Sunday, June 29, 2014

Are monkeys racist?

Guenon monkeys' colorful and varied faces have evolved as a way to avoid crossbreeding, scientists have found. Many different species of guenons live side-by-side meaning mating with other species, which could lead to infertile offspring, is a possibility. The researchers used human facial recognition technology to identify primate features from photographs. They found that guenons' looks have evolved to become more distinctive from their relatives living close by. The findings are the best evidence to date of visual signs acting as a barrier to breeding across species. Guenons - Cercopithecini - are a group of more than 25 species of monkeys which originated in the forests of Central and West Africa. Multiple species often travel, feed and sleep together increasing the likelihood of mating with each other. Guenons have markings which include differently colored eyebrow patches, ear tufts, nose spots and mouth patches. In the 1980s, Oxford zoologist Jonathan Kingdon suggested that the guenons' variety of facial appearances was due to their need to identify their own species and avoid mating with others. But he failed to find firm evidence for his theory. The researchers from New York University in the United States and Exeter University in Britain wanted to test Kingdon's explanation by using modern identification methods. They spent 18 months photographing 22 species of guenons in zoos in the United States and Britain and in a wildlife sanctuary in Nigeria. Primates' features were distinguished and compared with other species using a computer program developed for human face recognition (known as the eigenface technique). It is the first time such techniques have been applied to non-human faces. The results showed that the face patterns of guenon species have evolved to become more visually distinctive from other guenons, especially those that they come into contact with and therefore are at risk of crossbreeding with. Dr James Higham, senior author, said: "Evolution produces adaptations that help animals thrive in a particular environment, and over time these adaptations lead to the evolution of new species. A key question is what mechanisms keep closely related species that overlap geographically from interbreeding, so that they are maintained as separate species. Our findings offer evidence for the use of visual signals to help ensure species recognition: species may evolve to look distinct specifically from the other species they are at risk of interbreeding with," Dr Higham said. "In other words, how you end up looking is a function of how those around you look. With the primates we studied, this has a purpose: to strengthen reproductive isolation between populations." Scientists have previously shown examples of species being differentiated (called character displacement) by acoustic and electric signals but the authors believe that their research is the best example of visual variety across a broad group. "These results strongly suggest that the extraordinary appearance of these monkeys has been due to selection for visual signals that discourage hybridisation," lead author William Allen said. "This is perhaps the strongest evidence to date for a role for visual signals in the key evolutionary processes by which species are formed and maintained, and it is particularly exciting that we have found it in part of our own lineage." The team is now carrying out more research to find out whether guenons are more distinctive from those species that they now live beside or those they were living with at the time their species emerged.

Some of Australia’s most senior orthodox Jewish leaders are under investigation for failing to report multiple instances of child sexual abuse

Witness statements and tape recordings from the successful prosecution of a former Bondi Yeshiva authority figure, Daniel Hayman, indicate that senior Jewish leaders failed to act on complaints of abuse and cast doubt over their public statements on the scandal. The documents and recordings provide an insight into strongly held views within segments of Australia’s ultra-orthodox Jewish communities that child sexual abuse should not be reported to secular authorities. New South Wales police and the NSW Ombudsman are examining whether senior Rabbis broke the law by failing to report incidents of child sexual abuse at Bondi’s Yeshiva center to authorities. Similar investigations are taking place in Melbourne into the failure by leaders of St Kilda’s Yeshiva college to act on allegations of abuse by two former employees who were recently jailed for sexual abuse offences against students. Under the NSW Ombudsman Act 1974, it is an offence for the leaders of a government and non-government agency to fail to report allegations of child sexual abuse to the Ombudsman. The head of an agency must also implement policies to ensure employees report alleged abuse.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Geneticists have uncovered a legacy of "prehistoric genocide" in the west of Scotland, with almost a third of the region's men descended from a band of early farmers whose skills in metalwork and porridge-making helped wipe out rivals

Researchers working on the Scotland's DNA project have identified the area around Glasgow as a hotspot for a key genetic marker which can be traced back to early settlers known as the Beaker People after the pottery they created. The marker, known to scientists as R1b-S145, has been detected at rates of 31% in the area compared to 20% to 22% in the east. It is carried on the Y chromosome and passed down through the male line from father to son. It is also occurs at very high levels in Wales and Ireland, pointing to the shared ancestry between these regional populations and the pattern of migration by the Beaker People into the British Isles some 2500 years ago. They originated around Iberia, bringing Celtic culture to the British Isles as well as a knowledge of metalwork, which enabled them to make copper and gold into tools and weaponry, and agricultural skills which gave them a competitive edge over the countries' existing hunter-gatherer inhabitants. These men were believed to have carried a G marker and, while the R1b strand has proliferated all over Europe, the G lineages have almost vanished. The theory is that the G men's reliance on a diet of roots, fruits, berries and meat meant their infants - whose milk teeth would struggle to chew this material - had to be breastfed much longer. This reduced the rate at which the women could bear offspring. In comparison, the R1b lineages were expert at growing cereal crops and knew how to mash dried oats and barley into a nutritious "primitive porridge" which could be spoon-fed to babies, weaning them much earlier. Alistair Moffat, chief executive of Scotland's DNA, said: "Our hypothesis is that those men who carried the R1b lineages came to Scotland and committed what was tantamount to prehistoric genocide. The G lineages have all but disappeared and the R1b groups proliferated like wildfire with fathers having many sons and their sons having sons after them - a geometric progression rather than the population replacement and slow growth of the hunter-gatherer era." Genetic markers refer to errors in copying when DNA is passed down generations: each of us inherits six billion DNA code letters but occasionally small mistakes occur, producing markers. Geneticists can trace these back to the time, place and sometimes the person where they occurred. This means an individual's DNA can be analysed for key markers that offer clues to their ancestry. The new data also helped the scientists working on the project to consolidate a second theory about Scotland's east-west genetic divide, this time revealing peak levels of a key Anglo-Saxon marker in the Lothian and Borders region. This genetic footprint, known as R1b-S21, occurs among 17% of men in south-east Scotland - the same rate found in northern England. It originated in the Rhineland and first arrived in Britain around 400AD. In comparison, only 9% of men in the west of Scotland carry this DNA, roughly the same rate found in Ulster. Researchers were surprised at the extent of the difference between the two regions, which appears to be a throwback to more than a thousand years ago. Moffat said: "The frequency of 17% in south-east Scotland, England North and Yorkshire is a clear memory of the glittering kingdom of Northumbria. Founded in the middle of the sixth century from the great fortress of Bamburgh on the Northumberland coast, it included the Lothians and Borders for four centuries."

Thursday, June 26, 2014

India: A three-year-old Indian girl has been arrested for armed robbery and disturbing the peace after feuding neighbors filed a malicious complaint, police said

The girl, who has been identified only by her nickname Guddi, was at home with her family when police arrived in force to arrest her. Her family believe that the officers had been sent by local leaders of Uttar Pradesh’s ruling Samajwadi Party, who are locked in a feud with other people in their village near Jhansi. When they arrived they demanded that the "suspect" be brought out for questioning and became increasingly forceful as the family tried to persuade them that there had been a mistake. When the officers insisted and the parents presented their three-year-old infant, the police realized that they been given false information. According to her parents, the attempt to incarcerate her was not the first time that she had been accused of armed robbery – charges had been registered a year earlier when she was two years old. The family had then been so alarmed by the case that they considered fleeing their village but it took two months to persuade the police to drop the charges. Her latest arrest was condemned by the district magistrate, who said that he had ordered the police to withdraw the charges and hold an inquiry into why they had registered an implausible case against an infant girl. Prashant Kumar, the deputy inspector general of police, said that the complaint had been made by the family’s neighbors with whom they had been involved in a long feud. “Two families in the neighbourhood are involved in petty fights and have filed police complaints against each other... Both the families are poor and work as daily wage labourers. Most of the fights were started when their men were out to work and the women indulged in verbal fights and at times fist fights”, he said.

Monday, June 23, 2014

A black driver got so angry that he fired three or four shots into a Chevrolet pickup truck, grazing a 10-year-old boy's face

It all started on the I-10 near New Orleans, where a 50-year-old man was driving the Chevy with his girlfriend's son in the back. Along came David Jackson Sr., traveling with his two sons and their mother in an Acura, police said. Jackson "flings a cigarette out the vehicle," a police sergeant said. "So the red truck... cuts him off... and [Jackson] gets mad at that point." The two drivers kept cutting each other off until Jackson opened fire from the middle lane, according to a police report. The Chevy driver then rammed Jackson and followed him to an intersection where he rammed him again, and police made their arrest. "I already knew my son had been shot, there was no way I was letting him go," the Chevy driver said, according to the sergeant. Now Jackson — who was already on parole for possessing a firearm and distributing drugs — is facing a bevy of charges including attempted second degree murder and possession of 19 grams of crack cocaine with intent to distribute. The boy went into surgery to have bullet fragments removed from his sinus cavity, and may have to undergo plastic surgery.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Swedish health officials have revealed a stunning scale of female genital mutilation at a school where every girl in a single class had been subjected to the procedure

Sixty cases have been found since March 2014 at a school in Norrkoping. Of the 60, nearly half of the girls had undergone the most extreme form of female circumcision, in which the clitoris and labia are cut off and the vagina is sewn up to leave just a small opening. Sweden was the first Western country to prohibit the cutting of girls' genitals, a practice most prevalent among African and Muslim populations. In 1999, Sweden banned parents from forcing female children to undergo the procedure overseas. "We're working to inform parents that they could face prison if they come back and their children have undergone female genital mutilation," Petra Blom Andersson, student health coordinator in Norrkoping, said. A common practice is for immigrant parents to take their young girls to their home country, where the ritual is performed. Most often it is done with a razor blade or a knife, and without anesthesia.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Are crows racist?

Crows like to select mates that look alike. In a large-scale genomic study a team of researchers found that this behavior might be rooted in their genetic make-up, revealing a likely common evolutionary path that allows for separating populations into novel species. What is the driving engine behind biodiversity? One and a half centuries years ago, Charles Darwin recognized that species are subject to evolutionary change. Now, we know that all aspects defining an organism are encoded in its genome. Yet, how new species emerge from slight genetic changes remains unanswered. Crows, for example, are all black or grey coated, and they exhibit a strong tendency to select partners that look like themselves. The researchers identified an avian system - crows and ravens of the genus Corvus - that they used as an evolutionary model to decipher the genetic underpinnings of speciation. Central to this system is the independent recurrence of a pied color-pattern in several species of the genus that stands in contrasts to the predominant all-black plumage in the clade. In this study the researchers focused on the young end of the evolutionary spectrum investigating the genetic architecture of divergence between all black carrion crows (Corvus [corone] corone) and grey coated hooded crows (C. [c.] cornix) that still hybridize along a hybrid zone stretching across Europe and Asia. Hybrid zones are natural evolutionary experiments where early processes of speciation can be studied. Where black and grey morphs come into contact, they form a well-known hybrid zone that is astonishingly narrow (15-150 km) and apart from minor shifts has been stably maintained over at least 100 years. Previous small scale genetic analysis showed hardly any genetic differentiation between carrion and hooded crow across the entire species range that would exceed the level of differentiation between populations of the same taxon, leave alone justify species status. In this study the researchers set out to find the decisive differences that stabilize the hybrid zone and eventually keep carrion and hooded crows apart using a plethora of approaches: they generated a genome backbone, performed population genetic analyses of whole genome data of many individuals, raised young crows to measure gene expression under controlled conditions and conducted functional histological characterization of growing feather follicles to have a closer look at melanocytes, the cells where color is made. Consistent with the hypothesis of color-mediated isolation, they found that gene expression differed almost exclusively in growing feather follicles at the stage where color is deposited into the feathers. Genes involved in coloration were constitutively expressed higher in black crow than in their grey counterparts. Screens of the more than 1 billion base pairs in the genome revealed very little difference between the two. Only 82 base pairs were diagnosticly different and 81 of them were concentrated in one genomic region coding for genes involved in coloration and visual perception. "This finding suggests the exciting possibility that a mate-choice relevant trait, like coloration, might be genetically coupled to its perception which could be common one evolutionary path allowing for separating populations into novel species. Such a mechanism could be common for many other species with visually oriented mate choice," says Jochen Wolf, one of the lead authors of the study.

Human Rights Watch is trying to raise pressure on judges in Iran to call off the execution of a 21-year-old woman who killed her husband four years ago

Razieh Ebrahimi’s father forced her to marry a neighbor at age 14, and she gave birth to a child at age 15. She said she suffered physical and emotional abuse until, at age 17, she killed her husband with his own gun as he slept. The law defining a juvenile is murky in Iran, but HRW says that Ebrahimi qualifies and thus shouldn’t be executed. Besides, says the lawyer for another rights group, young girls forced to wed are actually being raped constantly under the name of marriage. They should be in school, not living a life full of violence with no legal support, she says. “They eventually kill themselves or their husbands to end this vicious circle."

Friday, June 20, 2014

South Asian sex crime: Police are investigating yet another gang rape and hanging of a young woman, this time in Pakistan instead of India

Authorities in the Punjab province area of Layyah say that 20-year-old Muzammil Bibi was assaulted by three men in a field. Her parents found her body hanging from a tree the next morning, and, based on her injuries, police think that she fought back against her rapists. Three men have confessed, say police. The case bears a resemblance to the gang rape and hanging of two teen cousins in India in May 2014, which was followed by two similar attacks in that country. It also follows attacks in Pakistan in which a pregnant woman was stoned to death and another woman was shot and thrown in a canal. Family members are blamed in the latter two. Violence against women in the region is so prevalent that it barely registers as a crime, said one rights activist. "It is a mindset that has to change."

HIV epidemics are emerging among people who inject drugs in several countries in the Middle East and North Africa

Though HIV infection levels were historically very low in the Middle East and North Africa, substantial levels of HIV transmission and emerging HIV epidemics have been documented among people who inject drugs in at least one-third of the countries of this region, according to research findings. The HIV epidemics among people who inject drugs (PWID) are recent overall, starting largely around 2003 and continuing to grow in most countries. In countries such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Oman, and Pakistan, on average between 10% and 15% of PWID are HIV-positive. The HIV epidemics in these countries appear to be growing; in Pakistan, for example, the fraction of PWID who are HIV-infected increased from 11% in 2005 to 25% in 2011. "Not only have we found a pattern of new HIV epidemics among PWID in the region, but we found also indications that there could be hidden HIV epidemics among this marginalized population in several countries with still-limited data," said Ghina Mumtaz, lead author of the study and senior epidemiologist at the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar. "For example in Libya, the first study among people who inject drugs was conducted only recently and unveiled alarmingly high levels of HIV infection, suggesting that the virus has been propagating, unnoticed, among this population for at least a decade. Eighty-seven percent of PWID in Tripoli, the capital of Libya, were infected with HIV, one of the highest levels reported among PWID globally." The study estimated that there are about 626,000 people who inject drugs in the Middle East and North Africa. This translates into 24 people who inject drugs for every 1,000 adults in this part of the world. These individuals are typically involved in several types of behavior that expose them to HIV infection, such as sharing of needles or syringes, a behavior reported by 18% to 28% of injecting drug users during their last injection across these countries. "The levels of HIV infection among people who inject drugs tell only half of the story. We also see high levels of risky practices that will likely expose this population to further HIV transmission in the coming years," said Dr. Laith Abu-Raddad, principal investigator of the study and associate professor of public health in the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Group at Weill Cornell Medical College-Qatar. "We found that nearly half of people who inject drugs are infected with hepatitis C virus, another infection of concern that is also transmitted though sharing of needles and syringes."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Worried that her car’s interior would get soaked, a black woman directed six children fresh from a community pool to sit atop her vehicle’s trunk for the one-mile drive home

That decision resulted in Kisha Young’s arrest when the children fell from the Chevrolet Malibu when the 38-year-old - who was intoxicated - made a sharp turn on a residential street. Four of the six children flung from the car were injured, with a 12-year-old girl requiring hospitalization for a severe head injury. According to the Crowley Police Department, the six children range in age from 8 to 14. According to police, Young and another woman in the car were the mothers of the children, who were “allowed” to ride atop the Chevy “because their clothes were wet.” The name of Young’s passenger has not been released by investigators. Young was initially arrested for intoxication assault with a vehicle and booked into custody. She has subsequently been hit with two other felony charges, injury to child and driving while intoxicated with a child under the age of 15. During an arraignment at the Crowley Jail, Young’s bond was set at $110,000.

Monday, June 16, 2014

A black man's plan to smuggle drugs in his ample stomach fat was foiled because he was too big to fasten his seat belt

Police say that after 450-pound suspect Christopher Mitchell — whose aliases include "Fat Boy" and "Biggie" — appeared nervous during a traffic stop, a drug-sniffing dog was called in and a search turned up 23 grams of marijuana stashed under rolls of fat. Cocaine, a handgun, and $7,000 in cash stuffed into a sock were also found during a search of the vehicle, which was pulled over when a deputy spotted that Mitchell didn't have a seat belt on. The 42-year-old suspect, who weighed around 200 pounds less when he was convicted of conspiracy to traffic cocaine in 2002, was charged with marijuana possession as well as failure to wear a seat belt.

Friday, June 13, 2014

African Americans make up only 12% of the United States of America (USA) population, and yet accounted for over 46% of all HIV diagnoses in 2011

Between 2008-2011, African Americans accounted for 64% of all HIV infections among women; 67% of all HIV infections among children below 13 years old; 42% of all HIV infections among adolescent and adult males and 64% of all HIV infections among adolescent and adult females. The estimated lifetime risk of becoming infected with HIV is 1 in 16 for African American men, and 1 in 32 for African American women, a far higher risk than for people of other ethnic backgrounds or races. The rate (per 100,000 population) of new HIV infections is 8 times larger among the African American community, than that among white people, based on population size. Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic in the 1980s, over half of people who have died of AIDS-related illnesses were African American. Higher levels of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) among African Americans facilitate sexual transmission of HIV. In fact, African Americans are the ethnic group most affected for every type of STI. For example, the prevalence of certain STIs among African Americans compared to white people was: 6.8 times higher for chlamydia, 15 times higher for gonorrhea, and 6 times higher for syphilis. Untreated STIs, especially those that cause sores, heighten the chance of HIV transmission. In 2011, 19% of all HIV infections among African American men were a result of heterosexual sex; and this figure is 89% for women. The low figure for men highlights the enormous proportion of HIV transmissions that were a result of sex between men. Of all HIV infections in 2011 among male African Americans, 72% were transmitted via sex between men.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

In the most comprehensive genetic study of the Mexican population to date, researchers from UC San Francisco and Stanford University, along with Mexico's National Institute of Genomic Medicine (INMEGEN), have identified tremendous genetic diversity, reflecting thousands of years of separation among local populations and shedding light on a range of confounding aspects of Latino health

The study, which documented nearly 1 million genetic variants among more than 1,000 individuals, unveiled genetic differences as extensive as the variations between some Europeans and Asians, indicating populations that have been isolated for hundreds to thousands of years. These differences offer an explanation for the wide variety of health factors among Latinos of Mexican descent, including differing rates of breast cancer and asthma, as well as therapeutic response. "Over thousands of years, there's been a tremendous language and cultural diversity across Mexico, with large empires like the Aztec and Maya, as well as small, isolated populations," said Christopher Gignoux, PhD, who was first author on the study with Andres Moreno-Estrada, first as a graduate student at UCSF and now as a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford. "Not only were we able to measure this diversity across the country, but we identified tremendous genetic diversity, with real disease implications based on where, precisely, your ancestors are from in Mexico." For decades, physicians have based a range of diagnoses on patients' stated or perceived ethnic heritage, including baseline measurements for lung capacity, which are used to assess whether a patients' lungs are damaged by disease or environmental factors. In that context, categories such as Latino or African-American, both of which reflect people of diverse combinations of genetic ancestry, can be dangerously misleading and cause both misdiagnoses and incorrect treatment. While there have been numerous disease/gene studies since the Human Genome Project, they have primarily focused on European and European-American populations, the researchers said. As a result, there is very little knowledge of the genetic basis for health differences among diverse populations. "In lung disease such as asthma or emphysema, we know that it matters what ancestry you have at specific locations on your genes," said Esteban González Burchard, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Bioengineering and Therapeutic Sciences, and of Medicine, in the UCSF schools of Pharmacy and Medicine. Burchard is co-senior author of the paper with Carlos Bustamante, PhD, a professor of genetics at Stanford. "In this study, we realized that for disease classification it also matters what type of Native American ancestry you have. In terms of genetics, it's the difference between a neighborhood and a precise street address." The researchers focused on Mexico as one of the largest sources of pre-Columbian diversity, with a long history of complex civilizations that have had varying contributions to the present-day population. Working collaboratively across the institutions, the team enlisted 40 experts, ranging from bi-lingual anthropologists to statistical geneticists, computational biologists and clinicians, as well as researchers from multiple institutions in Mexico and others in England, France, Puerto Rico and Spain.

The family of Cardinal John O'Connor has recently made a stunning discovery - the New York archbishop's mother was born Jewish, and her family is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Connecticut

O'Connor, archbishop of New York from 1984 until he died in 2000, had a brother and two sisters. One of those sisters, Mary O'Connor Ward, recently wrote a column for Catholic New York, explaining the revelation about her family. "It was a surprise I never expected," she wrote. She said that, according to Jewish tradition, her mother being Jewish means that she and her siblings are too. O'Connor Ward, who is 87 and lives near Philadelphia, said that she stumbled upon the information while researching her ancestry, and found that her grandparents were buried in the Jewish cemetery in Fairfield.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mass killings and Americans of Asian descent

While only 6% of the population, they have been 15% of the 31-year period’s - from 1982 through 9/16/2013 - last 20 mass killers, 13% of the last 30, and 9% of the last 66.

Black crime and Craigslist: A black creep pulled a twisted bait-and-switch on a Philadelphia teen who came to him for a job, police said

Kevin Cornish, 42, promised the 18-year-old a career in home healthcare, but when she came to his apartment to fill out an application, he forced her to sign on as an escort and strip naked for photos before he raped her, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said. “I guess the best way to describe him is a predator,” Chitwood said. “A true predator.” Police raided Cornish’s apartment in suburban Drexel Hill and found three computers and a stack of escort contracts for 50 women — signs of a major human trafficking operation, police suspect. The 18-year-old’s mother tipped off investigators after the teen returned home from her “interview” with Cornish. The fake job agent had told the girl he’d found her a position in healthcare, but when he handed her the paperwork it was a sex-for-hire contract, listing in explicit detail the sexual acts she’d be required to perform.

Monday, June 9, 2014

The faces of modern men would be different if our ancestors hadn't spent countless thousands of years slugging it out with their newly evolved fists, scientists say

Researchers studying australopiths, human predecessors who lived 4 million to 5 million years ago, found that male faces evolved to become stronger in areas most likely to be hit during a fist fight, including the jaw and structures in the eye, nose, and cheek areas. The researchers earlier determined that australopiths were the first primates able to form their hands into fists — thereby becoming able to throw a punch. The facial bones that grew stronger among the australopith males are still very different between men and women today. "In humans and in great apes in general ... it's males that are most likely to get into fights, and it's also males that are most likely to get injured," the lead researcher said, noting that a broken jaw millions of years ago would probably have led to death by starvation.

Dropping your cellphone into a toilet is unfortunate — but in China, it can be tragic

A young woman dropped her new phone into an open-pit toilet in Xinxiang city, Henan, and two people died after one attempted to retrieve it. The woman's husband was the first to jump into the knee-deep cesspool to try and find the $320 phone, but he started having difficulty breathing and fainted. His mother then jumped in after him, and the same fate befell her. Both died of suffocation, and more were injured when others followed in an attempt to save them. The young woman herself was the third to jump in, and also fell unconscious. Her father-in-law then called over neighbors, and when they arrived to help, he, too, jumped in, as did two neighbors who also fainted. "The smell was too strong. I lost consciousness before I could see anything," says one of the neighbors. Ultimately, villagers used a rope tied to rescuers who pulled all six people out of the pit; they say no more than five minutes had passed, but an ambulance took more than an hour to arrive. The woman who dropped the phone and one neighbor are still in intensive care. "Two lives have gone in five minutes and my cousin's wife is still in coma, leaving a partially-paralyzed old man and a 1-year-old son at home," said a relative.

Dyslipidemia and obesity are especially prevalent in populations with Amerindian backgrounds, such as Mexican–Americans, which predispose these populations to cardiovascular disease

Dyslipidemia is a highly prevalent (53%) cardiovascular risk factor in the United States that will drastically increase medical and economic burdens in the subsequent decades if prevention and treatment cannot be better tailored for those most susceptible. In addition to socioeconomic status, the prevalence of lipid disorders also varies among ethnic groups, with Hispanics being more prone to dyslipidemia than any of the other US groups. With 40% of Mexican–American men and 35% of women exhibiting high triglycerides (TGs), a large portion of the population has a high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), especially as a direct causal relationship between hypertriglyceridemia and CVD was recently demonstrated. Strikingly, the decreasing rate of CVD currently observed in Europeans does not extend to Hispanic-origin populations, as exemplified by the four times higher incidence of CVD among the Amerindians when compared with Europeans.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Following takeoff from Nashville, a black airplane passenger warned a fellow flyer that, “I kill white people like you” when she was asked to turn off her cell phone

The disruption on Flight 4205, which was bound for Houston, resulted in the Embraer 135’s return to Nashville’s airport, where African-American Lashonda Lee Williams was arrested for assault. The black 43-year-old Williams was asked by another female passenger to “turn off her cell phone due to the aircraft being in flight,” according to a court affidavit. In reply, Williams said, “I kill white people like you.” Investigators noted that Williams told the other passenger, K. Colleen Coult, 50, that she would follow her upon reaching Houston “and find out where she lived.” The comments “created fear in Coult for her safety,” the affidavit notes. A United flight attendant told police that Williams’s statements “were causing anxiety and fear throughout the cabin.” After being booked into the Davidson County jail, Williams, a Houston resident, was released on $3000 bond. She is scheduled for a June 25, 2014 County Court appearance.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

A molecule critical to stem cell function plays a major role in determining human hair color, according to a study from the Stanford University School of Medicine

The study describes for the first time the molecular basis for one of our most noticeable traits. It also outlines how tiny DNA changes can reverberate through our genome in ways that may affect evolution, migration and even human history. "We've been trying to track down the genetic and molecular basis of naturally occurring traits — such as hair and skin pigmentation — in fish and humans to get insight into the general principles by which traits evolve," said David Kingsley, PhD, professor of developmental biology. "Now we find that one of the most crucial signaling molecules in mammalian development also affects hair color." Kingsley, who is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, is the senior author of the study. Research specialist Catherine Guenther, PhD, is the lead author. The researchers found that the blond hair commonly seen in Northern Europeans is caused by a single change in the DNA that regulates the expression of a gene that encodes a protein called KITLG, also known as stem cell factor. This change affects how much KITLG is expressed in the hair follicles without changing how it's expressed in the rest of the body. Introducing the change into normally brown-haired laboratory mice yields an animal with a decidedly lighter coat — not quite Norma Jeane to Marilyn Monroe, but significant nonetheless. The study shows that even small, tissue-specific changes in the expression of genes can have noticeable morphological effects. It also emphasizes how difficult it can be to clearly connect specific DNA changes with particular clinical or phenotypic outcomes. In this case, the change is subtle: A single nucleotide called an adenine is replaced by another called a guanine on human chromosome 12. The change occurs over 350,000 nucleotides away from the KITLG gene and only alters the amount of gene expression about 20% — a relatively tiny blip on a biological scale more often assessed in terms of gene expression being 100% "on" or "off." "What we're seeing is that this regulatory region exercises exquisite control over where, and how much, KITLG expression occurs," said Kingsley. "In this case, it controls hair color. In another situation — perhaps under the influence of a different regulatory region — it probably controls stem cell division. Dialing up and down the expression of an essential growth factor in this manner could be a common mechanism that underlies many different traits." Kingsley is known for his studies of the evolution of a tiny fish called the threespine stickleback. The stickleback adapts quickly to changes in its environment. It becomes darker in murky lakes, and develops modified spine, fin and armor structures in response to different types of predators. Kingsley's research has shown that these adaptive changes are often driven by changes in the regulatory regions that surround and control gene expression, rather than within the coding regions of the genes themselves. In the current study, the researchers had a couple of clues as to which regulatory regions might be important in hair color. One was the fact that the adenine-to-guanine nucleotide change had been previously associated with blond hair color in Northern Europeans in genome-wide association studies. The second was the existence in laboratory mice of a large mutation called an inversion that affects several million nucleotides near the KITLG gene. Mice with two copies of this mutation (one on each chromosome) are white; those with just one copy are significantly lighter than wild-type mice. But it wasn't known exactly how either of these changes affects hair pigment. The researchers began by confirming that the mouse mutation occurs in a region that is similar, or homologous, to where the single nucleotide change occurs in humans. They also showed that the skin of mice with one copy of the mutation expressed about 60% the amount of KITLG as the skin of mice without the mutation. Further study showed that the region of human DNA that contained the single nucleotide change associated with blondness specifically affected the expression of KITLG only in hair follicles. Finally, the researchers replaced the mouse mutation with human sequences with and without the blond-associated nucleotide change. Those with the guanine tied to blond hair in humans did in fact have significantly lighter hair. "Because this nucleotide switch only effects the KITLG expression by about 20% or so, it would have been difficult to believe it would have such an effect on hair color," Kingsley said. "For that we needed these very carefully constructed, well-controlled animal models. They clearly showed us that this small difference in expression is enough to switch hair color in these animals."