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Gene study shows human skin tone has varied for 900,000 years

Posted on 12 Oct 2017 in Evolution, Genetics, Journalism

Skin tone has varied greatly among humans for at least the last 900,000 years. So concludes an analysis of the genetic variants associated with skin pigmentation in people from several regions of Africa. The latest findings suggest that some particularly dark skin tones evolved relatively recently from paler genetic variants. Image: llamnudds

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Recoded organism paves way to new genetic language of life

Posted on 15 Mar 2017 in Genetics, Journalism

A form of life that uses a fresh genetic “language” could be just a few years away. This comes after geneticists used a new technique to recode 5 per cent of the Salmonella bacterium’s genome, introducing a record number of engineered changes into a single organism. Image: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

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The real reason why childbirth is so painful and so dangerous

Posted on 22 Dec 2016 in Evolution, Health, Human Origins, Journalism

Giving birth can be a long and painful process. It can also be deadly. The World Health Organization estimates that about 830 women die every day because of complications during pregnancy and childbirth – and that statistic is actually a 44% reduction on the 1990 level. Image: Chriggy

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Blind people use brain’s visual cortex to help do maths

Posted on 16 Sep 2016 in Journalism, Neuroscience

Subtract 8 from 52. Did you see the calculation in your head? While a leading theory suggests our visual experiences are linked to our understanding of numbers, a study of people who have been blind from birth suggests the opposite. Image: morebyless

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Our ancestors may have spread anthrax all around the world

Posted on 6 Aug 2016 in Archaeology, Featured, Genetics, Health, Journalism

Somehow, a disease that is intrinsically unfit for international travel became a globetrotter thousands of years ago – and there is a good chance humanity is, inadvertently, to blame. Image: NASA Goddard Photo and Video

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Tolerance of smoke may have given us an edge over Neanderthals

Posted on 3 Aug 2016 in Featured, Genetics, Human Origins, Journalism

Where there’s fire there’s often smoke – which might have been bad news for Neanderthals and other ancient hominins. Modern humans carry a genetic mutation that reduces our sensitivity to cancer-causing chemicals found in wood smoke. But Neanderthals and Denisovans apparently lacked the mutation. Image: jmw120

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