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Archive - Apr 4, 2019

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Genetics of Beauty—Genes Associated with Facial Attractiveness Vary Depending on Sex, According to New Study from University of Wisconsin-Madison

Genes play a role in determining the beauty of a person's face, but that role varies with the person's sex, according to a new study by Qiongshi Lu, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Biostatistics & Medical Bionformatics, and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published on April 4, 2019 in PLOS Genetics. The open-access article is titled “Genome-Wide Association Study Reveals Sex-Specific Genetic Architecture of Facial Attractiveness.” Humans tend to be preoccupied with beauty - a person's attractiveness is associated with academic performance, career success and economic mobility. But despite its importance, scientists know little about the genetic basis for having a pretty face. In the current work, researchers performed a genome-wide association study (GWAS) using genetic information from 4,383 individuals to pinpoint parts of the genome linked to facial beauty. They had volunteers score yearbook photos based on attractiveness from participants with European ancestry and compared the scores to each person's genetic information. The researchers identified several genes related to facial attractiveness, but their roles and relatedness to other human traits varied by sex. In women, certain genetic variations linked to beauty also appeared to be related to genes impacting body mass, while in males, variants in facial attractiveness were linked to genes affecting blood cholesterol levels. The study provides new insights into the genetic factors underlying facial attractiveness and highlights the complex relationships between beauty and other human traits. "Similar to many other human traits, there is not a 'master gene' that determines a person's attractiveness," author Qiongshi Lu observed. "Instead, it is most likely associated with a large number of genetic components with weak effects.

Dr. Andrew Hill, World-Class Biochemist & President of International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV) Named Winner of Prestigious 2019 Beckman Coulter Discovery Science Award

On April 2, 2019, the Australian Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) announced that the Beckman Coulter Discovery Science Award has been awarded to Andrew Hill, PhD, Director of Australia's La Trobe Institute for Molecular Science(LIMS); Head of the Department of Biochemistry and Genetics, LIMS; Director of the La Trobe’s University-Wide Research Focus Area “Understanding Disease;” and President of the International Society for Extracellular Vesicles (ISEV). This award is presented annually to an ASBMB member for distinguished contributions to the field of biochemistry and molecular biology. Recipients have demonstrated involvement in research innovation, technology transfer, and communication. The Award is intended as a Travelling Lectureship to enable the awardee to present his/her work at a number of centers within Australia and New Zealand. The awardee will also present a Symposium talk at the ASBMB 2019 annual conference October 1-3 in Perth, Western Australia (https://asbmb2019.com.au/). Nominees must have been members of the Society for at least two years before the year in which the Award nomination is to be considered. The contribution to travel expenses is provided through the generosity of Beckman Coulter. Award winner Dr. Hill briefly described his distinguished career thus far as follows. “I gained my BSc(Hons) in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand, where my Honors project involved using DNA fingerprinting on sheep to identify potential disease biomarkers. “In 1992, I travelled to the UK in search of a PhD position and began working on prion diseases, firstly as a research assistant and subsequently studying for a PhD in Professor John Collinge’s group at Imperial College.

Scientists Discover First Organism with Chlorophyll Genes That Does Not Photosynthesize; Unusual Organism May Provide Clues on How to Protect Endangered Coral Reefs

For the first time, scientists have found an organism that can produce chlorophyll, but does not engage in photosynthesis. The peculiar organism is dubbed “corallicolid” because it is found in 70 per cent of corals around the world and may provide clues as to how to protect coral reefs in the future. "This is the second most abundant cohabitant of coral on the planet and it hasn't been seen until now," says Patrick Keeling, a University of British Columbia (UBC) botanist and senior researcher overseeing the study published online on April 3, 2019 in Nature. The article is titled “A Widespread Coral-Infecting Apicomplexan with Chlorophyll Biosynthesis Genes.” "This organism poses completely new biochemical questions. It looks like a parasite, and it's definitely not photosynthetic. But it still makes chlorophyll." Chlorophyll is the green pigment found in plants and algae that allows them to absorb energy from sunlight during photosynthesis. "Having chlorophyll without photosynthesis is actually very dangerous because chlorophyll is very good at capturing energy, but without photosynthesis to release the energy slowly it is like living with a bomb in your cells," Dr. Keeling says. Corallicolids live in the gastric cavity of a wide array of corals responsible for building reefs, as well as in black corals, fan corals, mushroom corals, and anemones. They are an apicomplexan, part of a vast group of parasites that have a cellular compartment called a plastid, which is the part of plant and algal cells where photosynthesis takes place. The most famous apicomplexan is the parasite (Plasmodium falciparum and other Plasmodium species), responsible for malaria.

Experimental Immune-Based Therapy Completely Clears HPV in One-Third of Cervical Cancer Precursor Neoplasias; Injection of Genes for Three Proteins Triggers Immune System Response to High-Risk HPV Types

A potential new immune-based therapy to treat pre-cancers in the cervix completely eliminated both the lesion and the underlying HPV infection in a third of women enrolled in a clinical trial. The shot, a therapeutic vaccine, injects genes for three specific proteins that trigger an immune system response to attack high-risk human papilloma virus (HPV) types that cause nearly all cervical cancer precursors, known as cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). "There are very few products trying to cure women who already have an HPV infection," says Diane Harper (photo), MD, MPH, MS, Professor of Family Medicine and Obstetrics and Gynecology at Michigan Medicine. "It's very exciting. This is the first time we've seen something with this success rate that is relatively easy to implement." Cervical precancerous lesions are divided into three grades of severity: CIN 1 lesions generally clear up on their own; CIN 2 lesions often clear up on their own, but can also progress to CIN 3 lesions; CIN 3 is the most severe--it's a very slow-growing disease, though, with less than half of CIN 3 lesions becoming cancer within 30 years. "But we have no way to determine which women with CIN 3 will progress to cancer and which women will not. So, we treat all women with CIN 2 or 3 as if they are likely to develop cancer," Dr. Harper says. The study enrolled 192 women diagnosed with CIN2 or CIN3, randomizing 129 to receive the vaccine and 63 to receive a placebo. Women were given three shots in their thigh, one per week for three weeks. Six months later, the women were treated with standard surgical procedures for CIN 2/3 and the removed tissue was examined.