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Archive - Sep 2, 2014

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ASHG and NHGRI Award First Genetics and Education Fellowship

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health, have named Elizabeth P. Tuck (image), M.A., Upper School Science Teacher at The Wellington School in Columbus, Ohio, the first ASHG/NHGRI Genetics and Education Fellow. The 16-month appointment begins today, September 2, 2014. The Genetics and Education Fellowship is intended to help early-career genetics professionals expand their skills, experience, and network to prepare for a career in genetics education. Fellows in the program will complete rotations at both sponsoring organizations in areas that may include curriculum development, education research, faculty professional development, public education and outreach, and science education policy. Ms. Tuck has served in various roles related to science education since 2008, including teaching high school biology, developing biotechnology and neuroscience curricula for underserved youth, and organizing science café events for teenagers. She has also conducted laboratory research at the undergraduate and graduate levels, focusing on the genetics and cellular mechanisms underlying neurological diseases. “With her background in both laboratory genetics research and science education, Ms. Tuck is exceptionally well-qualified to take advantage of the opportunities this fellowship provides,” said Michael J. Dougherty, Ph.D., the ASHG’s Director of Education. “We are excited to launch this new program with a fellow who has worked in varied settings and who can effectively combine diverse perspectives to identify and address challenges in genetics education.” The ASHG/NHGRI Genetics and Education Fellowship is modeled after the ASHG/NHGRI Genetics and Public Policy Fellowship, which ASHG and NHGRI have jointly sponsored since 2002.

Neurons in Human Skin Perform Advanced Calculations

Neurons in human skin perform advanced calculations, previously believed that only the brain could perform. This is according to a study from researchers at Umeå University in Sweden that was published online on August 31, 2014 in Nature Neuroscience. A fundamental characteristic of neurons that extend into the skin and record touch, so-called first-order neurons in the tactile system, is that they branch in the skin so that each neuron reports touch from many highly sensitive zones on the skin. According to researchers in the Department of Integrative Medical Biology, IMB, Umeå University, this branching allows first-order tactile neurons not only to send signals to the brain that something has touched the skin, but also to process geometric data about the object touching the skin. “Our work has shown that two types of first-order tactile neurons that supply the sensitive skin at our fingertips not only signal information about when and how intensely an object is touched, but also information about the touched object's shape,” says Dr. Andrew Pruszynski, who is one of the researchers who conducted the study. The work also shows that the sensitivity of individual neurons to the shape of an object depends on the layout of the neuron’s highly-sensitive zones in the skin. “Perhaps the most surprising result of our study is that these peripheral neurons, which are engaged when a fingertip examines an object, perform the same type of calculations done by neurons in the cerebral cortex. Somewhat simplified, it means that our touch experiences are already processed by neurons in the skin before they reach the brain for further processing” says Dr. Pruszynski.