not quite the mean, or the median length, but it is well explained in a new post over at the Molecular Ecologist!

And they promise that the importance/misinterpretation of this well used standard for genome/transcriptome assembly will be explained in future posts.

I’m looking forward to the rest of the series!

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Ambitious plans to sequence every organism on earth, seeks funding

“When it comes to genome sequencing, visionaries like to throw around big numbers: There’s the UK Biobank, for example, which promises to decipher the genomes of 500,000 individuals, or Iceland’s effort to study the genomes of its entire human population. Yesterday, at a meeting here organized by the Smithsonian Initiative on Biodiversity Genomics and the Shenzhen, China–based sequencing powerhouse BGI, a small group of researchers upped the ante even more, announcing their intent to, eventually, sequence “all life on Earth.””

Interested? Read more over at Science. 

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Rewriting the book on Lichens

As I mentioned on Friday, science communication is all about stories. And this one is a doozy.

After a not so traditional education, Toby Spribille has found that lichens are not what we thought they were. We have long known that lichens are 1 part algae and 1 part fungi.

But it turns out that’s not true. Turns out, it’s 2 parts fungi (two different types of fungi to boot), and 1 part algae. We’ve been getting it wrong for decades.

Read the story of this discovery over at the Atlantic!

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