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Archive - Dec 19, 2011

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First Complete Mongolian Genome Sequence Announced

Inner Mongolia and Shenzhen, China – Inner Mongolia Agricultural University (IMAU), Inner Mongolia University for the Nationalities (IMUN), and BGI, the world's largest genomics organization, jointly announced the first complete sequencing of a Mongolian genome. This genomic study will help researchers to better understand the evolutionary process and migration of Mongolians and their ancestors from Africa to Asia, which also lays an important genomic foundation for further development of human genetic diseases research. Today, Mongol is a central Asian ethnic group mostly living in Mongolia, Inner Mongolia in China, and Buryatia in Russia with about ten millions ethnic Mongol people. Tracing back to the 13th and 14th Century, the "Mongol Empire" was commonly referred as the "largest contiguous empire" in world history, and it has stretched its territory from the Yellow Sea in eastern Asia to the borders of eastern Europe under the leadership of Genghis Khan and his descendants. The vast empire had promoted exchange of new technology, commodities, and culture, as well as trade and migration between different ethnic groups across Europe and Asia. The migration of Mongols in Eurasia Region including China, Middle East, and Russia during the period of the Mongol Empire has always been debated by scientists. The study of Monlogian genome will provide new insights on the Mongols’ potential impact on the human evolution at the genetic level. In this study, the DNA sample was from a male adult who belongs to the Mongolian "Royal Family" and is the 34th generation descendant of Genghis Khan.

Poet’s Chronic Illness Possibly Deciphered After 150 Years

Known for her poetry, letters, love affair and marriage to Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning also left a legacy of unanswered questions about her lifelong chronic illness. Now, a Penn State anthropologist, with the aid of her daughter, may have unraveled the mystery. Born in 1806, Barrett Browning suffered throughout her life from incapacitating weakness, heart palpitations, intense response to heat and cold, intense response to illnesses as mild as a cold, and general exhaustion in bouts that lasted from days to months or years. Her doctors were unable to diagnose or treat her illness, which apparently first appeared around age 13. "Conjectures by modern biographers about Barrett Browning's condition include anorexia nervosa, neurasthenia; tuberculosis; pertussis, an encephalomyelitis; non-paralytic poliomyelitis; paralytic scoliosis, or the lifetime effects of injuries to her spine from falling from her horse in early adolescence; opium addiction; and mental illness, including anxiety and agoraphobia," Dr. Anne Buchanan, research associate in anthropology at Penn State, reports in the Autumn 2011 issue of Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. Some have even attributed her illness to defense against the inferior status and treatment of Victorian women, or simply to malingering. Ellen Buchanan Weiss, Dr. Buchanan's daughter, noted the symptoms recorded in Barrett Browning's letters because the symptoms seemed so similar to those that she experienced. Buchanan Weiss has hypokalemic periodic paralysis (HKPP), a muscle disorder that causes blood levels of potassium to fall because potassium becomes trapped in muscle cells. The disorder was first described in 1874 in German and then in 1901 in English. Barrett Browning died in 1861, long before physicians would have any idea of HKPP.