Page 3«..2345

Archive for the ‘Female Genetics’ Category

Memo to all tech bros: Sexism, not biology, holds women back – New Scientist

Google has diversity problems

Kim Kulish/Corbis via Getty

By Lara Williams

Sexism in the tech sector has been a long-standing problem. The latest manifestation of an industry in which machismo reigns and women are grossly underrepresented came as an internal memo written by James Damore an engineer employed by Google (Google has since fired Damore).

The essay, which has been described as an anti-diversity manifesto, is titled Googles Ideological Echo Chamber. It comprises 10 pages of bad science and biological determinism.

Damore outlines research that he says supports his view that women are intrinsically different to men, broadly less likely (and capable) of working in the same careers and industries. Women, on average, have more: he begins, before listing various attributes as innate to women: openness, interest in people over things, preference for social and artistic work, neuroticism and anxiety, extraversion expressed as gregariousness and a harder time negotiating salaries.

Advertisement

Philosophically, he reasons, I dont think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women.

Some of the science Damore uses to prop up his argument, as Angela Saini points out in The Guardian, is valid; but only insofar as there is a school of neuroscientific thought venturing theories of anatomical differences in men and womens brains. Equally, there is a school of thought dismissing this idea. There are published scientific papers out there to support every possible opinion, Saini states. Science is a slow process, not a growing string of truths.

One truth though is that biological determinism has a history of being trotted out to justify sexism and it is problematic for a number of reasons. Damores manifesto portrays women as a product of inherited traits; understanding womanhood as an expressly anatomical concept without social and cultural influence. He needs to heed French intellectual and feminist Simone de Beauvoirs famous line, one is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.

Feminist identity politics are, broadly speaking, concerned with the ways female identity and prescriptive modes of femininity are shaped and constructed. Damores assertions presume gender identity happens in a cultural vacuum.

We ask why we dont see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs, Damore states. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.

But we absolutely do ask. Men do not have biological predisposition towards stressful hours any more than women do; likewise, a balanced and fulfilling life comes with different expectations if it is likely you are the half of a partnership required to pick up the majority of the domestic labour and child-rearing duties. The structural differences that create inequality are more nuanced than genitals and genetics.

Damore outlines Googles diversity strategies, such as mentoring and classes for marginalised candidates, as harmful, stating they actually increase race and gender tensions. Such strategies increase tensions only for those with a sense of privilege and entitlement, threatened by the usurping of a status quo they benefit from.

What he does not address is the widely discussed prevalence of an aggressively masculine bro-culture, making those long office hours even less palatable for women. A 2016 survey found that 60 per cent of female employees in tech roles reported unwanted sexual advances and 87 per cent reported demeaning comments from male colleagues.

Damore will no doubt, however, be heartened to know Google presently has a 69 per cent male employee majority and so the damaging culture of gender parity he evidently fears is still a long way off. Phew.

More on these topics:

Read the original:
Memo to all tech bros: Sexism, not biology, holds women back – New Scientist

Genetic strategies to reduce gilt feed and development costs – National Hog Farmer

By Mark Knauer, North Carolina State University Assistant Professor and Extension Swine Specialist; and Garrett See, North Carolina State UniversityIn recent years industry geneticists have chosen to focus on increasing sow output through increases in litter size. At some point we may reach an optimal litter size at the commercial level. Some may debate we are there now. Yet geneticists are working to enhance piglet quality which should make it easier for farmers to wean large, quality litters in the coming years.

So what future opportunities do we have to enhance female reproduction through genetics? Genetically reducing age at puberty offers producers multiple avenues to reduce sow herd costs. Recent research by Garrett See (2017) suggests genetically reducing age at puberty would allow gilts to be mated at younger ages and lighter weights. The author reported that after four generations of selection for young puberty, average age and weight at puberty were 163 days and 224 pounds, respectively.

Hence, in theory, you could farrow your gilts at an average age of 10 or 11 months versus a year of age. Not only would this allow you to substantially reduce gilt feed cost, but also potentially market late puberty gilts as full-value market animals. See (2017) further suggests selection for reduced age at puberty would increase gilt retention, enhance sow longevity and improve piglet quality. Hence the benefits of a genetically young puberty gilt are multiple. Yet more research around early puberty is warranted. Can we consistently breed genetically young puberty gilts to farrow at 10 months of age? What is the true economic value of age at puberty?

Genetic suppliers will tell you age at puberty is a challenging trait to capture at the nucleus level. They are currently correct. Yet I think there are some strategies to reduce the cost of capturing puberty data in the nucleus. At the commercial level Im not sure many changes would be needed to incorporate early puberty females, just start breeding at a younger age.

I would like to acknowledge the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and North Carolina Pork Council for their support of this project. Contact Mark Knauerwith questions.

ReferencesSee, Garrett. 2017. Correlated Responses to Selection for Age at Puberty in Swine. M.S. Thesis. North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

See more here:
Genetic strategies to reduce gilt feed and development costs – National Hog Farmer

Damore Has Science On His Side – The American Conservative

Says Debra Soh, a scientist who specializes in sexual neuroscience. Excerpts:

Despite how its been portrayed, the memo was fair and factually accurate. Scientific studies have confirmed sex differences in the brain that lead to differences in our interests and behaviour.

As mentioned in the memo, gendered interests are predicted by exposure to prenatal testosterone higher levels are associated with a preference for mechanically interesting things and occupations in adulthood. Lower levels are associated with a preference for people-oriented activities and occupations. This is why STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields tend to bedominatedby men.

We see evidence for this in girls with a genetic condition called congenital adrenal hyperplasia, who are exposed to unusually high levels of testosterone in the womb. When they are born, these girls prefer male-typical, wheeled toys, such as trucks, even if their parents offer morepositive feedbackwhen they play with female-typical toys, such as dolls. Similarly, men who are interested in female-typical activities were likely exposed to lower levels of testosterone.

As well, newresearchfrom the field of genetics shows that testosterone alters the programming of neural stem cells, leading to sex differences in the brain even before its finished developing in utero. This further suggests that our interests are influenced strongly by biology, as opposed to being learned or socially constructed.

More:

As the memo suggests, seeking to fulfill a 50-per-cent quota of women in STEM is unrealistic. As gender equity continues to improve in developing societies, we should expect to see this gender gap widen.

This trend continues into the area of personality, as well. Contrary to what detractors would have you believe, women are, on average, higher in neuroticism and agreeableness, and lower instress tolerance.

Some intentionally deny the science because they are afraid it will be used to justify keeping women out of STEM. But sexism isnt the result of knowing facts; its the result of what people choose to do with them.

This is exactly what the mob of outrage should be mobilizing for, instead of denying biological reality and being content to spend a weekend doxxing a man so that he would lose his job. At this point, as foreshadowed in Mr. Damores manifesto, we should be more concerned about viewpoint diversity than diversity revolving around gender.

Read the whole thing.Gender non-essentialists are the young earth creationists of the Left.

Read the original post:
Damore Has Science On His Side – The American Conservative

Google Manifesto: Does Biology Explain Gender Disparities in Tech? – Live Science

A Google employee recently published an anti-diversity manifesto on an internal discussion board that has gone viral and stirred furious debate both inside and outside the company.

In the essay, James Damore claimed that differences in the number of women and men in tech companies such as Google can be largely explained by biological differences, rather than sexism. As a result, some diversity efforts aimed at increasing the representation of women and other minorities are discriminatory against men, he argued. (After the memo went public, Google fired Damore for perpetuating gender stereotypes, Reuters reported.)

But what does science have to say about the biological differences between men and women, and how do they affect the gender gap in tech?

“It would be foolish to say there are no biological differences between men and women,” said Margaret McCarthy, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland who studies gender differences in the brain. “Sex is the most potent of all biological variables.” [Men vs. Women: Our Key Physical Differences Explained]

However, pinning the lack of women in tech to biological differences is on much shakier ground, when socialization or sexism are much likelier explanations, several experts told Live Science.

In Damore’s manifesto, he claimed that, compared with men, women on average are more attracted to aesthetics than to ideas, more empathizing than systematic and more extroverted than introverted, but less assertive and less competitive. As a result, he said, women may have more difficulty negotiating higher salaries, speaking up or asking for raises.

He also claimed that women exhibited higher neuroticism, which is manifested in lower stress tolerance and higher anxiety, and that women are less willing to work the long hours necessary to achieve high-paying, high-status jobs. In another section of the manifesto, he said people on the ideological left deny biological differences when they are tied to IQ and sex differences.

It turns out, there are extensive neuroanatomical differences between men’s brains and women’s brains on average, said Larry Cahill, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Irvine. This shouldn’t be surprising; after all, humans are mammals, and mammals exhibit extensive sex-based differences in brain chemistry, anatomy, genetics and function, Cahill told Live Science.

McCarthy agreed.

“We are biologically different,” McCarthy told Live Science. “It would be crazy to say that difference in biology doesn’t to some degree extend to our brains. To think that we have somehow escaped millions of years of evolution because we’re modern humans, I think, is just folly.”

For instance, women on average have more gray matter, the computational workhorse of the brain, while men have more white matter, which connects brain cells in different regions of the gray matter. Men and women also have different connective networks between brain cells, on average, according to a 2013 study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. What’s more, men’s brains tend to be larger than women’s. And sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen, which vary dramatically between men and women, also bind differently to receptors in the brain. [10 Surprising Facts About a Man’s Brain]

However, these average differences do not make it possible to type individual brains: A 2015 study in the same journal found it was impossible to categorize most brains as stereotypically male or female based on gray matter in several brain regions.

“Gender differences, small or large, do not ‘add up’ to create two types of people,” said Daphna Joel, a neuroscientist at Tel Aviv University in Israel who was one of the authors of the 2015 study. “Rather, each person has a unique mosaic of feminine (that is, more common in women than in men) and masculine (that is, more common in men than in women) psychological characteristics.”

Once scientists make the leap from brain anatomy to function, the connection gets even shakier. For instance, bird brains are smaller than mammalian brains, and they’re wired very differently. Yet many birds can tackle brainy feats that stymie the smartest nonhuman mammals. Clearly, brain anatomy does not reveal the whole story, McCarthy said. [Are Big Brains Smarter?]

What’s more, many differences in the structure of men’s brains versus women’s brains may actually counteract gender differences in behavior,a 2004 study in the journal Endocrinologyfound. For instance,women inherit two X chromosomes,while men inherit an X and a Y. But in women’s brains,one of the X chromosomes is almost completely silenced to keep them from getting a double dose of gene expression,meaning that men’s and women’s brains express roughly the same number of X chromosome genes even though, genetically, they have this chromosome difference.

Still, there’s no reason to discount the possibility that anatomical or biological differences translate to behavioral differences, Cahill told Live Science.

“Is it inherently plausible that biologically based sex-related influences affect all aspects of human behavior, including careers people choose?” Cahill asked. “The answer is yes.”

Still, many of the average differences between men and women that were described in the manifesto are either small or near zero, according to a 2005 study in the journal American Psychologist. Some, if not all, of the average differences could be due to socialization rather than biology, several experts said.

For instance, across cultures, men tend to be better at rotating objects in their mind than women are. However, in India, tribal women in matrilineal societies who hold the purse strings perform better at this task than women in nearby, genetically similar tribes, which are patrilineal. Education also dramatically shrinks this gap in spatial abilities, the researchers found.

In the United States, men outperform women on the math SAT, while in Japan, men and women perform equally well on the math portion of this standardized test and outperform both their male and female American counterparts, McCarthy said. Meanwhile, in some Nordic countries, women outperform men on the math portion of the SAT.

Similar disparities in science versus reading abilities exist across countries, said Bernd Frick, a professor of organizational economics at Paderborn University in Germany. [6 Myths About Girls and Science]

“Girls are told that reading abilities are important. Boys are told that sciences are important, and you see that reflected in standardized tests with young kids ages 8 to 9 or 10 to 12,” Frick told Live Science.

However, more patriarchal societies show a much larger gap in these test scores, while egalitarian cultures show only a tiny gap, he added. That suggests that culture, rather than brain differences, explains most of the gap, he added.

As for women’s versus men’s average intelligence (IQ), there is no average difference.

“That has been shown over and over and over with millions and millions of data points,” McCarthy said.

Women do tend to exhibit higher rates of diagnosis with certain types of neuropsychiatric diseases, such as major depressive disorder, anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder, McCarthy said. However, the difference in the gender ratio for anxiety is quite small compared with differences for other diseases such as anorexia nervosa or autism. Men are also less likely to seek out diagnoses and more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and drugs, meaning at least some of the gender difference in the rates of depression or anxiety could be due to underdiagnosis in men, not a differential response to stress, she added. [7 Ways Depression Differs in Men and Women]

“Is the gender difference in the level of stress you’re manifesting, or is it that you’re willing to admit you’re feeling that stress and anxiety?” McCarthy asked. “These are very complex questions [that] we don’t know the answer for.”

Also, gender differences may wax or wane through the life span, making it difficult to tease out the effects of socialization versus biology. For instance, young girls tend to start out being much more aggressive and assertive but become less so by the adolescent years.

“Is it because they are punished for getting out of their ‘gender lane,’ or is it because they go through puberty?” McCarthy said. Right now, there’s no way to know, she said.

Other work has shown that women are less competitive than men on average. However, a 2011 study of ultramarathoners, published in the Journal of Sports Economics, showed that as societies become more egalitarian and the prize money women compete for approaches the pots for men, the competitiveness gap disappears.

“So it’s a matter of culture,” Frick said.

The manifesto goes way out on a limb, however, when it aims to explain the gender gap in tech to biology when other factors such as sexism or outmoded family structures clearly play a role, McCarthy said.

For instance, several studies have shown that a powerful way to attract more women to leadership positions is to have more women in leadership roles, McCarthy said. So the dearth of senior women in tech could lead to a vicious cycle of under-representation, she added.

What’s more, women do not inherently want to work fewer hours. Rather, many are expected to shoulder a second shift of childcare and chores when they get home, McCarthy said.

“They have two jobs,” McCarthy said.

And sexism in the tech world isn’t benign either, Cahill said.

“I always hear about a bro cultulre [in tech],” Cahill said. “It’s probably the case that the average woman will chafe more at the average bro culture than the average man.”

What’s more, no studies have shown that the skills and personality traits needed for tech jobs are uniquely male. For instance, no studies suggest that being agreeable, empathetic or extroverted (the traits Damore ascribed to women) are liabilities for those in the tech field, McCarthy said.

“If Google needed only people with only extremely masculine characteristics, then there would be more suitable male candidates than female candidates,” Joel said. “But even in the relatively narrow field of tech, there are many different combinations of characteristics (some more common in women and some more common in men) that fit, so sex differences in the prevalence of these mosaics is unlikely to explain the gender gap in tech.”

Originally published on Live Science.

Read more from the original source:
Google Manifesto: Does Biology Explain Gender Disparities in Tech? – Live Science

Researchers Explore the Science of Gender Identity – NBCNews.com

NEW YORK While President Donald Trump has thrust transgender people back into the conflict between conservative and liberal values in the United States, geneticists are quietly working on a major research effort to unlock the secrets of gender identity.

A consortium of five research institutions in Europe and the United States, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, George Washington University and Boston Children’s Hospital, is looking to the genome, a person’s complete set of DNA, for clues about whether transgender people are born that way.

Two decades of brain research have provided hints of a biological origin to being transgender, but no irrefutable conclusions.

A worker checks the serial number on a slice of human brain before using a saw to cut a piece from the sample at a brain bank in the Bronx borough of New York City, New York, U.S. June 28, 2017. CARLO ALLEGRI / Reuters

Now scientists in the consortium have embarked on what they call the largest-ever study of its kind, searching for a genetic component to explain why people assigned one gender at birth so persistently identify as the other, often from very early childhood.

Researchers have extracted DNA from the blood samples of 10,000 people, 3,000 of them transgender and the rest non-transgender, or cisgender. The project is awaiting grant funding to begin the next phase: testing about 3 million markers, or variations, across the genome for all of the samples.

Knowing what variations transgender people have in common, and comparing those patterns to those of cisgender people in the study, may help investigators understand what role the genome plays in everyone’s gender identity.

“If the trait is strongly genetic, then people who identify as trans will share more of their genome, not because they are related in nuclear families but because they are more anciently related,” said Lea Davis, leader of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute.

The search for the biological underpinnings is taking on new relevance as the battle for transgender rights plays out in the U.S. political arena.

One of the first acts of the new Trump administration was to revoke Obama-era guidelines directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Last week, the president announced on Twitter he intends to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

Related: Despite Trump’s Tweets, Trans Army Sergeant Keeps Proudly Serving

Texas lawmakers are debating a bathroom bill that would require people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. North Carolina in March repealed a similar law after a national boycott cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.

Currently, the only way to determine whether people are transgender is for them to self-identify as such. While civil rights activists contend that should be sufficient, scientists have taken their search to the lab.

That quest has made some transgender people nervous. If a “cause” is found it could posit a “cure,” potentially opening the door to so-called reparative therapies similar to those that attempt to turn gay people straight, advocates say. Others raise concerns about the rights of those who may identify as trans but lack biological “proof.”

Davis stressed that her study does not seek to produce a genetic test for being transgender, nor would it be able to. Instead, she said, she hopes the data will lead to better care for transgender people, who experience wide health disparities compared to the general population.

One-third of transgender people reported a negative healthcare experience in the previous year such as verbal harassment, refusal of treatment or the need to teach their doctors about transgender care, according to a landmark survey of nearly 28,000 people released last year by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Related: Major Transgender Rights Case Returns to Lower Court

Some 40 percent have attempted suicide, almost nine times the rate for the general population.

“We can use this information to help train doctors and nurses to provide better care to trans patients and to also develop amicus briefs to support equal rights legislation,” said Davis, who is also director of research for Vanderbilt’s gender health clinic.

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee has one of the world’s largest DNA databanks. It also has emerged as a leader in transgender healthcare with initiatives such as the Trans Buddy Program, which pairs every transgender patient with a volunteer to help guide them through their healthcare visits.

The study has applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health and is exploring other financial sources to provide the $1 million needed to complete the genotyping, expected to take a year to 18 months. Analysis of the data would take about another six months and require more funding, Davis said.

The other consortium members are Vrije University in Amsterdam and the FIMABIS institute in Malaga, Spain.

PROBING THE BRAIN

Until now, the bulk of research into the origins of being transgender has looked at the brain.

Neurologists have spotted clues in the brain structure and activity of transgender people that distinguish them from cisgender subjects.

A seminal 1995 study was led by Dutch neurobiologist Dick Swaab, who was also among the first scientists to discover structural differences between male and female brains. Looking at postmortem brain tissue of transgender subjects, he found that male-to-female transsexuals had clusters of cells, or nuclei, that more closely resembled those of a typical female brain, and vice versa.

Swaab’s body of work on postmortem samples was based on just 12 transgender brains that he spent 25 years collecting. But it gave rise to a whole new field of inquiry that today is being explored with advanced brain scan technology on living transgender volunteers.

Dr. Ivanka Savic points to a study on the screen of her computer at her home in Los Angeles, California, U.S. June 30, 2017. Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Among the leaders in brain scan research is Ivanka Savic, a professor of neurology with Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her studies suggest that transgender men have a weakened connection between the two areas of the brain that process the perception of self and one’s own body. Savic said those connections seem to improve after the person receives cross-hormone treatment.

Her work has been published more than 100 times on various topics in peer-reviewed journals, but she still cannot conclude whether people are born transgender.

“I think that, but I have to prove that,” Savic said.

Related: Pressure Mounts to Curtail Surgery on Intersex Children

A number of other researchers, including both geneticists and neurologists, presume a biological component that is also influenced by upbringing.

But Paul McHugh, a university professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has emerged as the leading voice challenging the “born-this-way” hypothesis.

He encourages psychiatric therapy for transgender people, especially children, so that they accept the gender assigned to them at birth.

McHugh has gained a following among social conservatives, while incensing LGBTQ advocates with comments such as calling transgender people “counterfeit.”

Last year he co-authored a review of the scientific literature published in The New Atlantis journal, asserting there was scant evidence to suggest sexual orientation and gender identity were biologically determined.

The article drew a rebuke from nearly 600 academics and clinicians who called it misleading.

McHugh told Reuters he was “unmoved” by his critics and says he doubts additional research will reveal a biological cause.

“If it were obvious,” he said, “they would have found it long ago.”

Follow NBC Out on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Read more from the original source:
Researchers Explore the Science of Gender Identity – NBCNews.com

Selecting at negative 9 months – High Plains Journal

In 2014, the University of Arkansas estimated one purebred calf born from embryo transfer must have a market premium of $1,500 to $2,000 greater than naturally conceived calves in order to pay for the costs to produce it.

In the roughly 40 years or so that ET has been conducted in cattle, it wasnt until recently that embryos could be sorted according to sex. And most of that has been done in the dairy cattle businessnot the beef cattle business. That means even a successful ET calf on the ground may not in fact meet the ranchers selection requirements for that premium price that would pay their costs of production. Or, the calf may not exhibit the physiological traits that would match what his or her genetic potential had been on paper.

Months of planning and thousands of dollars invested in harvesting and implanting an embryo may either wind up in a stellar replacement female to advance your herds geneticsor it might result in a bull destined for the steer pen.

But Matt Barten, of Embruon, Salina, Kansas, is working to change that one beef calf embryo at a time. His company uses bovine embryo biopsy and genomic data captured by the various purebred beef cattle associations to evaluate embryos for producers. With a few cells, Bartens company can tell a rancher not only the sex of the embryo, but also what genetic traits the calf will exhibit in the pasture or in the feedlot.

I say that its making those genetic decisions at negative nine months, Barten said. By the time you have an embryo calf on the ground, you could have up to $2,000 in that calf. So, if you can make the decision to implant that embryo based on what that calf is in the nitrogen tank, it saves you time and money.

With embryo transfer, by and large, the biggest dollar figure and resources that you have tied up are in the recipient herd, Barten explained. Using his embryo biopsy technology a rancher can make transplant decisions as to not only what gender those embryos are, but if they have a recessive genetic profile or traits that a rancher would like to bring into a herd, before a pregnancy occurs.

Maybe more important is that it can help cattlemen build the desired genetics in their herds with more precision than they have ever had in the past.

Early adopter

Charlie Cartwright owns Cannon Ridge Angus in Shelbyville, Tennessee. He and his wife have built their Angus herd using artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer since he retired from the military in 2013.

We bought the first 10 pregnant cows in September of 2013, just by going to various sales across the nation and trying to build our genetics, Cartwright said. Cannon Ridge markets replacement females to purebred cattlemen, so its important that he be able to select female embryos to transfer. But some ranchers might be more interested in the other capabilities of the testing, such as telling if an embryo carries harmful genetic traits that theyd like to select against.

My focus right now is on getting more females, Cartwright said. But as we get down the road and as GE-EPDs and DNA testing is more prevalent, we might start to look more at the DNA of the embryos. If Matt can tell me that these are her numbers, I can choose if I want to put that embryo in. If the embryo shows more traits coming from the mother or the sire, maybe I decide not to put the embryo in.

When we got started it was because I wanted to do full genomic profiling, Barten said. We wanted to offer the GE-EPD at Embruon. So now, using information from the Angus breed association, we can know genomically what that calf will be at the embryo level. We can tell within a group of 10 or 100 which embryos will have more carcass potential or more maternal potential genomically.

And, with each breed association collecting more genomic data on its cattle, the Embruon process can be used for practically any purebred cattle embryos.

Cell amplification

The process is breed-specific, Barten said. Probably the most applicable in the dairy industry because they have so many genotyped animals already. The Angus breed, though, is one that has built up its number of genotyped animals, he added.

Embruons process is fairly simple. A rancher like Cartwright can use conventional flushing methods to get embryos from his cows. Then, he overnight ships the embryos to Barten at Embruon in a culture media to grow while theyre on the way. Barten said its like culturing bacteria on a petri dish. The embryos are biopsied the next day.

The biopsy just takes a few cells from the outer layer of the embryo cell, what would eventually develop into the placenta for the calf in utero, Barten explained. This is where the process gets really delicate. Unlike a DNA sample from a live animals hair or tissue that is composed of hundreds of thousands of cells, there are fewer cells in an embryo to test. Barten works with Neogens GeneSeek Operations in Lincoln, Nebraska, to amplify the number of cells to get enough DNA for evaluation using the genomic data from the breed association.

Embryo before biopsy. (Photo courtesy ofEmbruon.)

Embryo after biopsy. (Photo courtesy ofEmbruon.)

Embryo recovering from biopsy. (Photo courtesy ofEmbruon.)

Embryo before biopsy. (Photo courtesy ofEmbruon.)

Embryo after biopsy. (Photo courtesy ofEmbruon.)

Embryo recovering from biopsy. (Photo courtesy ofEmbruon.)

The most difficult part of this was trying to get the DNA to amplify, Barten said. Its like having to turn a bushel basket of corn into two semi-loads so that you can run it through the pipeline.

Except, in this case every copy of those embryonic cellsevery corn kernelhas to be identical following amplification, or youll introduce errors. Barten said if theres an error in the cell amplification, it can introduce bias into the testing.

These cells have to go through amplification somewhere on the scale of 2,100 times, Barten explained. If you introduce an error, then the genetic prediction starts to get really skewed. Think about a sniper taking a shot at a half of a mile. If youre just one-eighth of an inch off, when you shoot, by the time the bullet reaches the target its a foot off. It took Barten working with GeneSeek a year to get the process fine-tuned so that theres a high degree of accuracy.

We need two things at the end of the day, Barten said. We have to have a high degree of accuracy in predicting what the embryo will become, and we have to be able to transfer the embryo for pregnancy.

Following their biopsy, the embryos stay on their culture for a little while to recover. Barten will look at the embryos under the microscope and evaluate if they are recovered and able to be implanted.

Moving the cost curve

From here, a breeder has two choices. The embryos can be frozen and the breeder can wait on the data to decide to implant them, or they can go ahead and implant them and decide after he gets the data if the pregnancies are what he desired. It all depends on their market goals, their labor resources and other factors.

This process works well for ranchers who dont have an infinite pool of recipient cows at their disposal, and who really need to make every decision count before they tie up their resources, Barten said. Its about moving the cost curve back to the point before theres a calf, and resources are devoted to something that isnt desired.

By making their decisions at negative nine months, the rancher can do in a year or two what it would take some other operation three to four years to do, Barten explained. Thats because every year hes making his decisions on the embryonic level, knowing what hell get. Barten worked with a Kansas State University graduate student, Dustin Aherin, to crunch the numbers. Using computer modeling they found the expense to run double the number of recipient cows in a year can add up to $40,000 in costs in a year, and a rancher could still wind up with calves he would not be able to sell at or above market value.

Bovine embryo biopsy isnt new, Barten said. The technology is used in many other applications. Barten developed his concept for Embruon after he graduated from Fort Hays State University. Hes worked as a bovine ultrasound technician and as an embryo transfer technician. In 2014, he had some clients who were dealing with a recessive trait in their herd, and he thought if he could identify the embryos that were free of the disorder versus those who were carriers, that he could help them. Eventually that led to the creation of Embruon, Barten said.

The science of the technology is what appeals to Cartwright and one of the reasons why hes an early adopter. Hes looking to see this fall in the 10 recipient cows hes implanted with Embruon-evaluated embryos what their pregnancy rates were and what were the final costs of his operation invested in the procedure.

Every cow and every rancher is different, and there are a lot of ways to do embryonic production, Cartwright said. I look at each one as a tool in the box. He added that ranchers need to evaluate for themselves if technology like this will work for them.

Barten is optimistic about the future of his company. They have plans to expand laboratory space into Wichita, Kansas, and adding staff to ease the workload. But for him, the real point of pride is helping cattlemen like his dad improve their herds more efficiently than they were ever able to before.

And all before an embryo is ever implanted.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached at 620-227-1807 or jlatzke@hpj.com.

Read more:
Selecting at negative 9 months – High Plains Journal

Cycling and gender: how and why male and female cyclists need to train differently – Cycling Weekly

Physiological differences mean different training programmes depending on your sex

The biggest single difference in sporting performance separating one cyclist from another is gender. Since 1983, when the gender gap stabilised in Olympic sports, there has been a consistent average difference across all sports of around 10 per cent.

In track cycling, Dutch researchers found an average speed discrepancy of 12.6 per cent; the figure from similar German research was 11 per cent. On the roads, world and US masters records show the difference in the 25-mile TT is around 10 per cent.

The most obvious place to search for an explanation of this difference is in our physiology. However, very little sports science research is undertaken on women. This is partly because hormonal fluctuations mean you need a greater number of female subjects to obtain reliable results. We have a large gap in our collective understanding of how sex-related characteristics affect performance.

Drawing comparisons is also difficult; among women athletes, rarely are we comparing like with like. Body size is just one important difference with huge variation, and other physiological variables must be scaled accordingly. This presents challenges to science.

Jamie Pringle, a physiologist who has coached many world and Olympic champions, says: The most consistent observation about the difference is that women have lower total mass of haemoglobin in their blood, compared to men, and less blood in total. This means less capacity to transport oxygen in the blood, which, when combined with the hearts ability to pump that blood, and the muscles capacity to extract the oxygen from it, is a key determinant of aerobic fitness and endurance.

>>> 11 of the best fitness upgrades you should try

According to Pringle, a well-trained female has about 10 to 12 per cent less haemoglobin for each kilogram of body mass compared to a male athlete. To test the impact of this difference, researchers had 10 male cyclists donate approximately one litre of blood so that their haemoglobin levels matched those of the studys 10 female participants.

Three days later, the riders undertook a VO2 max test and a performance trial: the mens VO2 max values had fallen by seven per cent and their endurance capability was cut by around five per cent, indicating that haemoglobin accounts for at least half of the performance difference between the sexes.

Testosterone level is another important point of difference. Research published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that female athletes with higher levels of testosterone had a competitive advantage of up to 4.5 per cent over rivals with typical levels. Other differentiators include the amount of oxygen used per watt of power generated, and fat-burning capacity.

The menstrual cycle can have a huge impact on a female riders performance (Credit: Jesse Wild)

Dr Adam Simon, the chief medical officer at Push Doctor, says: Men tend to be more muscular and have heavier bones, whereas women naturally have more body fat.

The body fat issue is important because, to climb well, it is advantageous to have low body fat. For a female athlete, having very low body fat risks both their bone and reproductive health.

In assessing how these sex-related differences affect trainability and adaptation to exercise, science has much more work to do.

Human performance is far too complex to be attributable to isolated genes, says Pringle. It will be a while until this physiological photograph develops.

Nonetheless, some studies on nutrition have found that gender has an impact on optimal hydration; and men have been found to respond better then women to carb-loading.

>>> Do cyclists really need to carb-load before a big ride?

Developments in genomics are likely to uncover many more differences between the sexes. In a recent study comparing the physical traits of mice, at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, researchers found that sex affected nearly 60 per cent of quantitative traits such as bone mass and 10 per cent of qualitative traits such as head shape.

Sex was also seen to influence the switching on and off of certain genes, a finding that has implications for disease treatment and possibly, one day, individualised training.

Studying the ageing process also helps explain the impact of physiological differences between the sexes. Before puberty, girls and boys show similar red blood cell profiles; the differences emerge only after menstruation begins. Girls body fat levels increase while boys gain muscle mass and their testosterone levels increase. Importantly for cyclists, males end up with higher lean leg volume.

At the older end of the scale, a US study found womens performances in the 25-mile TT declined faster as they aged; the drop-off steepened from 9.5 per cent at 40 to 16.6 per cent at 50.

These differences could be down to the menopause, which, explains Simon, causes lots of symptoms that are unhelpful for a womans cycling performance. The arrival of hot flushes means that blood has a tendency to head for the surface of the skin rather than the muscles where its needed. Hormonal changes mean that building and maintaining muscles becomes harder and, to complete the double whammy, it becomes harder to stay lean.

The key difference pre-menopause is menstruation. Georgia Bruinvels, a PhD researcher at UCL, found that 41.7 per cent of female athletes felt their menstrual cycle affected their performance. The effects include increased injury risk from hormonal changes, having to deal with pain and cramps, and of course monthly loss of blood, potentially resulting in iron deficiency.

>>> How to set your saddle height: calculate the perfect position

The physiological differences, largely limiting power rather than endurance, suggest the gender performance gap should reduce as the distances increase. Male traits more fast-twitch fibres, more haemoglobin and therefore higher V02 max are less advantageous in ultra-endurance events. In fact, certain female traits become advantageous.

In cycling, it pays to be aerodynamic, says Pringle. A typically smaller-framed female athlete is more aerodynamic and lighter in the hills.

Ultra-distance cyclist Jasmijn Muller agrees: Whereas over shorter distances males larger muscles may help with sprinting efforts, they also fatigue more quickly. Women can keep going for longer on less fuel, as they have proportionally more fat, which burns more slowly than carbs.

Over longer distances, mental strength and competitiveness can prove decisive, and Muller believes women have the edge in this regard too. The longer the race, the more mental a game it becomes. Women are built for labour, which is after all a very painful endurance feat. A high tolerance to pain, and a strong desire to prove that we can perform as well as men in ultra races, can get you a long way.

Are there really psychological differences between men and women? Sports psychology rarely finds major differences in terms of personality traits or mental skills, but interesting findings have been made relating to confidence. Broadly, female athletes have been shown to display higher levels of anxiety.

Of course, its hard to determine whether this higher anxiety is down to genetics or environment (including social factors), or a combination of the two. It could be that attitudes around cycling e.g. the presumption that men are naturally more competitive have a persistent, widespread effect. Social elements are clearly important, as they can affect confidence and anxiety and even, for women, whether they choose to ride bikes in the first place.

Watch: Can cycling improve your sex life?

Far fewer women than men race bikes: only 18 per cent of British Cycling licence holders are female. Some of the average difference in performance inevitably comes down to participation levels: greater numbers mean raised competitiveness the performance bar is pushed higher. There have been standalone exceptional female cyclists, such as Beryl Burton, but could such women have performed even better in stacked fields with close rivals snapping at their heels?

Muller says she would love to see more women challenging her. It creates a great atmosphere, and competition spurs you on to go faster and really be your best. I love racing in long-distance time trials where I know some of my key female rivals will be competing. In 2015, Jill Wilkinson and I battled it out over 12 hours, with me taking the win by a mere 192 metres.

The UK government is currently trying to increase female participation across all sports. A recent survey for Womens Sports Week found that while 83 per cent of sports now pay equal prize money, cycling is in the minority that does not. Coryn Rivera received 1,100 for winning the womens Tour of Flanders, whereas Philippe Gilbert netted 20,000 for winning the mens version.

When wages and sponsorship are added into the mix, the disparity widens. Why would parents encourage their daughter into a sport that values her race-winning talent, skills and time as worth only one 20th of a mans?

The second-class culture isnt just about money. It is about wider support. The way cycling is set up, from UCI level downwards, means that female athletes receive less technical help, have to make do with less advanced equipment, and often miss out on physiological or psychological support.

>>> How elite riders combine high level racing with full-time jobs

Most elite female athletes unless they are on the GB programme have to work full-time and squeeze in their training on top.

Even the timing of events means that the big crowds or TV coverage are reserved for the mens races, which creates a very different race environment. Only a few weeks ago at the Irish National Road Race Championships, the female peloton was pulled over and made to wait for the mens race to pass.

Add into this dubious mix a cycling culture that still features podium girls, objectifying marketing tactics, a pink it and shrink it attitude to female kit, and high-profile claims of sexism (revealed in recent reports and rider autobiographies) is it any wonder cycling is failing to attract women?

So, on average, male riders are stronger and more powerful. They have more blood carrying more oxygen, less fat, and more fast-twitch fibres. And they can train unrestricted by menstrual cycles and attendant fluctuating hormone levels.

As distances lengthen, these physiological differences become less important, yet there remains a persistent gender gap. There are problems with the culture of the sport and low participation levels among women.

To reduce the performance gap, we need to move away from thinking of female athletes as little men and instead design training that optimises their physiology. At the same time, we need to take a long, hard look at the culture in cycling to ensure we treat cyclists equally, whatever their gender.

Male and female athletes, because of the differences in their physiology, sometimes need to train differently. Georgia Bruinvels, a research scientist at analytics specialist Orreco, and Level 3 coach Holly Seear of Spring Cycling Coaching, explain.

Men develop more fast-twitch fibres than women. Women dont naturally use their posterior chain, activate their core and glutes as much as men. Female athletes are more quad-dominant and develop muscle more slowly.

Female athletes should therefore do more core and glute activation and more specific acceleration work. Males can pick certain times of the year for strength training, while allowing their legs to feel fresher during race season.

Men benefit from higher levels of testosterone, which help to build muscle and bone mass. Women need many hormones working in unison for menstrual cycles. And everyone relies on the healthy levels of metabolic hormones such as adrenalin and insulin.

Female athletes need to spot the patterns because at different times of the month different proportions of glycogen and fats are needed to fuel training, sweat responses, core temperature and blood plasma volume and can even affect emotional response. It is therefore important for women to time training sessions accordingly, as well as paying particular attention to diet.

Male athletes need to be aware that testosterone levels can fall as they age, which can have an impact on their cycling through loss of muscle mass, fatigue, increased body fat and decreased bone mass. A blood test can check your levels.

The menstrual cycle increases the likelihood of cramping at certain times of the month. Female athletes should follow a four-week training cycle with three weeks hard training followed by a recovery week.

Male athletes can have more flexibility about how often they take easier weeks for recovery to fit in with their racing plans.

Again, the menstrual cycle can raise injury risks for females, who should, during ovulation, enhance their warm-up, be cautious with short, sharp efforts, and maximise recovery by fuelling correctly and smartly.

Male athletes have been found to be more prone than females to ignoring niggles, which can turn into full-on injuries.

Here is the original post:
Cycling and gender: how and why male and female cyclists need to train differently – Cycling Weekly

First human embryo editing experiment in US ‘corrects’ gene for heart condition – Washington Post

Scientists have successfully edited the DNA of human embryos to erase a heritable heart condition that isknown for causingsudden death in young competitive athletes, cracking openthe doors toa controversial new era in medicine.

This is the first time gene editing on human embryos has been conducted in theUnited States. Researcherssaid in interviews this weekthat theyconsider their work very basic. The embryos were allowed to grow for only a few days, and there was never any intention to implant them to create a pregnancy. But they also acknowledged that they will continue to move forward with the science, with theultimate goal of being able to correct disease-causing genes in embryos that will develop into babies.

News of the remarkable experiment began to circulate last week, but details became public Wednesday with a paper in the journal Nature.

The experiment is the latest example of how the laboratory tool known as CRISPR (orClustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a type of molecular scissors, is pushing the boundaries of our ability to manipulate life, and it has been receivedwith both excitement and horror.

The most recent work is particularly sensitive because it involves changes to the germ line that is, genes that could be passed on to future generations. The United States forbids the use of federal funds for embryo research, and theFood and Drug Administration is prohibited from considering any clinical trials involving genetic modifications that can be inherited. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in February urged caution in applying CRISPR to human germ-line editingbut laid out conditions by whichresearch should continue. The new study abides by those recommendations.

This animation depicts the CRISPR-Cas9 method for genome editing a powerful new technology with many applications in biomedical research, including the potential to treat human genetic disease or provide cosmetic enhancements. (Feng Zhang/McGovern Institute for Brain Research/MIT)

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, one of the lead authors of the paper and a researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, said that he is conscious ofthe need for a larger ethical and legal discussion about genetic modification of humans but that his team’s work isjustified because it involves correcting genes rather than changing them.

Really we didnt edit anything. Neither did we modify anything, Mitalipov said. Our program is toward correcting mutant genes.

Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who is co-chair of the National Academies committee that looked at gene editing,said that concerns about the work that have been circulating in recent days are overblown.

What this represents is a fascinating, important and rather impressive incremental step toward learning how to edit embryos safely and precisely, she said. However, no matter what anybody says, this is not the dawn of the era of the designer baby. She said that characteristics that some parents might desire, such as intelligence and athleticism, are influenced by multiple genes and that researchers don’t understand all the components of how such characteristics areinherited, much less have the ability to redesign them.

The research involved eggs from 12 healthy female donors and sperm from a male volunteer who carries the MYBPC3 gene, which causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. HCM is a disease that causes an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle butcan cause no symptoms and remain undetected until it causes sudden cardiac death. There’s no way to prevent or cure it, and it affects1 in 500 people worldwide.

Around the time the sperm was injected into the eggs, researchers snipped out the gene that causes the disease. The result was far more successful than the researchers expected: As the embryo’s cells began to divide and multiply, a huge number appearedto be repairing themselves by using the normal, non-mutated copy of the gene from the women’sgenetic material. In all, they saw that about 72 percent were corrected, a very high number. Researchers also noticed that theredidn’t seem to be any off-target changes in the DNA, which has been a major safety concern ofgene-editing research.

Mitalipov said he hoped the technique could one day be applied to a wide variety of genetic diseases and that one of the team’snext targets may be the BRCA gene mutation, which is associated with breast cancer.

The first published work involving human embryos, reported in 2015, was done in Chinaand targeted a gene that leads to theblood disorder beta thalassemia. But those embryos were abnormal and nonviable, and there were far fewer than the number used in the U.S. study.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a researcher at the Salk Institute who is also a co-author on the new study, saidthat there are many advantages to treating an embryo rather than a child or an adult. When dealing with an embryo in its earliest stages, only a few cells are involved, while in a more mature human being there aretrillions of cells in the body and potentially millions that must be corrected to eradicate traces of a disease.

Izpisua Belmonte said that even if the technology is perfected, it could deal with only a small subset of human diseases.

Idont want to be negative with our own discoveries, but it is important to inform the public of what this means, he said. In my opinion the percentage of people that would benefit from this at the current way the world is rather small. For the process to make a difference, the child would have to be born through in vitro fertilization or IVF and the parentswould have to know the child has the gene for a disease to get it changed. But the vast majority ofchildren are conceived the natural way, and this correction technology would not work in utero.

For years, some policymakers, historians and scientists have been calling for a voluntary moratorium on the modification of the DNA of human reproductive cells. The most prominent expression of concern came in the form of a 2015 letter signed by CRISPR co-inventor Jennifer Doudna, Nobel Laureate David Baltimore and 16 other prominent scientists. They warned that eliminating a genetic disease could have unintended consequences on human genetics, society and even the environment far into the future.

On Wednesday,Marcy Darnovsky, executive director of the Center for Genetics and Society, warned that the O.H.S.U. research would result in fertility clinics offering genetic upgrades to those able to afford them.

Once those commercial dynamics kick in, we could all too easily find ourselves in a world where some peoples children are considered biologically superior to the rest of us, she said in a statement. We need to ask ourselves whether we want to add that new kind of excuse for extreme social disparities to the ones we already tolerate.

Researchers who worked on the heart-condition experiment appear to have differing views on where their work is headed.

Paula Amato, a reproductiveendocrinologist with O.H.S.U., was excited about the idea of being able to editout diseases before birth. She said that while pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos is now available, it isn’t perfect.She talked about how one of her patients went through three cycles of in vitro fertilizationbut all theeggs that were harvested hadthegene mutation that causes diseases.

With gene correction technology, Amatosaid, we could have rescued some of those embryos.

ButIzpisua Belmonte said he is focusing on using thefindings from this study to further research into gene modifications during a pregnancy or after birth into adulthood.

Ifeel that the practical thing to do is deal with the diseases people have, not with the disease they may have, he said.

Mitalipov said he hopes regulators will provide more guidance on what should or should not be allowed.

Otherwise, he said, this technology will be shifted to unregulated areas, which shouldnt be happening.

This story has been updated.

Read more:

A new CRISPR breakthrough could lead to simpler, cheaper disease diagnosis

Scientists debate the ethics of CRISPR

Ethicists urge caution in applying CRISPR to humans

Jennifer Doudna ponders ‘what it means to be human’ on the frontier of gene editing

Excerpt from:
First human embryo editing experiment in US ‘corrects’ gene for heart condition – Washington Post

About a new pest: the bagrada bug – Santa Fe New Mexican

The bagrada bug (Bagrada hilaris), an African native, was first found in California in 2008. By 2010, it had spread to southern New Mexico and was found in Santa Fe County in 2012. Adults and nymphs pierce leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds with their needle-like mouthparts, inject digestive enzymes, and suck plant juices. Starburst-shaped, brown lesions form on leaves and stems. Other damage includes scorched leaves, stunted growth, and forked or multiple heads on cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. Bagrada bugs may kill seedlings.

Bagrada bugs prefer to feed on members of the Brassicaceae family, which also includes kale, mustard, and arugula; and ornamental plants such as sweet alyssum, stock, and candytuft. However, they may eat many different crops, among them corn, potatoes, tomatoes, asparagus, melons, carrots, peppers, roses, and cotton. The bugs feed on both cruciferous plants (wild mustards, shepherds purse, London rocket) and non-cruciferous weeds (lambs quarters, purple nutsedge, field bindweed). The adults are shield -shaped and 3/16- to 1/4-inch long and are black with orange markings. The first instar nymph is bright orange and the second through fifth nymphs are red with dark markings.

Bagrada bugs overwinter as adults in leaf litter or topsoil. In the spring, females lay their eggs (singly or in small batches) on the soil surface or on the leaves of host plants. Each female lays about 100 eggs in her life. The eggs hatch in four to nine days. Larvae progress through five stages. The egg-to-egg cycle depends on the temperature, generally taking 38 to 65 days. In New Mexico, two or three generations per year are possible. They become locally abundant in mid-July and may reach high densities with hundreds of bugs feeding on a single plant.

Control of the bagrada bugs is difficult. They are not easily seen until the infestation is out of control. Feeding damage is easier to spot earlier in the summer than the insects themselves; they are more active (and more easily spotted) when the temperature is above 75 degrees.

In a home garden, the bugs can be removed by hand (wear gloves they stink) and drowned in soapy water. Large numbers of bugs can be shaken onto a sheet and vacuumed. The trapped bugs should then be bagged or killed since they can survive vacuuming. Pyramid traps baited with crushed sweet alyssum can destroy bugs, particularly when numbers are high. These traps can be made from soda bottles or adapted from commercially available stink bug traps. (Chemical lures that attract other stink bugs will not work.)

Currently there are no effective biological controls in the USA. Birds find their taste to be unpleasant. The adult bugs usually escape pesticides by flying away only to return later. Until there are approved pesticides, home vegetable growers need to use manual methods or bag the plant (including the stem) to exclude the bugs.

Terry McGuire was a professor of genetics at Rutgers University for 36 years. He was also a senior fellow of the National Center for Science and Civic Engagement, helping educators connect science to civic issues. He moved to Santa Fe in 2014. He is a Master Gardener and a Master Composter.

See the article here:
About a new pest: the bagrada bug – Santa Fe New Mexican

Researchers Prepare to Explore the Genetics of Gender Identity, With Caution – The Wire

Dr. Ivanka Savic points to a study on the screen of her computer at her home in Los Angeles, California, US June 30, 2017. Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

New York: While President Donald Trump has thrust transgender people back into the conflict between conservative and liberal values in the US, geneticists are quietly working on a major research effort to unlock the secrets of gender identity.

A consortium of five research institutions in Europe and the US, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, George Washington University and Boston Childrens Hospital, is looking to the genome, a persons complete set of DNA, for clues about whether transgender people are born that way.

Two decades of brain research have provided hints of a biological origin to being transgender, but no irrefutable conclusions.

Now scientists in the consortium have embarked on what they call the largest-ever study of its kind, searching for a genetic component to explain why people assigned one gender at birth so persistently identify as the other, often from very early childhood.

Researchers have extracted DNA from the blood samples of 10,000 people, 3,000 of them transgender and the rest non-transgender, or cisgender. The project is awaiting grant funding to begin the next phase: testing about three million markers, or variations, across the genome for all of the samples.

Knowing what variations transgender people have in common, and comparing those patterns to those of cisgender people in the study, may help investigators understand what role the genome plays in everyones gender identity.

If the trait is strongly genetic, then people who identify as trans will share more of their genome, not because they are related in nuclear families but because they are more anciently related, said Lea Davis, leader of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at the Vanderbilt Genetics Institute.

The search for the biological underpinnings is taking on new relevance as the battle for transgender rights plays out in the US political arena.

One of the first acts of the new Trump administration was to revoke Obama-era guidelines directing public schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their choice. Last week, the president announced on Twitter he intends to ban transgender people from serving in the military.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Thursday found 68% of Americans say transgender people should be allowed to serve in the military, an even larger majority than the 58% found in a Reuters/Ipsos poll last week.

Texas lawmakers are debating a bathroom bill that would require people to use the bathroom of the sex listed on their birth certificate. North Carolina in March repealed a similar law after a national boycott cost the state hundreds of millions of dollars in lost business.

Currently, the only way to determine whether people are transgender is for them to self-identify as such. While civil rights activists contend that should be sufficient, scientists have taken their search to the lab.

That quest has made some transgender people nervous. If a cause is found it could posit a cure, potentially opening the door to so-called reparative therapies similar to those that attempt to turn gay people straight, advocates say. Others raise concerns about the rights of those who may identify as trans but lack biological proof.

Its an idea that can be wielded against us, depending on the ideology of the user, said Kale Edmiston, a transgender person and postdoctoral scholar at the University of Pittsburgh specialising in neuroimaging.

Dana Bevan, a transgender woman, psychologist and author of three books on transgender topics, acknowledged the potential manipulation of research was a concern but said, I dont believe thatsciencecan or should hold back from trying to understand whats going on.

Davis stressed that her study does not seek to produce a genetic test for being transgender, nor would it be able to. Instead, she said, she hopes the data will lead to better care for transgender people, who experience wide health disparities compared to the general population.

One-third of transgender people reported a negative healthcare experience in the previous year such as verbal harassment, refusal of treatment or the need to teach their doctors about transgender care, according to a landmark survey of nearly 28,000 people released last year by the National Center for Transgender Equality.

Some 40% have attempted suicide, almost nine times the rate for the general population.

We can use this information to help train doctors and nurses to provide better care to trans patients and to also develop amicus briefs to support equal rights legislation, said Davis, who is also director of research for Vanderbilts gender health clinic.

The Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee has one of the worlds largest DNA databanks. It also has emerged as a leader in transgender healthcare with initiatives such as the trans buddy program, which pairs every transgender patient with a volunteer to help guide them through their healthcare visits.

The study has applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health and is exploring other financial sources to provide the $1 million needed to complete the genotyping, expected to take a year to 18 months. Analysis of the data would take about another six months and require more funding, Davis said.

The other consortium members are Vrije University in Amsterdam and the FIMABIS institute in Malaga, Spain.

Probing the brain

Until now, the bulk of research into the origins of being transgender has looked at the brain.

Neurologists have spotted clues in the brain structure and activity of transgender people that distinguish them from cisgender subjects.

A seminal 1995 study was led by Dutch neurobiologist Dick Swaab, who was also among the first scientists to discover structural differences between male and female brains. Looking at postmortem brain tissue of transgender subjects, he found that male-to-female transsexuals had clusters of cells, or nuclei, that more closely resembled those of a typical female brain, and vice versa.

Swaabs body of work on postmortem samples was based on just 12 transgender brains that he spent 25 years collecting. But it gave rise to a whole new field of inquiry that today is being explored with advanced brain scan technology on living transgender volunteers.

Among the leaders in brain scan research is Ivanka Savic, a professor of neurology with Swedens Karolinska Institute and visiting professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Her studies suggest that transgender men have a weakened connection between the two areas of the brain that process the perception of self and ones own body. Savic said those connections seem to improve after the person receives cross-hormone treatment.

Her work has been published more than 100 times on various topics in peer-reviewed journals, but she still cannot conclude whether people are born transgender.

I think that, but I have to prove that, Savic said.

A number of other researchers, including both geneticists and neurologists, presume a biological component that is also influenced by upbringing.

But Paul McHugh, a university professor of psychiatry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has emerged as the leading voice challenging the born-this-way hypothesis.

He encourages psychiatric therapy for transgender people, especially children, so that they accept the gender assigned to them at birth.

McHugh has gained a following among social conservatives, while incensing LGBT advocates with comments such as calling transgender people counterfeit.

Last year he co-authored a review of the scientific literature published in The New Atlantis journal, asserting there was scant evidence to suggest sexual orientation and gender identity were biologically determined.

The article drew a rebuke from nearly 600 academics and clinicians who called it misleading.

McHugh told Reuters he was unmoved by his critics and says he doubts additional research will reveal a biological cause.

If it were obvious, he said, they would have found it long ago.

(Reuters)

What to read next:

Read this article:
Researchers Prepare to Explore the Genetics of Gender Identity, With Caution – The Wire

Embryo editing ‘corrects’ genetic heart condition – The Guam Daily Post

Scientists have successfully edited the DNA of human embryos to erase a heritable heart condition that is known for causing sudden death in young competitive athletes, cracking open the doors to a controversial new era in medicine.

This is the first time gene editing on human embryos has been conducted in the United States. Researchers said in interviews this week that they consider their work very basic. The embryos were allowed to grow for only a few days, and there was never any intention to implant them to create a pregnancy. But they also acknowledged that they will continue to move forward with the science, with the ultimate goal of being able to “correct” disease-causing genes in embryos that will develop into babies.

News of the remarkable experiment began to circulate last week, but details became public Wednesday with a paper in the journal Nature.

The experiment is the latest example of how the laboratory tool known as CRISPR (or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats), a type of “molecular scissors,” is pushing the boundaries of our ability to manipulate life, and it has been received with both excitement and horror.

The most recent work is particularly sensitive because it involves changes to the germ line that is, genes that could be passed on to future generations. The United States forbids the use of federal funds for embryo research, and the Food and Drug Administration is prohibited from considering any clinical trials involving genetic modifications that can be inherited. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in February urged caution in applying CRISPR to human germ-line editing but laid out conditions by which research should continue. The new study abides by those recommendations.

No editing, just correcting

Shoukhrat Mitalipov, one of the lead authors of the paper and a researcher at Oregon Health & Science University, said that he is conscious of the need for a larger ethical and legal discussion about genetic modification of humans but that his team’s work is justified because it involves “correcting” genes rather than changing them.

“Really we didn’t edit anything. Neither did we modify anything,” Mitalipov said. “Our program is toward correcting mutant genes.”

Alta Charo, a bioethicist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who is co-chair of the National Academies committee looking at gene editing, said that concerns about the work that have been circulating in recent days are overblown.

“What this represents is a fascinating, important and rather impressive incremental step toward learning how to edit embryos safely and precisely,” she said. However, “no matter what anybody says, this is not the dawn of the era of the designer baby.” She said that characteristics that some parents might desire, such as intelligence and athleticism, are influenced by multiple genes and that researchers don’t understand all the components of how such characteristics are inherited, much less have the ability to redesign them.

72 percent corrected

The research involved eggs from 12 healthy female donors and sperm from a male volunteer who carries the MYBPC3 gene, which causes hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. HCM is a disease of that causes an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle but can cause no symptoms and remain undetected until it causes sudden cardiac death. There’s no way to prevent or cure it, and it affects 1 in 500 people worldwide.

Around the time the sperm was injected into the eggs, researchers snipped out the gene that causes the disease. The result was far more successful than the researchers expected: As the embryo’s cells began to divide and multiply, a huge number appeared to be repairing themselves by using the normal, non-mutated copy of the gene from the women’s genetic material. In all, they saw that about 72 percent were corrected, a very high number. Researchers also noticed that there didn’t seem to be any “off-target” changes in the DNA, which has been a major safety concern of gene-editing research.

Mitalipov said he hoped the technique could one day be applied to a wide variety of genetic diseases and that one of the team’s next targets may be the BRCA gene mutation, which is associated with breast cancer.

First work involving emrbyos

The first published work involving human embryos, reported in 2015, was done in China and targeted a gene that leads to the blood disorder beta thalassemia. But those embryos were abnormal and nonviable, and there were far fewer than the number used in the U.S. study.

Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a researcher at the Salk Institute who is also a co-author on the new study, said that there are many advantages to treating an embryo rather than a child or an adult. When dealing with an embryo in its earliest stages, only a few cells are involved, while in a more mature human being there are trillions of cells in the body and potentially millions that must be corrected to eradicate traces of a disease.

Izpisua Belmonte said that even if the technology is perfected, it could deal with only a small subset of human diseases.

Utero is non viable option

“I don’t want to be negative with our own discoveries, but it is important to inform the public of what this means,” he said. “In my opinion the percentage of people that would benefit from this at the current way the world is is rather small.” For the process to make a difference, the child would have to be born through in vitro fertilization or IVF and the parents would have to know the child has the gene for a disease to get it changed. But the vast majority of children are conceived the natural way, and this correction technology would not work in utero.

For years, some policymakers, historians and scientists have been calling for a voluntary moratorium on the modification of the DNA of human reproductive cells. The most prominent expression of concern came in the form of a 2015 letter signed by CRISPR co-inventor Jennifer Doudna, Nobel laureate David Baltimore and 16 other prominent scientists. They warned that eliminating a genetic disease could have unintended consequences – on human genetics, society and even the environment – far into the future.

Researchers who worked on the heart-condition experiment appear to have differing views on where their work is headed.

Paula Amato, a reproductive endocrinologist with Oregon Health, was excited about the idea of being able to edit out diseases before birth. She said that while pre-implantation genetic screening of embryos is now available, it isn’t perfect. She talked about how one of her patients went through three cycles of in vitro fertilization but all of the eggs that were harvested had the gene mutation that causes a diseases.

With gene correction technology, Amato said, “we could have rescued some of those embryos.”

But Izpisua Belmonte said he is focusing on using the findings from this study to further research into gene modifications during a pregnancy or after birth into adulthood.

“I feel that the practical thing to do is deal with the diseases people have, not with the disease they may have,” he said.

Mitalipov said he hopes regulators will provide more guidance on what should or should not be allowed.

Otherwise, he said, “this technology will be shifted to unregulated areas, which shouldn’t be happening.”

Continued here:
Embryo editing ‘corrects’ genetic heart condition – The Guam Daily Post

Top 6 myths about heart disease debunked – AsiaOne

It is a common misconception that heart disease only affects the elderly. This belief couldn’t be more wrong – coronary artery disease does affect people in their twenties.

Young and middle-aged individuals can, and often do, suffer from heart problems – especially now that obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension and other risk factors are becoming more common at a younger age than ever before.

These risk factors significantly increase the chances of heart disease. How you live now affects your risk for cardiovascular disease later in life.

While comfort breakfasts like nasi lemak and fried noodles may seem permissible at this stage, plaque can start accumulating within the body and eventually lead to clogged arteries, causing cardiovascular complications.

What are other myths about heart disease? Dr. Derek Yong, Medical Director at Restore Heart Centre (Mount Alvernia Hospital Medical Centre) and Ms Susan Kevork, Nestle Nutrition Network Zone Lead AOA, debunk common myths.

1. Heart disease is a men’s disease.

Many people mistakenly believe that heart disease is “for men” and breast cancer is “for women”.

The reality is that cardiovascular disease singularly causes the most number of female deaths not only in Singapore, but also internationally. In fact, it is more fatal than all cancers combined – including breast cancer – and affects more women than men.

Although the incidence of heart attack is lower in women than men, this risk drastically increases after menopause. Women with coronary heart disease are on average about 10 years older than men at the time of diagnosis – so may feel less concerned about the condition while they’re younger.

Often, women also may not recognise their symptoms as indicators of heart disease and may brush aside their symptoms, despite this being dangerous to their health and safety.

2. All cholesterol is bad.

LDL-C is known as “bad” cholesterol, because high levels of it can lead to plaque buildup in your arteries and result in heart disease and stroke. Foods that are high in saturated and trans fats can raise blood cholesterol and are commonly found in fried fast foods, pies and pastries, fries, doughnuts and fatty meats.

On the other hand, HDL cholesterol absorbs “bad” cholesterol and carries it back to the liver, which flushes it from the body. HDL is known as “good” cholesterol, given its potential to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Foods that can help raise HDL cholesterol are mono-unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which are found in oils like olive, rice bran or sunflower oils and foods like avocado, nuts, seeds and fish.

To help reduce LDL cholesterol, eating foods with plant sterols and beta-glucans can block a percentage of the bad cholesterol from entering the bloodstream. Eating a diet high in fibre, especially soluble fibre, can also speed up the removal of cholesterol through the bowel.

Soluble fibre is found in foods such as oats, oat bran, barley bran, dried beans, lentils, fruit and vegetables.

3. If I reduce my salt intake, my sodium intake is regulated.

The average Singaporean consumes around 9g of salt per day, according to the Singapore Health Promotion Board, which far exceeds the recommended amount advised by health experts of 5g.

Even if you cut down on the amount of salt or soy sauce you add to your food, salt/sodium is hidden in condiments, canned foods, deli meats and restaurant food.

This unknowingly elevates your blood pressure, in turn increasing your risk of heart disease.

Stay aware and check nutrition labels on the supermarket foods you purchase, while continuing to make efforts to reduce your salt intake.

A 2013 study from Harvard Medical School and other institutions predicted that even gradually reducing sodium intake by four per cent per year, over 10 years, could save up to half a million lives.

4. I am doomed to suffer from heart disease if it runs in my family.

Traditionally, certain genetic markers have been associated with a greater risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, their overall effect on risk beyond traditional risk factors has not been established, and they have not conclusively proven to improve on the prediction of coronary heart disease risk.

At this stage, genetics are not used definitively in determining overall cardiovascular risk, so there is no large cause for alarm even if you have a family history of heart disease.

Having said that, it is important to take precautionary steps as far as possible. To reduce risk, opt for heart-healthy nutrition.

In Singapore, we often consume meals that contain excessive sodium, sugars and saturated fats, leading to increased risk of hypertension, diabetes and hypercholesterolemia – all important indicators of heart disease that can cause coronary blockages.

Choose foods that consist of wholegrains such as brown rice and oats, as well as plant sterols and beta-glucans, such as Nestle Omega Plus Milk with Oats. You can look out for food that contain these ingredients for breakfast.

Switch out meals that are high in oil for those containing leafy greens, beans, nuts, lean poultry and fish.

5. If I was in any danger of having high blood pressure or a heart attack, I would have felt the signs already.

High blood pressure is often dubbed a “silent killer” because you don’t usually know you have it, which is why annual health checks are so important.

Most people recognise heart trouble through its obvious symptoms – pain in the chest, shortness of breath and bouts of cold sweat. However, a heart attack may not always manifest in the same way, and sometimes reveals no symptoms at all.

This is called a silent heart attack – affected people often do not realise that they need to seek emergency care.

6. There is no need for me to undergo any heart screenings until a problem arises.

To reduce the risk having of heart disease, it is important to take constant note of your heart health before danger strikes. Whilst the symptoms of heart disease can be managed and alleviated after proper treatment, there is no single cure for the condition.

Take steps to prevent its occurrence by adopting a heart-healthy diet and lifestyle, including exercise for at least 20-30 minutes every day.

At least annually, you should undergo a full medical checkup that includes assessment of cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidemia and hypertension.

A focused history and physical examination by a doctor, along with an estimate of the short- and long-term risk of heart disease, should also be included in annual heart screenings.

If you are suffering from any cardiac risk factors – diabetes, hypertension and hyperlipidemia – seek immediate guidance on appropriate management.

It is also advisable to go for cardiac screening before embarking on a new exercise programme.

Read more here:
Top 6 myths about heart disease debunked – AsiaOne

Elad Gil and Silicon Valley’s bright future in cryptocurrency, genetics and health tech – TechCrunch

Elad Gil is running around the Color Genomics office when I come to meet him for a little sit-down. The place is full for a Friday afternoon. Theres a worker taking calls on the couch in the front and plenty of others pacing about in the background.

The office is tucked away in an unassuming industrial area of Burlingame, California, in a building that reminds me of some 60s-style government structure. Color is easy to spot: First suite on the first floor and the only one with, well, bright color.

Gil offers me a water and we sit down in a little conference room. Jokingly, he says maybe he can do something funny for the featured image for my article like pretend to hold up the color wheel logo. Katie would never let me do that, he says, referring to his chief marketing officer and ex-Twitter employee Katie Jacobs Stanton. Hes nerdy funny. I like that.

Gil came to Silicon Valley with impressive academic credentials, including a degree in mathematics, another in molecular biology and a PhD in biology from MIT. It was 2001, and he had hoped to make a dent in the universe. But the timing was off. The country was already headed toward an economic downturn, then 9-11 happened.

He was at a telecom company that quickly grew to 150 people and shortly after shrank to a tenth of the size in five rounds of layoffs. Gil was cut in the third round.

That was a turning point for him.

All these people helped, he said. Like big brand-name VCs were referring me to companies just to help. They were like, Everythings collapsing. Youre some random person who showed up with a PhD in biology. You have no job prospects.

He went on to hold prominent positions at Google and Twitter and now as a co-founder in Color Genomics. Hes also an investor in several well-known startups, including Airbnb, Square, Stripe and Pinterest, and is in a position, which hes known to readily use, to give back to Silicon Valley in much the same way.

But, a dark cloud has been hanging over the Valley lately. News of several incidents of sexual harassment and sex discrimination of female founders have toppled VCs once seen as demigods and caused some to lose hope in the dream.

SB: Ive heard people say Silicon Valley is over. Theyve kind of almost lost faith in their heroes, and then theres all these other little pop-up satellite Silicon Valley-esque cities starting to come up. Do you think Silicon Valley is over?

EG: Oh God, no. I think its best days are ahead of it Do you know the last time they said that Silicon Valley was over?

SB: When?

EG: Theres two times.One was in the early 90s where they were like Its over. Theres nothing left to be done.

SB: At the height of the semiconductors.

EG: Yeah, because all the semiconductor stuff was really sort of like 70s and 80s. And then in the early 90s 91, 92, 93 theres the internet. And I was talking to somebody who was really prominent in the internet wave, and he was like I moved out here in like 93 and everybody thought it was over.

Literally, that was the thing. They were like The best times are behind us. All the stuff that could be done has been done. Its over. And then a small group of people were like, Lets do stuff on the internet. Others were like Thats insanity. Like the internets a stupid toy thing that connects five universities. Who cares? Then of course, Netscape happened, and then theres a wave of innovations, and then in the bubble that I moved into with my perfect bad timing, the collapse I moved into. In that period, everybodys like Oh, theres nothing interesting on the internet, and we have to go back to hard tech. And Kleiner Perkins got into clean tech, and all these people were talking about nano tech, and it was like Silicon Valley is over, and theres nothing to do. We need to find new industries. Thats literally what happened.

Then all the social waves happened, and the mobile waves happened Just like theres a business cycle, theres a venture cycle, and innovation cycle. You end up with these gaps, and I think were just going through a period where theres less obvious things.

Interjection: We started talking about cryptocurrencies, ice cream, health tech and whats next in Silicon Valley. Ive cut a bunch of this short for brevity.

EG:I basically think the last six months have been cryptocurrencys Netscape moment, and I think were still trying to figure out whats Google, and whats PayPal, and Yahoo, and what to keep in with this first wave.

SB: [Cryptocurrency] scares people, especially when its very new.

EG:Totally. You remember the first internet. People were like Oh, nobodys going to buy anything on that. Theyre not going to put a credit into a website. Thats madness.Now weve got Instacart, Amazon

Can I say something, and then argue that I never said it when you have a tape? Can I do that purposefully?

SB: Okay. What do you want to argue?

EG: I never said I like chocolate ice cream. I like chocolate chip, or something like that.

SB: And Ill be like No, on the record. This is where he said it.

Okay, so kind of wrapping this up. Where do you see Color fitting in all of this?

EG: Yeah. I think Color was sort of part of a very early first wave of the visual data area So really our focus is on how do you unlock information thats sort of locked up for people, make it something they can actually use to help manage their own health.

SB: People might say it makes it a lot harder if you have to go through your physician first to get this information. I think thats kind of the allure of these at-home health tests a lot of the time.

EG: I think it depends on how much friction you can take out of the physician process, but also the flip side of it is, if physicians are telling people that they should consider it, thats actually a really powerful way, as well, for people to participate. So I think there are sort of two sides of the same coin.

As an Ashkenazi Jew, I remember going to my doctor and like Hey, should I be taking these genetic tests for cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs and all this other stuff as a carrier? And he was like, Oh yeah. Youre Jewish. Sure. You should do it.

SB: Sure. Gotta be proactive.

EG: But I had to bring it up, right? Its something thats often recommended for Ashkenazi Jews to do. So, were basically trying to create an online version of that, where youre still working with the physician but theres different ways for you to work with him.

SB:Where do you think people can innovate further in the health tech space right now? What would you like to see?

EG: Yeah. Um, thats a great question. I think ultimately, theres so much data available ambiently through peoples bodies This company Cardiogram that I mentioned. Im a small investor there, from a disclosure perspective. Thats a good example of where youre just ambiently recording and then telling people that they may have had a heart attack. I think that those are some themes that are really intriguing.

I think the top part in healthcare is that the people who are often benefiting the most from things arent necessarily the people making the buying decisions. There are some things at a low enough price-point, so that really changes the adoption rates of different tested products. Thats one obstacle, in terms of larger-scale adoptions.

SB: Okay. I think well end it on that.

The rest is here:
Elad Gil and Silicon Valley’s bright future in cryptocurrency, genetics and health tech – TechCrunch

Genetics honour to CQ Brahman breeder Alf Collins – Beef Central

VETERAN Queensland Brahman breeder Alf Collins Sr was saluted by his peers recently when he was awarded the 2017 Helen Newton Turner Medal during the Association for the Advancement of Animal Breeding and Genetics conference in Townsville

Alf Collins receives his Helen Newton Turner Medal at the 2017 AAABG conference in Townsville

With almost missionary zeal, Mr Collins has followed a lifetime crusade of breeding fertile, functional Brahman cattle at his Collins Belah Valley Brahmans enterprise near Marlborough in Central Queensland.

The AAABGs medal, established in 1993, honours the memory of outstanding CSIRO livestock geneticist, Helen Newton Turner. It is awarded to provide encouragement and inspiration to those engaged in animal genetics. The medallist is chosen by trustees from the ranks of those persons who themselves have made an outstanding contribution to genetic improvement of Australian livestock.

Building on the foundations established by his father, Alf Collins Snr has applied dedication, careful recording and rigorous focus on breeding for profitability, to the continuous improvement of Brahman cattle in the CBV herd.

He says Brahman cattle have to perform in very challenging environments, and breeding programs to deliver genetic improvement in those environments are challenging too reflecting large scale of operations and variable climatic conditions.

Mr Collins has met these challenges head-on and collected performance records underpinning reliable EBVs and used the information backed by hard-nosed practical understanding of functionality and survival ability, to generate impressive genetic progress over a number of decades.

Perhaps the most outstanding aspect of that genetic progress is the substantial progress in female fertility a trait considered challenging among breeders of tropically adapted cattle world-wide. CBV has actively participated in industry R&D, including significant contributions to the Beef CRC programs I, II and III.

Mr Collins is a deep thinker about what cattle need to do in the tropical environment, and has never been afraid to try novel approaches or include new traits if they will help breeding cattle better and better suited to the environment and to improving profit, AAABG said in its commendation.

He continues to be an outstanding pioneer and innovator in real-world application of genetics technology, and the demonstration that it is possible to breed genetically fertile, productive and profitable tropically adapted cattle is an inspiration.

Published below is Alf Collins acceptance speech delivered during the AAABG conference in Townsville:

Genetics, management, and speed.

All thanks be to God, for all the cattle, people and opportunities that He has put in our path.

Today, part of that thanks is to the Helen Newton-Turner Trust that has chosen to honour me with this medal of recognition. This is beyond my understanding or expectation to be honoured by such eminent and worthy scholars.

I intend to honour some of the wonderful people and livestock with which God has guided and stimulated my brief road in management, genetics, and thinking.

Wind beneath our wings comes in many forms and directions.

RB McNaught in primary school was inspirational; Rodney M Deeth could teach me Maths B and make the theorems so interesting and challenging. I still keep in touch with him. I left formal schooling aged 13, and raced into the realities of commerce and genetics.

In 1966, George Starritt and family employed me, and inspired me with their progressive breeding of sheep. 1967 I travelled alone into Middle East, Europe and Latin America, thence to USA.

At all times, I had a quest for people and pathways of excellence.

In Britain, Yorkshire yielded Harry Morrell, measuring and breeding Friesians based on cost and net yields. At that time when gross mass of milk cows was sweeping the world irrespective of cost, Mr Morrell had chalk boards above every cow, and scales and milk testing, hunting for efficiency and genetic answers. He found them, with the result that his Friesians were the size of robust Jersies. His results were extraordinary, and he treated me like a son. The resolute James McGowan in Scotland proved all things were possible with determination, thought and hard work.

Steve Abecasis in Venezuela, many others through Latin America, lead me to Harry Gayden in Houston, and Jack Garrett, as guides and mentors. At every stop-over there were volumes of inspiration, in useful things to do and mistakes to avoid.

I sought Dr Max Hammond, a graduate of LSU, past manager of Brooksville Research Station, who was president of Performance Register International, and managing Bill Stuarts Brahman herd of roughly 600 cows. He was seeking fitness for function in a breed and an age that was not fashionable and without the tools of today that we employ. Dr Hammond was always aiming high, with disciplined management , cattle and matters of faith. He was hugely successful, in my mind.

Through Dr Hammond I attended a short-course at University of Florida, Gainseville, where some of my heroes of research and extension operated.

The trio of Dr Tony Cunha, Dr Marvin Koger, and the resolute Dr Alvin Warnick were in full flight. They were so practical, and so competent in communicating in both directions with cattle ranchers, exhibiting in themselves fitness for function in every way. My father engendered in me a hunger for published research bulletins, as did his brother , Harry. Those Florida guys were right in there, with some from LSU, Texas A & M, and our CSIRO.

At the age of 88 years Dr Warnick mentioned to one of his early students, Bob Crane who regularly looked in on Dr Warnick, that he really wanted to go to Australia to CBV to explore first hand what he had read and heard about our methods and goals. He figured that he was really too old. Bob Crane left his house and promptly booked tickets for his old Professor. We were honoured and inspired. At every stop, as we travelled, Dr Warnick had some more questions and challenges penciled in his notebook. We had a great morning at Rendall Laaboratory, in Rockhampton, including retired and current researchers. Greig Turner and Doc Warnick were the elders, and lit right up in discussions.

The benefits of Dr Warnicks pondering have enormous value, and continued personally right up to his death earlier this year.

Larry Cundiff was always wonderful with his open doors at Clay Centre, to his fine teams of thinkers. Cattlemen such as Paul Genho, Tom Lassater, Steve Radakovich, Robin Giles, Kit Pharo, Gregg Simonds, and many others have been so encouraging in mentoring, by example, in discussion, and debate.

I never met Dr Bob Taylor, but many of his past students carried his legacy to our door. Thank God for all those links.

A common thread in most of these wonderful people was an awareness of the burning need to search for commercially relevant traits on a low cost, high expectation level.

From the late 1950s my father took me to CSIRO, and short courses on management and genetics. We were richly blessed to have Belmont research station on our doorstep. Dr RB Kelley was a byword in our home. His books were read time after time, and when I called to visit him in retirement he received me like a son. He showed great courage in the face of powerful opposition as he selected cattle and sponsored early research on Zebu cattle in Australia. CSIRO had an amazing culture in those days, hallmarked with spirited debate, kindness, generosity, intellectual agility, and courage. Dr Turner, Dr Vercoe, DOcchio, Frisch, Seifert, ONeill, all carried the flame for betterment. UQ had Professor John Francis, Professor Ray Johnson, Professor Butterfield from University of Sydney; they always inspired. UNE seconded Dr Hans Graser from Germany to lead the new generation of analysis, and his teams are now legendary. Across the street, another legend in UNE, Jack Allen at ABRI took the commercial product to cattle breeders, and has worked tirelessly to keep the mathematics of Breedplan relevant to animal breeders and skeptics alike.

Jack Allen and Peter Speer were the keys for us to develop Brahman Breedplan, using the existing Flekvieh/ Simmental database, and then when we were given years of back-data from CSIRO and the UQ Gatton herds, our previous collaborations really yielded fruit. Ken Rowan and Chris ONeill were monumental in their efforts to have this done.

Earliest breeders of these humped adapted species had those same qualities, full of encouragement and thought.

Lionel DeLandelles stood so tall, with Maurice DeTournouer, and then Ken Coombe, in the pioneer days of adapted cattle. In their day, they measured what they could, illustrating what was possible with adapted cattle. There were simply no insurmountable obstacles, to these courageous friends and mentors.

Then came Dr Michael DOcchio, and Dr Jim Kinder right into our stockyard, to continue their research in reproduction. This was a great leap forward, and the last 30 years have been illuminated by all the great minds they sponsored over our threshold, and their continued stimulation. Wonderful men of science.

That lengthy preamble of the fine folks that inspired my youth was probably necessary, in order to effectively lead us into the realm and integrity of Professor DOcchio.

By his good grace, we have been introduced to higher research, and are now working on a project with Professor Ben Hayes and Professor Mike Goddard.

Reproduction and survival has always been our CBV focus, at a low cost of production.

This is rarely addressed in academic pursuits, and there lies the rock that fractures our links of science to application.

Most research stations around the world operate at a cost per kilogram that the average cattleman would choke on. It is too easy.

The take home message is that inspirational scientists in my world communicated freely with outstanding managers of livestock and land. They actually knew about cost of production, and the harsh blowtorch of economics and profit and loss. That gap needs attention, and nurturing.

This does not exempt cattlemen from making every effort to capture the essence of research, and adapting it to commercial reality.

That essence of scientific research has been the wind over our wings at CBV.

One of my heroes, Dr John Vercoe illustrated this to me with his chart of the effect of environmental stress on growth heterosis. As costs go down, stress increases, and heterosis evaporates.

That was a bell ringing revelation. John Vercoe was amazed that more cattle breeders did not understand stress and heterosis, and more so, that the importance of reproduction was not registering in genetic selection. Vercoes facilitating DOcchio and Kinder into our herds and our present thinking showed courage and great foresightwind for our wings.

Reproduction speed and survival can almost exclusively direct financial survival. Never underestimate the role of truly adapted cattle in this hunt for reproduction. Most of the land mass of Australia, and in fact most places in the world where beef cattle graze, can be greatly augmented by adapted genotypes selected for reproduction and survival at low cost.

Our management template of breeding cattle is based on rigor and transparency, and I have caution about genetic predictors without rigor, and stressors, in the field.In all the complexities of science and nature, we know it is a simple goal; we also acknowledge these proposals are neither easy nor simple.

At CBV we are dedicated to the hard yards of unraveling complexities with cash and kind, not at all daunted by the skin we can lose in this game.

Our philosophy does vary from most seedstock operations in the reality that we operate just like our best clients at a low commercial cost, with no expensive sale-stock packaging, and we do not seek a flamboyant sale of psychological bidding shoot-outs. We are simply hunting for profits for our clients on capital invested , inside their barbed wire. Those clients in turn, have supported us.

Our core clients all over the world, who ran with us in trying our new management templates and genetics, also provoked us, and helped us fund our dreams and explorations whilst buying bulls or semen.

Thank you for this honour of the Helen Newton Turner Medal. I am deeply touched by how I have been welcomed into such a wonderful group of scholars.

Long live the curious mind.

Read more from the original source:
Genetics honour to CQ Brahman breeder Alf Collins – Beef Central

Orphan Black Science Recap: Guillotines Decide – The Mary Sue


The Mary Sue
Orphan Black Science Recap: Guillotines Decide
The Mary Sue
Welcome to our Orphan Black science recaps, where Casey, a graduate student in genetics and developmental biology, and Nina, a professional science communicator, examine the science in each episode of OB and talk you through it in (mostly) easy-to

Go here to read the rest:
Orphan Black Science Recap: Guillotines Decide – The Mary Sue

Weekly genetics review: Registrations on the up for most beef breeds – Beef Central

MOST of Australias significant beef breeds are expanding, with increased seedstock registrations despite Australias overall beef herd sitting at a 20-year low at just under 26 million head.

Figures released during last weeks Australian Registered Cattle Breeders Association annual general meeting indicated a nine percent lift in registration numbers in 2016 compared with the previous 12 months in primary registers. There was a 6pc lift when primary* and secondary registers* are combined.

In total, 2016 total registrations at 211,781 were second only in number to 1995, when a little over 213,000 primary and secondary registrations were made. (see graph below).

Primary registrations in purple, secondary registrations in red. Click on image to enlarge

Judging by seedstock registrations last year, the growth of the Angus breed continues unabated.

As the graph of the ten largest breeds by registrations published below shows, Angus again topped the list, recording 50,096 registrations back in 2007 and 70,076 in 2016, an increase of 19,980 or 40pc over the past decade. Year-on-year, Angus registrations rose 7pc in 2016.

Angus Australias Andrew Byrne said the breed now had a registered female inventory of more than 100,000 to produce this years figure of 70,000 registrations. A back-of-the-envelope calculation delivers a $2 million return to Angus Australia based on an average female inventory fee of $20 per breeding female per year. Mr Byrne indicated that 30 staff now populate the recently expanded Angus Australia office in Armidale NSW where they have developed many income streams to fund operations.

There was a time 40 years ago when the Murray Grey society had more staff, more members, more registrations and more money than the Angus society. However Murray Greys have increased registrations from 2015 to 2016 and now sit in 11th spot in the breed hierarchy based on registration numbers of 5122 in 2016.

Click on table image for a larger view

As stated previously on Beef Central however, seedstock registrations or numbers of bulls sold at auctions are in fact poor indicators of overall breed popularity across Australia. Its is frequently estimated that up to two-thirds of all Brahman bulls used in Australia, for example, are not registered animals at all, but unregistered herd bulls bought out of the paddock, or bulls in fact bred on the property on which they are used, drawn from internal purebred nucleus herds.

In percentage terms, Wagyu continue to perform strongly in registration numbers, lifting another 21pc over the past 12 months to register 10,261 head. Over the past ten years, the growth in registrations has been meteoric, lifting 178pc more than twice the rate of the next fastest growing breed.

With registered Wagyu seedstock now bringing exceptional prices as the demand for bulls increases, a Wagyu content test has been developed allowing conforming cattle to achieve purebred status (but never fullblood) and enter the primary register.

A grading-up register is also planned for percentage Wagyu. AWAs Carel Teseling indicates hundreds of new cattle being readied for entry in these registers while industry sources suggest these numbers could be in the thousands.

Sitting in second spot behind Angus for registrations this year is Hereford with 25,257 new registrations in 2016. This is an increase of 8pc on the previous year, but down 19pc on 10 years ago when perhaps there were some dual registered (horned and poll) skewing the numbers.

After a time of internal bickering, Herefords Australia has a new president, Bill Kee, some new board members, a new general manager Andrew Donoghue and a leading animal scientist Alex Ball all poised to take the breed forward. Commanding second spot on Australias registration ladder, the breed has a good launching pad. An industry source also claims the large financial losses Herefords Australia was reported carrying are nowhere near as high as earlier indicated.

In the third, fourth and fifth positions for registrations in 2016 are the three major tropical breeds Brahman, Santa Gertrudis and Droughtmaster, all with numbers to continue their significant contributions to the sustainability of the northern industry.

Brahman numbers have not changed much in the past 10 years (down 3pc to 24,449 this year), Santa Gertrudis had a big jump (up 22pc to 17,423), while Droughtmaster declined (down 27pc to 11,386). Worth noting, however, is the difference in approaches in different breeds to registration (more on this below). The Droughtmaster breed, for example, has no secondary register, and has only this year commenced introduction of calf-recording for females. Both have a big impact on registration numbers.

The Brangus breed is the smokey in the 2016 report. With 6675 registrations for the 2016 year, it lifts the breed to eighth place following a 56pc jump in registrations in the past 10 years and 45pc since 2015.

According to the Brangus Associations president Mark Beckman, the breed now has more members registering more cattle with many using the foundation register to bring in top Angus and Brahman genetics while keeping within the 25pc to 75pc range for either parent breed content.

However, most registrations are cattle derived from parents that are registered Brangus. The breed will be on show at the 12th Brangus bull sale at Roma Qld when 164 will step into the sale ring on September 1 (see full list of upcoming spring bull sales for all major breeds here).

The breed continues to attract new members who are registering more cattle and the commercial attributes of the breed are drawing cattle producers towards it, Mr Beckman said.

The Ultrablack, an Angus-heavy Brangus-type, does not appear in the breed lists but some are registered in the Brangus foundation register and some in the Angus Multi-Breed (MBR) register.

For several decades ARCBA has provided registration statistics to assist industry to plan and develop strategies for growth and breed improvement. These reports are made more difficult with several different systems in use in the Australian industry.

Some breeds use the annual female herd inventory system where members peruse their lists annually, deleting females that have died or no longer worthy of retaining in the stud herd, and pay an annual fee averaging around $20 per retained female. Their progeny can be registered in the various herd books.

Other breeds retain the traditional method of registering and paying a fee for a calf once it is born with penalties to register these calves later in their lives.

Some breeds, such as Santa Gertrudis, have a system with physical inspection by an independent breed association employed classifier necessary before herd book registration can be completed.

Since 1998 the ARCBA report has included two levels of registrations, primary and secondary. In general terms, primary registers are the highest level of pedigree authenticity, many are closed herd books while some cover cattle that have been graded up to fourth generation of greater than 95pc breed content.

Secondary registers are for cattle where registrations have lapsed and are being brought back into the system and for cattle involved in the grading-up process from other breeds.

ARCBA describes secondary registers as those which include animals that are bred for seedstock production and recorded by a beef breed society but excluding animals entered in the societys herd book. The Association describes seedstock production as The production of bulls for use in the registered and commercial cattle sectors.

For example the Angus primary register is the Angus Herd Book Register (HBR) and is a closed herd book i.e. both parents must be in the HBR. The Angus secondary register is the Angus Performance Register (APR) which allows members to record pedigree and performance information on non-HBR straight bred Angus cattle.

The inventory fees for HBR and APR females are the same (around $20/female average). Last year 45,117 Angus entered the HBR and 24,959 the APR. There are no accurate figures, but industry sources suggest that commercial bull buyers do not show a preference for HBR over APR animals.

Figures quoted in this article combine primary and secondary registrations.

Over the years breed organisations have threatened to withhold their registration statistics from ARCBA if breed comparisons were made.

Genetics Central believes it is in the interests of the industry to have access to this information to facilitate planning and monitor industry-wide trends.

Maybe a potential new seedstock producer may decide there are too many Angus calves being registered (70,076 in 2016) creating an over-supply perhaps encouraging them to go with a promising smaller breed such as Speckle Park, where only 1053 calves were registered in 2016 but demand is hot.

Follow this link:
Weekly genetics review: Registrations on the up for most beef breeds – Beef Central

Sharks could hold genetic secret to long life: Study – The Hindu


The Hindu
Sharks could hold genetic secret to long life: Study
The Hindu
The oldest and largest (502 centimetres female) Greenland shark analysed by the scientists were 392 years, plus or minus 120 years: in other words they were at least 272 years old. The study of the shark's DNA has shed new light on its behaviour, and

Visit link:
Sharks could hold genetic secret to long life: Study – The Hindu

Geneticist says Florida panther still deserves endangered species protection – Tampabay.com

As federal wildlife officials review the endangered status of the Florida panther, one scientist’s work has been singled out as a focus: geneticist Melanie Culver.

In 2000, Culver and three fellow scientists published a study of the genetics of big cats that concluded that all the panthers, pumas and mountain lions in North America are actually a single sub-species.

In other words, according to the Culver study, Florida panthers are nothing special, genetically. They’re just another big cat in a nation that contains thousands of them, some of which are already hunted. If the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service adopts that point of view, it could lead to taking panthers off the endangered list.

But Culver, in an interview, said she believes the Florida panther still belongs on the endangered list — just not the way it’s listed now. The U.S. Geological Survey scientist concedes that making a change would require a complex solution.

“You’d have to de-list it and then petition it to be listed as another entity,” she said. “That’s a legal problem. They’d have to completely lose legal protection to be protected the right way.”

Florida panthers have been listed as endangered ever since the first endangered species list was drawn up in 1967. They are also Florida’s official state animal, voted in by schoolchildren over such other contenders as the alligator and the mosquito.

They have long been considered a distinct sub-species of the puma that roam wilderness areas of North and South America. At one time, scientists believed there were about 30 such sub-species.

Federal rules require the agency to review the status of each endangered or threatened species every five years, and the wildlife agency has announced that it’s time for that routine review. But one aspect of the review won’t be routine.

“One of the most interesting things we’re going to review is the taxonomy,” said Larry Williams, South Florida field supervisor for the federal agency. He specifically cited the Culver-led study as something that the agency will consider.

Questions have been raised for years about whether the Florida panther is really a distinct sub-species of the pumas found out West. The questions took a different turn after 1995, when state officials tried an unprecedented experiment to save the panther from inbreeding and genetic defects by bringing in eight female mountain lions from Texas to breed with them.

The cross-breeding saved the panthers, and sparked a baby boom. The panther population, estimated to number no more than 20 to 30 in the mid-1990s, now is estimated at around 200.

But it has raised questions among Southwest Florida residents about whether those are still Florida panthers and whether the state’s estimates of the population are correct. Meanwhile some have cited the Culver study as an argument for eliminating their endangered status.

“There are tens of thousands of them throughout North America, they are overpopulated and legally hunted throughout much of their range,” outdoorsman Mike Elfenbein of Port Charlotte, who helps run the “Panthers of South Florida” Facebook page, wrote in a 2015 letter to U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. “The ‘Florida panther’ is not now, nor was it ever in danger of going extinct.”

But not everyone agrees wholeheartedly with the Culver study. Dave Onorato, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s panther study program, said one shortcoming is that the study used a small number of samples for the panthers.

He noted that when the state has done its own DNA tests, using an approach different from Culvers, “the panthers still cluster as their own sub-set, away from the Texas and Western sub-sets.”

Elizabeth Fleming of the Defenders of Wildlife’s Florida office contends that without a scientific consensus backing the Culver study’s findings, the Fish and Wildlife Service should not change the panther’s status.

“It is a native ranging animal, and we think it deserves a place in the Florida landscape,” she said.

To Culver, though, the problem is that the panther should not have been put on the endangered list as a sub-species of puma. Instead, she said, panthers belong on the list as what’s known as a “distinct population segment” of the puma.

In other words, the fact that this population of panthers is the only colony of pumas east of the Mississippi, and it’s largely confined to the southern tip of Florida, still qualifies them as endangered, in her view.

While 200 panthers is an improvement, she said, it “isn’t what we would consider sustainable. That’s not great.” Over time, genetic defects would creep back in, putting them back on the road to extinction, she said.

Whether the Fish and Wildlife Service follows Culver’s advice is unknown. Williams wouldn’t speculate on the outcome of his agency’s review this week, except to say it would follow the latest scientific findings.

Four months ago the agency announced it was lowering the protection level of another famous Florida critter, the manatee, from endangered to threatened — despite the objections of a majority of the public that commented on the move, as well as the scientists who had been asked to review it.

Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this story. Contact Craig Pittman at craig@tampabay.com. Follow @craigtimes.

Geneticist says Florida panther still deserves endangered species protection 07/08/17 [Last modified: Friday, July 7, 2017 4:15pm] Photo reprints | Article reprints

Read more from the original source:
Geneticist says Florida panther still deserves endangered species protection – Tampabay.com

How the living world was changed, by the woman who changed it – New Scientist

CRISPR has ruffled feathers, but it may be capable of saving species

Frans Lanting/National Geographic Creative

By Adam Rutherford

KAKAPOS are fat New Zealand ground parrots that have stared into the abyss of extinction for decades. Conservationists have laboured to raise numbers from the moribund low 50s to a still ultra-critical 160 or so today.

Once a species becomes so depleted, however, a lack of genetic diversity can hinder its long-term salvation. A geneticist once told me of a crazy idea that might save the kakapo. He said that there are more stuffed kakapos in European museums than there are living birds. If we could extract DNA from those dead parrots, from a time when their numbers were large, we could genetically engineer the living birds to mimic the once healthy species by changing single letters of genetic code.

There are a lot of ifs here, but the modification of DNA itself even at the level of precision this mad scheme would require is eminently possible, thanks to a technology known by the acronym CRISPR. Ten years ago, identifying, characterising and modifying a gene then getting it back into an organism was a process that took weeks, months or years. With CRISPR you can perform the same process in days.

Incredibly, it looks as though CRISPR will live up to its hype, transforming every aspect of biology as genetic engineering did from the 1970s on. Tweaking individual letters of genetic code, it takes just hours to finely edit what evolution fashioned over billions of years. All aspects of the science of life are within CRISPRs reach: disease, conservation, synthetic cellular manufacture.

CRISPRs complex origins as a gene editing tool can reasonably be credited to a few key players: Jennifer Doudna is one of them. With her former colleague Samuel Sternberg, she has written a detailed account of the story so far. It may well end up being compared with the book that inspired a 12-year old Doudna in the first place: James Watsons The Double Helix.

But while Watsons iconic account of his and Francis Cricks discovery of the structure of DNA is dramatic and myth-making, bitchy and sexist, A Crack in Creation is thoughtful and thorough. Packed with amazing female scientists, it is thrilling, generous and no less personal. Its a good tale of how science works, tracing all the meandering paths that lead to discovery: meetings, chance encounters, ceaseless discussions, and the endless beavering of lab life.

Concern about genetically modifying people may once have seemed overheated. Thats about to change

A Crack in Creation is quite technical at times, and a touch bogged down with the clinical specifics of the many diseases that CRISPR may one day fix. The journey from the days of gene therapy to the first human CRISPR studies in China is no amble, either. Following these early Chinese studies, Doudna recommended an instant moratorium on human CRISPR experimentation. Similar moratoriums were called for in the first days of genetic engineering in the 1970s, and in recent years, following the experimental modification of virulent flu viruses.

Public concern about the genetic modification of people may have seemed overheated while we lacked the scientific chops to do anything significant. But that is about to change: CRISPR is powerful and potentially scary. Doudnas own ethical position comes into focus in the final chapter. Its a nuanced account, but she definitely inclines towards excising conditions like cystic fibrosis and Huntingtons disease from the human germ line.

A Crack in Creation touches the surface of these issues. It doesnt delve deep, but one book cannot do everything. Genetics has been in perpetual revolution for several decades now. Since the 1990s, when the Human Genome Project ground into action, there have been so many advances in our understanding of genetics and our ability to manipulate DNA that its hard to keep up. Doudna accounts for the many cracks in creation in the 21st century: developing RNAi, where genes can be silenced with tiny bits of ingested genetic code; the building of giant chromosomes to help us clone larger genes; and the manipulation of stem cells. All of these achievements resulted in Nobel prizes Doudnas must surely come soon.

We need scientifically informed public conversations about what we should do next with these powers, and Doudnas book is a good place to begin. The first gene engineers of the 1970s framed their discoveries by actively engaging with the ethical, legal and political ramifications of genetic engineering. So must we. As I write this, says Doudna, the world around us is being revolutionized by CRISPR, whether were ready for it or not. So strap in and get up to speed, because these days, the science of modifying life moves pretty fast.

This article appeared in print under the headline This changes everything

More on these topics:

Go here to see the original:
How the living world was changed, by the woman who changed it – New Scientist

Why does it seem like nobody cares about female concussions? – ESPN

ESPN senior writer Peter Keating joins OTL to share his findings on concussions in female athletes, featured in ESPN The Magazine and on espnW.com.

This story appears in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue 2017. Subscribe today!

EVERY FOUR YEARS or so, some of the world’s most prominent scientists gather to synthesize and summarize the latest in brain-injury research. Since first meeting in 2001, the assemblage, called the Concussion in Sport Group, has grown in size and influence. Doctors, athletic trainers and media types around the world take their cues from the recommendations it publishes and from the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT) it has developed. When members gathered in Berlin last October, Jiri Dvorak, then FIFA’s chief medical officer, said they worked on behalf of some 1billion professional and amateur athletes. For that 2016 symposium, around 400 medical and sports professionals met in the Grand Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton hotel, with art nouveau stylings that hark back to the days before the world wars and trappings so posh that guests enjoy breakfast honey harvested from a rooftop beehive. Over two days, a stone’s throw from where the Berlin Wall used to stand, the leading lights of the sports neuro-establishment made clear their role as gatekeepers of concussion research. Organizers closed the conclave to the media and swatted audience members off social media.

There was another group almost entirely shut out of the 5th International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport: female athletes.

Of the dozen sessions at the conference, not one was dedicated to sex or gender. Researchers made 24 oral presentations during the meetings; one focused on female athletes. Among the 202 research abstracts, nine, or less than 5 percent, studied women specifically. “Gender hasn’t been a hot, hot topic,” says one member of the Concussion in Sport Group.

Hot or not, the facts the conference could have displayed are shocking. Women suffer more concussions than men in the sports that both play, with an injury rate 50 percent higher, according to the most recent research. Female athletes with brain trauma tend to suffer different symptoms, take longer to recover and hold back information about their injuries for different reasons than males. Anyone involved in sports should have a grasp of these key facts. Yet the leading national and international guidelines for understanding sports concussions and returning injured athletes to play ignore key differences in how women and men experience brain injuries.

Here’s what’s even more stunning: All of that information was public knowledge eight years ago, when ESPN The Magazine first looked at the subject of concussions and female athletes (“Heading for Trouble,” March 23, 2009)-and all of it is still true. The latest studies continue to find that women get brain injuries more often in sports also played by men. But research into why and how is lagging to nonexistent, as are efforts to reverse the trend. Which means millions of female athletes are putting their brains at risk unnecessarily.

“More and more of the athletes I have seen over time are young women, and I’ve found they get less information about concussion from their coaches, and from the media too, than men,” says Jill Brooks, a clinical neuropsychologist who runs Head to Head Consultants in Gladstone, New Jersey, and who in 2004 conducted one of the earliest research reviews of sex issues in brain injury. “They are struggling to deal with their particular symptoms and often not being taken as seriously as they should be. The sports world is much more accepting of girls and women as athletes but still gives the topic of their concussions short shrift.”

FEMALE SPORTS SCIENTISTS pioneered the initial research into sex, gender and concussions more than a decade ago. Dawn Comstock, a professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health and a 4-foot-11 former rugby player, started tracking injuries among high school athletes in 2004 and began reporting sex differences in brain injury in 2007. In May 2016, she told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations: “In gender-comparable sports, so sports that both boys and girls play, by the same rules, using the same equipment, on the same fields, like soccer and basketball, girls have higher concussion rates than boys.” Tracey Covassin, professor of kinesiology at Michigan State and a certified athletic trainer, has been studying college sports since 2003, with similar results.

But when it comes to looking deeper into the experience of concussions among female athletes specifically, researchers for the most part have been uninterested, unwilling or unfunded. The frontier of knowledge has been stuck for years in epidemiology-studies, again and again, of who encounters a health problem in the general population and when, rather than how and why it strikes a particular group. “There’s a huge gap in the science of brain injury,” says Angela Colantonio, director of the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute at the University of Toronto. “There has been a lack of explicit consideration given to sex and gender. We’re just starting to scratch the surface.”

A major problem with concussion research is that very few people conduct it who don’t have a stake in its outcome. I think these folks didn’t want to see their names used in lawsuits.

Katherine Snedaker, clinical social worker

In the 2017 Consensus Statement on Concussion in Sport, which 36 of the scientists who met in Berlin published in April, and which runs more than 7,000 words, “gender” never appears and “sex” only once. It’s just one item on a laundry list of factors, such as age, genetics and mental health, that the document notes “numerous studies have examined” for their potential impact on how athletes heal from concussions. The consensus statement doesn’t actually evaluate what such research has discovered about the effects of sex or gender, except to say there’s “some evidence” that teenagers “might be” most vulnerable to persistent symptoms, “with greater risk for girls than boys.”

Several Europe-based contact-sport federations fund the meetings of the Concussion in Sport Group. FIFA, the International Federation for Equestrian Sports, the International Ice Hockey Federation, the International Olympic Committee and World Rugby split the costs of the Berlin conference, totaling approximately 250,000 euros (about $284,000), according to two sources at the group. Any of those organizations could be threatened if evidence emerges that it should have managed repetitive blows to the head better among particular kinds of athletes, such as adolescents or repeat concussion victims-or females. And the 30 co-authors of the consensus statement who filed conflict of interest disclosures declared 132 potential entanglements among them. All of which has some brain-injury research advocates concerned that the authors might have hedged their conclusions to avoid exposing their patrons to financial or legal liability. “The statement is extremely disappointing,” says Katherine Snedaker, a clinical social worker in Norwalk, Connecticut, and founder of the research and advocacy group Pink Concussions, who attended the Berlin conference. “But a major problem with concussion research is that very few people conduct it who don’t have a stake in its outcome. I think these folks didn’t want to see their names used in lawsuits.”

Even one of the consensus statement’s co-authors echoes this criticism. “A lot of intelligent brains have been added to the committee,” says Robert Cantu, professor of neurosurgery at Boston University and a founding member of the Concussion in Sport Group. “But I think some are so happy to be part of all this, sometimes they don’t look hard enough at the research. And you’ve got to ask if that serves as a huge protective force for the organizations who put up the money to fund the meetings.”

“We reviewed the literature on clinical recovery from concussion,” says Grant Iverson, a professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the consensus statement. “We examined many predictors and modifiers. Sex was one of them.”

But when it comes to women specifically, the group has a particularly egregious history. Its third consensus statement, published after parleys in Zurich in 2008, included two ambiguous sentences about whether sex or gender influences the likelihood or severity of concussion risk. Four years later, again after meetings in Zurich, the fourth consensus statement also devoted two sentences to females-the same two sentences. Those sentences even cited the same three sources. From 2008 to 2012, women’s participation in sports grew rapidly, rising 13 percent in the NCAA alone. Public interest in concussions also exploded, as the NFL crisis reached full tilt. And during those years, about 300,000 females aged 19 or under went to U.S. emergency rooms with sports- or recreation-related brain injuries. Yet the international consensus found nothing new to learn or say.

“The topics we focus on, we go into pretty thoroughly,” says one researcher in the group. “Other material, we pretty much don’t touch at all. Which is how stuff slides from one year to the next, not only unchanged but not updated.”

“It was a cut-and-paste job, down to the footnotes,” says neuropsychologist Brooks, who attended two earlier international consensus conferences but was not invited to Berlin.

Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire

Facing pressure, US Lacrosse recently adopted standards for women’s headgear, but there’s little research to inform guidelines.

MOST ATHLETES AND fans have learned about concussions from a decade of reports about former NFL players struggling with the long-term effects of taking blows to the head. As devastating as many of those stories are, the risks of brain injury can get worse the further competition moves from the epicenter of high-stakes sports that is professional football. Lower revenues and remote facilities can translate to poorer medical advice and treatment; scarcer media coverage sometimes means fewer people notice injuries in the first place. And these conditions often apply to women’s collegiate sports, where some 214,000 female athletes compete under the regulatory umbrella of the NCAA. DivisionII women’s soccer, for example, which Angel Mitchel played at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas.

Mitchel took to soccer from the age of 4, playing with her two older brothers in Mansfield, Texas, and dreaming of a pro career. “I would do whatever it took to play,” she says. “Soccer was my life.”

That all changed on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011, when Mitchel, then a sophomore at OBU and known by her unmarried name, Palacios, collided with a teammate while going for a header during a practice drill. The other player’s skull crashed into Mitchel’s face, knocking her dizzy and sending her to her knees. With her left eye already swelling shut, she lurched to the sideline, where she told her athletic trainer she felt sick. She had already suffered two concussions in high school.

The trainer asked whether Mitchel was dizzy. Was she nauseated? Did she have a headache?

“Yes … yes … yes,” Mitchel replied.

She says the trainer sent her back to her dorm room with an ice pack. Nobody told Mitchel to see a doctor or checked on her that night. The team gave her an online neuropsychological test the next day, but the results weren’t clear because she still couldn’t use her left eye. Woozy, sensitive to light and stabbed by migraines, she stayed out of sight as much as she could for the rest of the week.

On Saturday, Mitchel says, her coach instructed her to run laps. She was still sick-she had thrown up earlier that day-and appealed to the trainer, who she says told her: “You don’t want to make the coach mad.”

I knew I wasn’t right, and what was happening was wrong.

Angel Mitchel, soccer player

As Mitchel broke into a trot, the sun burned into her head, vomit swelled again from her guts and pain wracked her whole being every time her feet hit the ground. The intensity and folly of her pain fused into anger. “I knew I wasn’t right, and what was happening was wrong,” she says.

After a lap around the field, Mitchel stopped and decided she needed to go to an emergency room. Mitchel says that, after that, her coach said she could skip the rest of practice. In fact, he said, she should expect to sit out for a long time.

Doctors found that Mitchel had a severe concussion. She already had recall problems and diminished sensations in the left side of her body. And if she kept engaging in physical activity, she could permanently damage her brain.

Mitchel had a black eye for three months. Her migraines persisted for three years. She never played soccer again. Officials from OBU declined to comment.

Mitchel’s experience is an extreme version of what many women experience after sports concussions: isolation, inadequate attention, improper clearance, intimidation. The NCAA for its part has been very late to respond to these issues. It didn’t have any guidelines covering brain injury at all until 2010. It required schools to have personnel trained to handle concussions at contact-sports games only because of a massive settlement it reached in 2014. Mitchel, now 24, is justifiably proud of joining the legal action that led to that deal; “I know we have a long way to go,” she says, “but it’s a great start.”

Yet the NCAA doesn’t actually enforce how its members implement its new rules. It has never disciplined a school for failing to file a concussion plan or for maintaining inadequate personnel or for returning an injured player to the field. There’s still no mention of sex or gender in its best practices for diagnosing and managing concussions or in the concussion fact sheets it distributes to students and coaches.

Maybe the best indication of the NCAA’s priorities is simply this: Its chief medical officer has a staff of seven to address college-age health and safety issues from mental health to sexual assault. Meanwhile, its compliance desk has more than 50 employees who police amateurism among athletes.

For all that, Brian Hainline, the chief medical officer of the NCAA, says he has “fire in his eyes” about concussions, and he emphasizes that brain trauma in sports is an issue “much bigger than football.” Indeed, in a column on the NCAA’s website, he wrote: “We need to spread the word: Yes, female athletes also suffer with concussion, and they may be uniquely predisposed to this neurological event.”

It’s true that Hainline was close enough to Elliot Pellman, the notorious former chairman of the NFL concussions committee, for Pellman to blurb a book on back pain that Hainline published in 2007. And that in Hainline’s early days on the job at the NCAA, it seemed as if he too might simply make excuses for how sports programs were treating athletes with brain injuries.

But Hainline has a touch of the seeker about him, and he has taken to his role as college sports’ concussion-education booster-in-chief. His efforts helped create the Grand Alliance, a $30 million project the NCAA and Department of Defense launched in 2014 to study brain injury in student-athletes and cadets and promote concussion education. Over the past three years, the initiative has enrolled more than 28,000 subjects; 1,931 had concussions, and scientists are examining their brains and bodies over time. It’s a highly regarded effort, and Hainline is enthusiastic about working with respected partners to assert leadership in brain-injury research. “We all need to take a step back and stop saying nothing is happening,” he says. “Cooperation I never dreamed could happen is happening right now. Concussion has brought us to this place of magic.”

But while about 35 percent of the athletes involved with Grand Alliance research are female-the largest cohort of women with concussions ever studied-the effort probably won’t report anything new that’s sex-specific for years, if ever. To see why, it helps to understand why women and men might experience concussions in different ways.

Scientists have known for a long time that women are more open than men about reporting injuries. Recent research shows they don’t just describe more symptoms after concussions, they exhibit more too. An important example comes from Shannon Bauman, a sports physician who began studying brain injury after she got inadequate attention for a concussion she suffered playing hockey. From 2014 to 2016, Bauman tracked 207 injured athletes at Concussion North, the specialty clinic she runs in Barrie, Ontario. She found women averaged 4.5 objective signs of concussion, such as poor balance or vision, versus 3.6 for men. They also took longer to recover; 35 percent of females still showed symptoms six months after their injuries.

“Maybe the reason we talk more about our symptoms isn’t because we’re weak or vulnerable,” says Snedaker, a former athlete who went through more than a dozen concussions of her own before becoming an advocate. “Maybe it’s because we have more symptoms and they last longer.”

Biomechanics might be one reason for that. On average, women have shorter and thinner necks than men and approximately 50 percent less neck strength. In general, that means females have less of a buffer against anything their heads might slam, whether it’s a ball, another player’s elbow or the ground. Their skulls experience greater acceleration when their bodies whiplash-and it’s that motion that jars a brain and leads to a concussion, like scrambling a yolk without necessarily cracking an egg.

Further, different chemicals naturally course through the bodies of men and women. As a basic example, research has shown that fluctuating levels of estrogen leave women far more susceptible to migraines than men, and migraines and concussions seem to cause similar problems inside the brain. It also turns out that, until puberty (when sex hormones start flowing), young boys and girls get concussions at comparable rates and share similar symptoms. Some neuroscientists have wondered about the effects of sex-specific hormones that either stress or shield the brain when it’s concussed.

In a series of groundbreaking studies that started 25 years ago, Robin Roof, then a researcher at Rutgers, found that progesterone, a female sex hormone, reduced brain swelling and improved cognitive function after injuries in rats. The implications were huge: Maybe progesterone could mitigate the impact of brain injury. But the subject wasn’t studied much again until 2013, when a team from the University of Rochester recorded data on the menstrual cycles of women who went to emergency rooms with concussions. It found that females who were injured at a point in their cycles when their progesterone levels should have been high suffered more symptoms afterward. “That’s counterintuitive, because in animal studies, progesterone has a neuroprotective effect,” says Jeffrey Bazarian, one of the Rochester researchers. “But concussion might disrupt its production, shut it off and lead to an abrupt decrease in the blood.”

That’s an interesting theory, but it’s speculative. Hormones interact with one another in complex ways. And large-scale clinical trials of progesterone on brain-trauma victims have failed to show any significant benefit. So Bazarian is left with a nagging question: “How can there be such a discrepancy between rodents doing so well with progesterone and what we’ve seen so far in humans?”

“We can look at reporting, and we can look at neck strength,” Brooks says. “But we have got to get to how the brain works in men and in women, which means studying how hormones affect its function.”

That, however, is not a subject the NCAA is pursuing in its research. Its Grand Alliance with the Defense Department is on its way to amassing more than 25 million data points from athletes, information that an “advanced research core” will study with sophisticated neuroimaging devices and comb for biomarkers, or substances in the blood that indicate brain injury. But it will not collect statistics on where female athletes are in their monthly cycles, nor will it analyze blood samples for sex hormones. Those are “interesting and important questions,” says Steven Broglio, a professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan and one of the scientists leading the Grand Alliance’s research. “[But] no study can address every concern. Hopefully, future research will take on this challenge.”

“I understand you have to pick the low-lying fruit first, but five years from now, it’s going to be too late to go back and get this data,” Snedaker says. “If you’re not going to look at what makes us different, then don’t put us in the studies.”

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS, some women’s sports advocates aren’t comfortable looking for differences between male and female injuries. Treating male and female athletes differently could revert to stereotypes that women have been fighting for decades-that they aren’t up to the challenges of sports or need special pleading or are simply weaker than men.

But medical science has a long history of judging females by male standards, all too often with terrible results. Medical schools typically use men’s bodies to teach students about disease, and doctors are more likely to miss or wrongly diagnose symptoms among female patients. The classic example is a heart attack: Women are more likely to feel as if they have the flu than to experience chest pain. And medical research historically has used male subjects to study treatments, producing findings on everything from aspirin to Ambien that didn’t apply accurately to women.

Brain injury, then, is one of many examples where even studies that include women almost never come to separate conclusions about them. In 2016, the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation reviewed the scientific literature on concussion since 1980. It found that of 221 published papers, just 7 percent of them broke out their data by sex. “Brain science follows society,” Brooks says. “Men are making a lot of the decisions about women’s health. I’ve had to conclude that instead of making change from the top down, I have to try from the bottom up, helping one patient at a time [as they] become healthy, informed, strong women.”

Sports concussions are an acute case because so much attention and funding has followed pro football. Most obviously, while the NFL’s concussion studies have been riddled with junk science and conflicts of interest, the league has helped tilt research toward helmeted sports. Last September it pledged $60 million toward developing new concussion technology, possibly including a new helmet, and $40 million for researching head injuries. And now the NCAA and the DOD are entering the field.

Naturally enough, parents around the country, many concerned about long-term brain damage and CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), have started to demand greater protection for their daughters-even when science isn’t ready to tell them just what to ask for. For example, U.S. Lacrosse, facing pressure from alarmed advocates, parents and state legislators, recently adopted its first standards for women’s headgear. It’s still optional, but helmets must now meet new guidelines-even though the federation doesn’t actually have any evidence that the new equipment will reduce concussions. “This is a national experiment,” says Andy Lincoln, who conducts research for U.S. Lacrosse. “There is a need for more information on head impacts and exposures in women’s and girls sports.”

Yes, there is. So what happens next, as public opinion, and soon enough, lawyers, politicians and salesmen, fill the vacuum left by the institutions that govern women’s sports and the scientists they sponsor?

“I’m very concerned,” Hainline says.

Originally posted here:
Why does it seem like nobody cares about female concussions? – ESPN

Why Women Have Stronger Immune Systems than Men

Women not only live longer than men, they also appear to be in more robust health. A new hypothesis offers a reason why: it’s in their genes.

Women are known to have a lower incidence of cancer men have a two- to five-fold greater risk of developing the disease. Women are also better able to survive trauma, and, according to some reports, don’t get as seriously ill from bacterial and viral infections.

In a new paper, researchers from Ghent University in Belgium argue these sex-specific health disparities may be due, at least in part, to tiny pieces of genetic material called microRNAs. The main function of microRNAs in cells is to turn off, or “silence,” specific genes. The researchers say microRNAs located on the female X chromosome may give women an immune system advantage over males.

While the researchers’ idea is certainly debatable, the paper “raises awareness of how little we consider the influence of sex on immune responses,” said Eleanor Fish, a professor of immunology at the University of Toronto in Canada, who was not involved in the work.

Often, researchers who conduct medical studies on people do not analyze their data by sex, and sometimes they don’t report the sex of patients at all. Hopefully this will change, Fish said, so that every time a study is done, sex differences are considered, she said.

XX and XY

In humans, sex is genetic: Females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y. However, in females, one X chromosome in each cell in the body is randomly shut off, or inactivated, while the embryo is developing.

But X inactivation is not a perfect process, and sometimes genes on the X chromosome escape inactivation. In this case, a female ends up with two active copies of a particular gene.

Here is where the researchers think the microRNAs come in. The X chromosome contains 10 percent of all microRNAs in the human genome. The Y chromosome has none. Some of the microRNAs on the X chromosome are thought to be involved in immune system function and cancer development.

If a microRNA did something “good,” like help control cell growth, having two copies of that microRNA might provide females with extra protection against cancer. The same would be true for microRNAs that played a role in immune function.

As a real-life example, septic patients (who have widespread bacterial infections) have low levels of a particular microRNA found on the X chromosome, the researchers said.Thus, this particular microRNA may offer some protection against sepsis.

The researchers said they need to do more work to support their theory. For example, it’s not known whether microRNAs on the X chromosome “escape” inactivation, they said.

Other factors

The X chromosome is known to contain a number of genes related to health, Fish said, and adding microRNAs to the mix would suggest that the X chromosome is even more important in terms of health differences between men and women.

However, the X chromosome is far from the only reason for the strong immune response in females, Fish said. Hormonal differences and a number of other factors probably play a role, she said.

Researchers have only recently turned their attention to mircoRNAs, and there is likely an incredible amount of information we can learn from them, Fish said.

The paper is published today (Sept. 27) in the journal BioEssays.

Pass it on: Women’s seemingly superior immune systems might come from having more microRNAs in their cells than men.

This story was provided by MyHealthNewsDaily, a sister site to LiveScience. Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Rachael Rettner on Twitter @RachaelRettner. Like us on Facebook.

Read the original:
Why Women Have Stronger Immune Systems than Men

Federal officials to review endangered status of Florida panther – Tampabay.com

Four months after federal officials declared manatees are no longer endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced that it’s now reviewing the endangered status of the Florida panther.

The panther, Florida’s state animal, has been on the endangered list since the list was first drawn up in 1967.

Federal rules require the agency to review the status of each endangered or threatened species every five years, and it’s time for that routine review, explained Larry Williams, South Florida field supervisor for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

But at least one aspect of the review won’t be routine at all.

“One of the most interesting things we’re going to review is the taxonomy,” Williams said Monday.

Questions have been raised for years about whether the Florida panther is really a distinct sub-species of the pumas found out West, and thus deserving of legal protection.

The questions took a different turn after 1995, when state officials tried an unprecedented experiment to save the panther from inbreeding and genetic defects by bringing in eight female mountain lions from Texas to breed with them.

The cross-breeding saved the panthers, and sparked a baby boom. The panther population, estimated to number no more than 20 to 30 in the mid-1990s, now is estimated at around 200.

But there are Floridians who do not believe the scientists who say the animals now prowling the South Florida wilderness are still Florida panthers. Meanwhile others insist that even if they are, they aren’t anything special and probably should be managed by allowing hunting.

In 2000, Williams noted, a team of four scientists led by an expert named Melanie Culver published a paper that said genetics show that all the pumas in North America are one species, period. Because pumas are fairly common, that would mean panthers might no longer be considered endangered.

“Obviously, people who want (endangered species) restrictions lifted have latched onto that,” said Elizabeth Fleming of the Defenders of Wildlife Florida office in St. Petersburg.

But she said other experts disagree with the findings of the Culver study. She contended there are physical differences, such as the shape of the skull and the thickness of the fur, that mark the Florida panther as distinct.

The fact that this review is being done by an agency under the Trump Administration, though, makes Fleming concerned.

When it comes to environmental issues, she said, “everything undertaken by the Trump Administration gives me pause.”

Williams refused to speculate on whether the five-year review could lead to a decision to change the panthers’ status similar to the decision his agency made about manatees. In March, the Fish and Wildlife Service announced it was downgrading manatees from endangered to merely threatened. The controversial move was opposed by most of the people who submitted comments in writing and in public hearings, as well as scientists invited to review it.

As with the manatee, the Fish and Wildlife Service is asking the public for information about panthers. The deadline for submitting comments is Aug. 29.

Last year brought a mix of bad and good news for panthers, which for decades had been largely isolated to habitat south of the Caloosahatchee River near Fort Myers. Occasionally male panthers would cross the river looking for mates that didn’t exist. Last year, for the first time ever, biologists spotted females and kittens north of the river, proving the animals were expanding their range.

But last year was also the year that drivers set a record for running over the big cats on the state’s highways.

In 2012, a new record for road kills was set with 19. Two years later, in 2014, that record was broken and a new one established at 25 kills. In 2015, that record was shattered when 30 were killed. Then came 2016, with 32 run over on the highways.

The total number of panther deaths, 42 from road kills and other causes, tied 2015.

Panthers, sometimes known among Florida’s settlers as “lions” and “catamounts,” were a terror of the early frontier for attacks on livestock and pets. By 1981, though, schoolchildren had picked the panther as the state animal choosing it over the alligator, the manatee, the Key deer and a few others that got write-in votes, such as the dolphin and the baboon.

They’ve proven so popular that the cats have become the mascot for dozens of schools, the namesake of the National Hockey League team in South Florida and a figure on tens of thousands of specialty license plates, sold to cover the costs for the state wildlife commission’s panther research.

The wide-ranging predators have lost habitat in South Florida not just to suburban sprawl, but also to the creation of Florida Gulf Coast University and the town of Ave Maria. But Williams said the discovery of breeding cats north of the Caloosahatchee shows they now have much more potential habitat available to them than ever before.

Senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Craig Pittman at craig@tampabay.com. Follow @craigtimes.

Federal officials to review endangered status of Florida panther 07/03/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 4, 2017 12:25am] Photo reprints | Article reprints

Read this article:
Federal officials to review endangered status of Florida panther – Tampabay.com

Genetics Research Update – Island Eye News

By Mary Pringle for Island Eye News

A vial containing the DNA sample for Nest #23 on the Isle of Palms which was laid at Summer Dunes Lane on June 16.

You may be aware that this is the 8th nesting season that the Island Turtle Team has taken DNA samples from every nest laid on our islands. This is a huge project involving all of the loggerhead nests in North and South Carolina and Georgia. Recently Dr. Brian Shamblin of the University of Georgia has expanded it to include some of the nests in Florida where many thousands of loggerhead nests are laid each year. It takes multiple years of funding to gather these results.

The purpose of this study is not only to get an accurate picture of the population of nesting loggerheads on the Atlantic Coast but also to find out:

How many clutches of eggs does each nesting female lay in a year?

Is she nesting on more than one beach?

How far apart are her nests?

How many turtles are nesting in more than one state?

Most individual females do not nest every year. How often does each turtle nest: every two years, three years, four or more years?

How precisely does a daughter return to her hatching site to lay her eggs?

Results have shown fascinating things about our nesting females. It takes 25-30 years for a female loggerhead to mature and start laying eggs. This study has shown that there is a grandmother in the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge near McClellanville who is still laying nests. She has 14 daughters currently nesting and even has 4 granddaughters nesting! How amazing is that?

In one of the earlier years of the study there was a loggerhead who nested on the Isle of Palms, then two weeks later laid eggs on Hatteras Island in NC, and two weeks after that laid a third nest on Cumberland Island in Georgia. So the information we formerly told people about turtles always returning to the beach where they were hatched is not necessarily true although some of them seem to do so. The study is also showing that individual females usually nest 4 to 6 times in a season at 2 week intervals but then will rest and restore their body condition and skip a year or even two before coming back to lay eggs again. With over 100 eggs each time, this is quite a feat.

We are excited to see the DNA results from the first two nests of 2017. Nest #1 at 56th Avenue, the earliest in NC, SC, or GA, was a faithful IOP nester. She laid eggs here 3 times in 2012. In 2014 she was a busy girl with 4 nests on the IOP and one on Dewees Island.

She did not lay eggs in 2013, 2015 or 2016 but is now back. The mother of our Nest #2, who laid eggs up against the pool fencing at 510 Ocean Blvd, is not as faithful to our island. She nested in 2015, twice in North Carolina and once on Capers Island, but took last season off. It will be interesting to see in our future samples of one eggshell from each of our nests if these two turtles lay more than once on our beaches or where else they go to nest.

See the original post here:
Genetics Research Update – Island Eye News

DNA From Sperm Of Ex Partners Lingers In Female Flies And …

When a woman breaks up with a man, she usually wants every remnant of him removed from her life. A new study suggests that, try as she might, there may be one last piece of him that shes stuck with for good: his DNA. A study from Australia has managed to prove that fly offspring are able to resemble a mothers previous sexual partner, even when conceived with their fathers sperm.

The idea of telegony, or previous mates influencing a womans offspring, has been around for centuries. It was first proposed by the Greek philosopher Aristotle and was accepted as science until the early 1900s when it was disproved and replaced by more modern genetic theory, according to the study’spress release. Unfortunately, the theory was largely used as a fear tactic to prevent women from copulating with different races or lower classes, but the study suggests the theory may have some elements of truth for flies, at least.

To test the age old theory of telegony, the researchers manipulated male flies to grow to a certain height by changing the amount of nutrients in their diet. They then mated immature females with either large or small males. Later on, the now mature females were again mated with males of various sizes. The subsequent offspring were then studied, and what researchers observed was quite remarkable.

“We found that even though the second male sired the offspring, offspring size was determined by what the mother’s previous mating partner ate as a maggot, Dr. Angela Crean, led researcher on the project, explained in the press release. “Our new findings take this to a whole new level showing a male can also transmit some of his acquired features to offspring sired by other males.

The researchers are not yet sure about why this phenomenon occurs but believe it may be due to molecules in the seminal fluid of the first mate being absorbed by the females immature eggs and then influencing the growth of offspring of a later mate. This finding only adds to the already complicated field of genetics. Scientists are only just beginning to grasp the concept that offspring genetics are influenced by non-genetic factors, such as their parents diet. Our new findings take this to a whole new level, Crean said.

To answer the question that Im sure is on every one of your minds, no the researchers are not yet sure whether this phenomenon exists in any other species, but testimony of many experienced breeders suggests it may be.As for humans, I dont even want to begin opening that can of worms, but Crean did tell Medical Daily in an email that she’s not ruling out this possibility.

There is no evidence of such effects in humans, but there has not been any research on this possibility in humans. There is a potential for such effects in mammals, explained Crean. For example, there is a lot of foetal DNA in maternal blood during pregnancy, and this could potentially play a role in such effects. There is also evidence in mammals that seminal fluid affects offspring development, so semen from one male could potentially influence the development of eggs fertilized by another male (which is what we think is happening in flies).

Crean added that due to ethical restraints it would be difficult to conduct a similar experiment on humans.

Update: Direct quotes from Dr. Angela Crean have been recently added.

Source: Crean AJ, Kopps AM, Bonduriansky R. Revisiting telegony: offspring inherit an acquired characteristic of mothers previous mate. Ecology. 2014.

See the rest here:
DNA From Sperm Of Ex Partners Lingers In Female Flies And …

Hughes benefit from Wagyu fertility and eating quality – Queensland Country Life

Recording among best weight gains in the first phase of Ekkas Wagyu Challenge, the Hughes familys beef operation appears on-track.

Richard and Dyan Hughes, Wentworth, Clermont introduced Wagyu genetics into their cattle operation 20 years ago and now have Wagyu bulls covering their entire breeding herd.

The Hughes family run more than 10,000 head of cattle across their 40,500 hectare aggregation of properties called Wentworth Station near Clermont, which includes 6000 hectares of sharefarming land, and also run a breeding herd on their Strathalbyn property in Queenslands Burdekin region between Collinsville and Home Hill.

Richard and Dyan Hughes, Wentworth, Clermont placed second in the first phase of this year’s Ekka Wagyu Challenge – Best Weight Gain for Pen of Six Grain Fed Wagyu Steers with F2+ Wagyus and achieving a daily average weight gain of 1.23kg.

With a focus on producing highly fertile females and excellent eating quality beef outcomes, the Hughes family have gradually moved towards incorporating more Wagyu genetics in their cattle.

Weve been breeding crossbred Wagyus for at least 20 years and have found we are achieve go results for our beef business with the breed, Mrs Hughes said.

Recently we have started to put Wagyu bulls over our entire breeding herd.

The Hughes started increasing the amount of Wagyu genetics in their herd after noticing very high pregnancy rates in all crossbred Wagyu females at their Burdekin region breeding property.

Any female with some Wagyu in her was falling pregnant very easily, much better than the Brahman/Red Poll-cross females we were running the property, Mrs Hughes said.

It made sense to us to go for fertility when we are also getting the excellent meat eating quality traitswith the Wagyu cattle.

Thats not to say our Brahman cattle didnt have great eating quality as well because weve gone in some taste testing competitions with our Brahman-cross cattle and they can mix it with the best.

Mr Hughes added their cattle operation wanted good fertility traits of the Wagyu breed with the ability of all females to have a calf every year.

The Wagyu breed isvery efficient and fertile type of cattle, he said.

As a cattle operation we have strongly focused on meat quality over the last 15 to 20 years, so I think the beef we produce would be suitable for a dinner table anywhere.

Currently, the Hughes family have a beef supply chain into 400-day Wagyu-cross grain feeding program at Mort and Cos Grassdale feedlot near Dalby, in which Richard and Dyan Hughes are current shareholders in the Mort and Co feedlot.

The season has been very favourable recently for the Hughes familywho previous were in three years of drought across their two large cattle properties.

This is the best our country has looked in many years with good storm rain rolling across our properties since July last year, Mr Hughes said.

We were selling cattle into the live export market and feeder cattle to feedlots during the drought.

We really havent grass finished a steer for four years and this is our first year back at it.

As well as the Wagyu-cross feeder cattle, the Hughes family also run a grass fed beef supply chain that incorporates Red Poll and Brahman genetics originally used in developing a composite bred for their Strathalbyn breeding property in the Burdekin region.

We are now using Wagyu genetics over the Red Poll/Brahman-cross composite cattle as well and selling grass finished steers into a grass fed beef market, Mrs Hughes said.

All we have ever striven for in our cattle operation is fertility and meat quality.

Go here to read the rest:
Hughes benefit from Wagyu fertility and eating quality – Queensland Country Life

Archives