xeroxed-gene-may-have-paved-the-way-for-large-human-brain

Xeroxed Gene May Have Paved the Way for Large Human Brain

Last week, researchers expanded the size of the mouse brain by giving rodents a piece of human DNA. Now another team has topped that feat, pinpointing a human gene that not only grows the mouse brain but also gives it the distinctive folds found in primate brains. The work suggests that scientists are finally beginning to unravel some of the evolutionary steps that boosted the cognitive powers of our species.

“This study represents a major milestone in our understanding of the developmental emergence of human uniqueness,” says Victor Borrell Franco, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, who was not involved with the work.

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Allard Awarded the 2015 International ToxScholar Award

Patrick Allard, Assistant Professor with the Institute for Society and Genetics and the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, was awarded the prestigious 2015 International ToxScholar Award.

Founded in 1961, the Society of Toxicology (SOT) is a professional and scholarly organization of more than 7,800 scientists from academic institutes, government, and industry representing the great variety of individuals who practice toxicology in the US and abroad.  The SOT strategically supports programs worldwide in alignment with the Society’s mission to create a safer and healthier world by advancing the science of toxicology.

Students Film a Mother’s Struggle to Buy Healthy Food on a Tight Budget

Vanessa Moreno knows what it’s like to feed a family on a tight budget. The fourth-year international development studies major watched her own mother, a single parent, do it when she was temporarily unemployed. Moreno is now chronicling on video the story of a single mother of five as she struggles to meet the same challenge.

Fellow UCLA senior Sanna Alas, a human biology and society major, knows the value that urban gardening can bring to a community. She is helping students at Jordan High School in Watts tell their story through film as they turn an abandoned plot of land into a community garden for their school.

Alas and Moreno, who started these projects in the fall quarter when they were taking a class on film-making for social change, are now expanding their documentaries, thanks to a $2,500 fellowship that each project received from the UC Global Food Initiative Student Fellowship Program. “This fellowship supports our project beyond the classroom,” said Alas. “We want to build upon it, make it bigger and include the voices of more people.”

Moreno’s team hopes to raise awareness of the issues faced by low-income and single parents and help motivate policymakers tighten up restrictions on advertising that markets food to children. “I know what it’s like to be constrained monetarily and nutritionally,”` said Moreno. “It surprises me that more people are not aware of the realities faced by people in their own neighborhoods.” It’s not true that poor people eat fast food because they’re lazy and don’t want to cook for themselves, she said.

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How Modern Humans Ate Their Way to World Dominance

The difference between humans and their closest relatives is partly a matter of taste. Yams, pumpkins, and squash are as bland as potatoes to our tongues today, but to a chimp and our ancestors, wild varieties were bitter and yucky. Now scientists have pinpointed some of the genetic changes that allowed our ancestors to diversify their palates, potentially allowing them to take better advantage of a wide range of foods—and conquer the world. As humans adapted to new habitats, they had to become open to new culinary experiences. They ate more starchy tuberous roots, learned to cook their meat and bitter root vegetables, and eventually domesticated plants and animals. Those dietary revolutions helped make us human, giving our bodies the extra calories that enlarged our brains, while allowing our guts, jaws, and teeth to shrink as we ate softer, more easily digestible food.

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Common Chemicals Linked to Early Menopause

Fifteen chemicals that disrupt our endocrine hormonal systems have been linked to earlier menopause among US women. Amber Cooper from Washington University in St Louis, US, and colleagues found women aged 45 to 55 exposed to the organic compounds were up to six times more likely to be menopausal than unexposed peers. The substances include long-banned but persistent polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticide residues. However, two derive from a shorter-lived phthalate plasticiser, which makes polymer products more pliable and is still in use. ‘Higher everyday exposure levels were associated with menopause coming, on average, two to four years earlier,’ says Cooper. ‘Smoking is thought to be associated with menopause coming one to one and a half years earlier, so it’s a pretty significant association—but this is not a study that can prove causation.’

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UK House Of Commons OKs Making Babies From DNA Of 3 People

British lawmakers in the House of Commons voted Tuesday to allow scientists to create babies from the DNA of three people — a move that could prevent some children from inheriting potentially fatal diseases from their mothers. The vote in the House of Commons was 382-128 in favor. The bill must next be approved by the House of Lords before becoming law. If so, it would make Britain the first country in the world to allow embryos to be genetically modified.

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Machine Learning Offers Insights into Evolution of Monkey Faces, Researchers Find

Computers are able to use monkey facial patterns not only to correctly identify species, but also distinguish individuals within species, a team of scientists has found. Their findings, which rely on computer algorithms to identify guenon monkeys, suggest that machine learning can be a tool in studying evolution and help to identify the factors that have led to facial differentiation in monkey evolution.

“Studying the cues that species use to discriminate each other often poses a challenge to scientists,” explains James Higham, an assistant professor of anthropology at New York University and one of authors of the study, which appears in the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B”. “Many species are now rare and, in the case of these particular monkeys, they live high in the rainforest canopy, so are very difficult to reach.”

The analysis focused on specific guenon visual signals—facial patterns generally as described using the ‘eigenface’ technique, a method used in computer vision for human facial recognition, as well as eyebrow patches and nose spots segmented from images. From here, the researchers tested whether or not an algorithm could accurately accomplish the following: identify individual guenons, classify them by species from among the 12 in the sample, and determine the age and sex of each individual.

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Early Human Ancestors Used Their Hands Like Modern Humans

New research suggests pre-Homo human ancestral species, such as Australopithecus africanus, used human-like hand postures much earlier than was previously thought.

Anthropologists from the University of Kent, working with researchers from University College London, the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig (Germany) and the Vienna University of Technology (Austria), have produced the first research findings to support archaeological evidence for stone tool use among fossil australopiths 3-2 million years ago. The distinctly human ability for forceful precision (e.g. when turning a key) and power “squeeze” gripping (e.g. when using a hammer) is linked to two key evolutionary transitions in hand use: a reduction in arboreal climbing and the manufacture and use of stone tools. However, it is unclear when these locomotory and manipulative transitions occurred.

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