A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Scientist create, then cure, baldness, wrinkles and some aging in mice

Here’s a tantalizing bit of gene research. Scientists were able to switch off a central gene in the nucleus of a mouse cell. That in turn meant the mouse’s mitochondria started failing (I’m going to be talking a lot more about these fascinating bits of machinery in our cells). After two months, the poor lab mice were wrinkled, going bald and their organs were aging rapidly, but lo, after the gene in the nucleus was switched on again, the mitochondria were restored, and wow, all the hair and skin grew back to what it had been before.

Mitochondria have their own DNA loops.

Why get excited about mitochondria? These are tiny biological batteries we have inside every cell. The are the mini-factories burning sugar or fat, generating free radicals on a mass scale and churning out the chemical energy that is then used in most of the chemical reactions in our body. They are turning up in every second paper these days related to aging. These little organelles are so important and rule breaking they even have their own DNA loops with 37 genes — this is the only genetic material in us that is not part of the [...]

Corals use epigenetic tricks to adapt to warmer and “more acidic” water

After half a billion million years of climate change, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you, that life on Earth (and specifically corals) have so many ways to cope with the climate changing. After all, it’s natural (if you are trained by Greenpeace) to assume that corals can only survive in a world with one constant stable temperature just like they never had.

One more tool in the coral-reef-workshop

Corals don’t just have a tool-box, they have a Home Depot Warehouse. h/t to GWPF

We already knew corals chuck out the symbionts that don’t work so well and pick up better partners. Plus, evolution  left a stack of genes lying around that were honed  in a world that was warmer, and natural selection has a way of amplifying better combinations as conditions shift. Then there is the way corals can be reseeded from safe sites, far away. Now we find out that corals can use epigenetics too.

Epigenetics is that kind of spooky effect where people can inherit the exact same DNA code yet it works or doesn’t work depending on whether it was Dad’s copy, or Mum’s, or whether parents were starved, fearful or stressed. It’s weird, see more [...]