CRISPR just got really real

The great things about CRISPR is its potential do all kinds of interesting things! The scary part about CRISPR is its ability to mutate human embryos and the slippery slope to designer babies. That last part might be an exaggeration… but given that scientists just removed a dangerous mutation from human embryos…. its not too far off.

You can read about it all over the place, but I particularly like this NY Times article.

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Embryos before and after editing.

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The field of human evolution is crazy right now

I’ve been avoiding posting about this for weeks. Every time I go to write a post, I find a new article explaining how everything we know might actually be wrong.

Which is an alarming pace for any field to be moving, but in a field with such a paucity of resources, it’s nothing short of awesome.

Want to know what’s currently being shaken up in the field of human evolution?

Read about it here!

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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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There is no such thing as a “pure” European-or anyone else

After the migrant crisis from Syria hit Germany, it challenged the Willkommenskultur (Welcome culture). While most Germans swung into action to help settle the millions of refugees coming to Germany, some (self-proclaimed) neo-nazis were quoted as saying the German people faced “the destruction of our genetic heritage” and risked becoming “a gray mishmash”.

Well I have good/bad news for everyone. There is no unique German genetic heritage. There also isn’t a unique French genetic heritage, or Norwegian or Polish or Italian genetic heritage. All Europeans are already a mishmash of repeated ancient migrations. New studies show that almost all Europeans descend from three major migrations in the past 15,000 years including two from the Middle East.

Want to know more? Check it out over at Science. 

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Can we build a science of human evolution that people can trust?

Before 2016 ended John Hawks (Paleoanthropologist) asked the simple question on facebook:

“What questions in the science of human evolution have not received enough attention? Which ones should we be investigating in 2017?”

The answers will largely surprise you, and mostly revolved around trust. In the age of people doubting science and facts, these are important questions to be asking, and even more important for academics and scientists to be addressing.

Read the full article here. 1-tmcbarnu4f72_e47cmqzbg

Advancements in the evolution of the female orgasm

Male orgasm is pretty easy to figure out. Without it, there is no insemination, so evolutionarily if you can’t get off you can’t make babies. Pretty straight forward.

The female orgasm however is more of a mystery. It is unclear why it occurs (and to some, unclear HOW it occurs).

So the recent research on the evolutionary origin of the female orgasm in The Journal of Experimental Zoology… earth shattering.

Read about the results over at the New York Times!

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The evolution of human facial diversity

Signalling individual identity is critical in many aspects of human social interaction (click for video!).

We all rely on our ability to recognize other people’s faces to get along in the world. Most people don’t think too hard about this, it’s so fundamental to our existence. But it turns out that in order to stand out in the crowd, you need to be, well different. A recent study shows that human faces are in fact, much more different from one another than other traits, and suggests that this high facial diversity has evolved specifically to signal individual identity. It’s a pretty interesting story, and I look forward to digging into the details.

Check out this NatGeo piece on the work, and the original publication (paywalled).

Literature Cited:
Sheehan, Michael J., and Michael W. Nachman. “Morphological and population genomic evidence that human faces have evolved to signal individual identity.” Nature Communications 5 (2014).