50 years of DNA research turned upside down as scientists discover second programming language within genetic code.


Scientists have discovered a second code hiding within DNA. This second code contains information that changes how scientists read the instructions contained in DNA and interpret mutations to make sense of health and disease.

A research team led by Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, University of Washington associate professor of genome sciences and of medicine, made the discovery.

The work is part of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements Project, also known as ENCODE. The National Human Genome Research Institute funded the multi-year, international effort. ENCODE aims to discover where and how the directions for biological functions are stored in the human genome.

Since the genetic code was deciphered in the 1960s, scientists have assumed that it was used exclusively to write information about proteins. UW scientists were stunned to discover that genomes use the genetic code to write two separate languages. One describes how proteins are made, and the other instructs the cell on how genes are controlled. One language is written on top of the other, which is why the second language remained hidden for so long.

For over 40 years we have assumed that DNA changes affecting the genetic code solely impact how proteins are made,” said Stamatoyannopoulos. “Now we know that this basic assumption about reading the human genome missed half of the picture. These new findings highlight that DNA is an incredibly powerful information storage device, which nature has fully exploited in unexpected ways.”

The genetic code uses a 64-letter alphabet called codons. The UW team discovered that some codons, which they called duons, can have two meanings, one related to protein sequence, and one related to gene control. These two meanings seem to have evolved in concert with each other. The gene control instructions appear to help stabilize certain beneficial features of proteins and how they are made.

The discovery of duons has major implications for how scientists and physicians interpret a patient’s genome and will open new doors to the diagnosis and treatment of disease.

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What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep


If you eat well and exercise regularly but don’t get at least seven hours of sleep every night, you may undermine all your other efforts.

Sleep disorders expert Harneet Walia, MD, says it’s important to focus on getting enough sleep, something many of us lack. “First and foremost, we need to make sleep a priority,” she says. “We always recommend a good diet and exercise to everyone. Along the same lines, we need to focus on sleep as well.”

How much sleep do you actually need?

Everyone feels better after a good night’s rest.  But now, thanks to a report from the National Sleep Foundation, you can aim for a targeted sleep number tailored to your age.

The foundation based its report on two years of research. Published in a recent issue of the foundation’s journal Sleep Health, the report updates previous sleep recommendations. It breaks them into nine age-specific categories with a range for each, which allows for individual differences:

  • Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
  • Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
  • Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
  • Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
  • School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
  • Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours

Dr. Walia says there’s evidence that genetic, behavioral and environmental factors help determine how much sleep an individual needs for the best health and daily performance.

But a minimum of seven hours of sleep is a step in the right direction to improve your health, she says.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Your doctor urges you to get enough sleep for good reason, Dr. Walia says.  Shorting yourself on shut-eye has a negative impact on your health in many ways:

Short-term problems can include:

  • Lack of alertness: Even missing as little as 1.5 hours can have an impact, research shows.
  • Impaired memory: Lack of sleep can affect your ability to think and to remember and process information.
  • Relationship stress: It can make you feel moody, and you can become more likely to have conflicts with others.
  • Quality of life: You may become less likely to participate in normal daily activities or to exercise.
  • Greater likelihood for car accidents: Drowsy driving accounts for thousands of crashes, injuries and fatalities each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If you continue to operate without enough sleep, you may see more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression and lower sex drive.

Chronic sleep deprivation can even affect your appearance.  Over time, it can lead to premature wrinkling and dark circles under the eyes. Also, research links a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol can break down collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth.

Make time for downtime

“In our society, nowadays, people aren’t getting enough sleep. They put sleep so far down on their priority list because there are so many other things to do – family, personal and work life,” Dr. Walia says. “These are challenges, but if people understand how important adequate sleep is, it makes a huge difference.”

Education & Experience Don’t Guarantee Success—Attitude & Habits Do


Professional success is a culmination of many factors. Your education matters—maybe not as much as you think, but a degree in your field can really jump-start your progress. Your experience certainly matters, but that can only come to you after years of dedication. Your talent matters, too, but aside from skills (which develop from experience) most of your talent is innate, meaning you have a natural tendency to perform well in certain areas more than others. Your network of contacts matters, but you can’t always control who you interact with. And ultimately, at least some of your career success is going to come down to a factor of luck.

Looking at these things, it seems like there is little you can control. But none of these things will matter if you neglect the most important things you need to create for yourself:

1. A Positive Attitude

The whole “positive attitude” angle might seem like a gimmick—after all, can you think of anybody successful who got to where they are only because they thought positive thoughts? Of course not. But you can trace almost any successful entrepreneur or professional’s journey and find at least one major obstacle that nearly disrupted everything. And in the face of that obstacle, they remained positive, which motivated action rather than submission, and eventually, they rose to the top.

Positive thinking is about more than helping you through the tough times. Research shows that positive self-talk, rather than negative self-talk, can actively reduce your stress levels, giving you greater physical and mental health and a greater capacity to perform to your maximum potential. The best part is that there aren’t any naturally positive or naturally negative people—your thoughts and your self-talk can be controlled with practice, meaning a positive attitude is something you can, and should, create for yourself.

2. Ongoing Habits

Our habits make us who we are. Over time, our repeated actions become automatic, or second nature, and once we’re in that groove it’s nearly impossible to break the chain. With bad habits, like sleeping through your first alarm or working through your breaks, this unbroken chain can come to destroy you. But with positive habits, like regularly reading or fact checking all of your work, this unbroken chain can lead you to success.

Though many habits form unconsciously through our natural actions, it is possible to create ongoing habits for yourself. The key to creating these habits is consistency—if you want to start doing something every day, you must force yourself to start doing it on a daily basis, and don’t allow yourself to slip in the first few weeks. After a few rounds of consistent effort, it will become easier. Breaking bad habits can be tougher, but it’s entirely within your power.

3. Goals

While your specific job may have company goals that dictate your actions, your professional goals are entirely within your control. Create goals that are too lofty and you’ll never be able to make significant progress. Create goals that are too easy, and you’ll never reach your true potential.

The reliable standby for creating good goals is the SMART criteria—an acronym that describes the five key qualities that all goals must have: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-specific. In addition to meeting these criteria, you should create goals on multiple scales. For example, you should have broad, flexible long-term goals detailing your plans for your long-term success, but you should also have smaller, more immediate, actionable goals that can lead you to those broader visions, and medium-sized goals in between the two to act as milestones.

4. Tactical Plans

Goals are good for helping you to hone your desires and set the tone for your career, but without a solid plan of execution, those desires are only pipe dreams. As an extension of your goals, you must learn to create tactical plans that detail how you’re going to achieve those goals. That might include a list of tasks you must accomplish before reaching the goal, a series of strategies you’re going to use while pursuing that goal, or a list of prerequisites you’ll need to have before moving on to the next phase of your plan. If you’re having trouble coming up with an initial plan, you may need to do additional research before moving forward.

5. A Healthy Environment

As humans, we are often products of our environments, and in the professional world, this is no different. If your desk is messy, your mind may be more frantic and cluttered. If you work in a noisy area full of distractions, you’ll never be able to focus. But perhaps more importantly, if you’re surrounded with negative, apathetic or downright lazy people, you’ll never be able to motivate yourself to achieve your goals. If you’re working in a place that doesn’t acknowledge hard work, you’ll never be able to progress.

Create your own environment to maximize your chances for success, whether that means working within the confines of your current organization or moving on to a better opportunity. Surround yourself with the types of people who will lead you to success, and structure your work environment so you can be your most productive.

Once you start creating these things for yourself consistently and with dedication, you will find yourself naturally gravitating toward a path of success. With a strong vision in your mind and the right attitude and environment to carry you through the obstacles that lie ahead, there should be nothing stopping you from achieving your goals.

– See more at: http://www.success.com/article/education-experience-dont-guarantee-success-attitude-habits-do#sthash.5C1mGixY.dpuf

Five Biggest Unsolved Mysteries In Physics


Attempting to understand the whole wide universe can be quite an uphill task. Over the years, scientists have found solutions to a number of different mysteries surrounding the world. For instance, why does the sky appear blue and how planets orbit around the Sun. Pursuing such challenges to unravel such mysteries is always a hard nut to crack. Physicists across the globe have come up with various theories only to face even more challenges along the way. Here is a list of five greatest mysteries of physics that remain unsolved to date. Mind you, even the greatest minds have failed.

1. Dark energy It is something we can only test. Neither can one feel it, nor can one see it. Despite those facts, scientists believe 70 percent of the universe comprises dark energy. Many people believe that it is the reason why galaxies accelerate farther away from one another. One may perceive it as repulsive gravity which splits matter apart. Ofcourse, there is no way of saying how this works.

2. Dark matter It does not just stop at dark energy, folks. Similar to dark energy, dark matter can neither be felt nor seen. There are some differences that exist, though. It can only be observed, indirectly. Since one is able to measure gravitational effects, we all are aware that there is matter in the universe that many of us have not even seen.

3. Wave or particle? Rays of light suffer from split personality disorder. All these rays tend to make interference patterns which is a common sight in waves. The rays bounce off the surface. This goes to show that they could be either a particle or a wave or even both of those. These rays even have the ability to free electrons from their respective shells. That leaves us with the question: how would light determine if it must act as a wave or a particle?

4. Time wears on It is no secret that time wears on and so does age. We grow older as time passes just as trees grow taller until they can not any further. Thus, time can only go in a single direction, further. Can you think of the obvious question? That is correct; why can we not reverse our clocks and go back in time just like in those movies?

5. Why can humans not imagine the four dimensions? Human beings have a hard time viewing the world with four dimensions. A couple of theories require a total of eleven dimensions to be possible, hypothetically. If this string of theories happens to be true, one would have to determine how six missing dimensions can exist in our reality.

In unexpected discovery, comet contains alcohol, sugar


In unexpected discovery, comet contains alcohol, sugar

Picture of the comet C/2014 Q2 (Lovejoy) on 12 February 2015. Image taken by French amateur astronomer Fabrice Noel, 50 kilometers south of Paris. (4 minute exposure, 6400 ISO, Sony A7s DSLR). Credit: Fabrice Noel, France

Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life.

“We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,” said Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, France, lead author of a paper on the discovery published Oct. 23 in Science Advances. The team found 21 different organic molecules in gas from the comet, including ethyl alcohol and glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar.

Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system. Scientists are interested in them because they are relatively pristine and therefore hold clues to how the solar system was made. Most orbit in frigid zones far from the sun. However, occasionally, a gravitational disturbance sends a comet closer to the sun, where it heats up and releases gases, allowing scientists to determine its composition.

Comet Lovejoy (formally cataloged as C/2014 Q2) was one of the brightest and most active comets since comet Hale-Bopp in 1997. Lovejoy passed closest to the sun on January 30, 2015, when it was releasing water at the rate of 20 tons per second. The team observed the atmosphere of the comet around this time when it was brightest and most active. They observed a microwave glow from the comet using the 30-meter (almost 100-foot) diameter radio telescope at Pico Veleta in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of Spain.

In unexpected discovery, comet contains alcohol, sugar
The IRAM 30m radiotelescope in the Sierra Nevada, Spain. 

Sunlight energizes molecules in the comet’s atmosphere, causing them to glow at specific microwave frequencies (if microwaves were visible, different frequencies would be perceived as different colors). Each kind of molecule glows at specific, signature frequencies, allowing the team to identify it with detectors on the telescope. The advanced equipment was capable of analyzing a wide range of frequencies simultaneously, allowing the team to determine the types and amounts of many different molecules in the comet despite a short observation period.

Some researchers think that comet impacts on ancient Earth delivered a supply of organic molecules that could have assisted the origin of life. Discovery of complex organic molecules in Lovejoy and other comets gives support to this hypothesis.

“The result definitely promotes the idea the comets carry very complex chemistry,” said Stefanie Milam of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, a co-author on the paper. “During the Late Heavy Bombardment about 3.8 billion years ago, when many comets and asteroids were blasting into Earth and we were getting our first oceans, life didn’t have to start with just simple molecules like water, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. Instead, life had something that was much more sophisticated on a molecular level. We’re finding molecules with multiple carbon atoms. So now you can see where sugars start forming, as well as more complex organics such as amino acids—the building blocks of proteins—or nucleobases, the building blocks of DNA. These can start forming much easier than beginning with molecules with only two or three atoms.”

In July, the European Space Agency reported that the Philae lander from its Rosetta spacecraft in orbit around comet 67P/Churyumov­-Gerasimenko detected 16 organic compounds as it descended toward and then bounced across the comet’s surface. According to the agency, some of the compounds detected play key roles in the creation of amino acids, nucleobases, and sugars from simpler “building-block” molecules.

Astronomers think comets preserve material from the ancient cloud of gas and dust that formed the solar system. Exploding stars (supernovae) and the winds from red giant stars near the end of their lives produce vast clouds of gas and dust. Solar systems are born when shock waves from stellar winds and other nearby supernovae compress and concentrate a cloud of ejected stellar material until dense clumps of that cloud begin to collapse under their own gravity, forming a new generation of stars and planets.

These clouds contain countless dust grains. Carbon dioxide, water, and other gases form a layer of frost on the surface of these grains, just as frost forms on car windows during cold, humid nights. Radiation in space powers chemical reactions in this frost layer to produce complex organic molecules. The icy grains become incorporated into comets and asteroids, some of which impact young planets like ancient Earth, delivering the organic molecules contained within them.

“The next step is to see if the organic material being found in comets came from the primordial cloud that formed the solar system or if it was created later on, inside the protoplanetary disk that surrounded the young sun,” said Dominique Bockelée-Morvan from Paris Observatory, a co-author of the paper.

Lab-grown burgers could be on your plate by 2020


The future is here.

Many of us enjoy the taste of a burger, but the negative impacts on the environment caused by the production of beef – not to mention the harm caused to the cattle providing it – are well known. Now there’s hope for a better kind of beef: beef that’s grown in a lab, and Dutch scientists think these artificially created ‘test tube’ burgers could be ready for public consumption within the next five years.

The very first lab-grown meat made from real beef stem cells was produced in 2013. However, at a price of US$325,000, it wasn’t exactly a practical option for McDonald’s or anywhere else to start putting on their menus. In the years that have followed, the process has been refined a great deal: a burger developed in a lab now costs just US$11.36, and 10,000 kilos of meat can be produced from a small piece of cow muscle.

And that rate of development continues to speed up. Previous estimates suggested that we might have had to wait 20 or 30 years before the process was efficient enough for lab-grown meat to be a regular part of our diet, but now researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands – the same team responsible for producing the first burger – think it’s going to be a lot sooner.

“I feel extremely excited about the prospect of this product being on sale,” Peter Verstrate, the head of the new firm set up to develop the meat, told the BBC. “And I am confident that when it is offered as an alternative to meat that increasing numbers of people will find it hard not to buy our product for ethical reasons.”

To begin with, the meat would need to be specifically ordered; as prices came down and demand went up, then it could eventually find its way onto supermarket shelves. “I am confident that we will have it on the market in five years,” said Mark Post, the Maastricht University Professor in charge of the project.

To make the burgers, stem cells are extracted from a cow using a procedure that’s quick and harmless. These cells are then given nutrients and chemicals to encourage growth and multiplication. After several weeks, the cells – now more than a million in number – are moved to smaller dishes where they can be developed into small strips of muscle. Those strips are layered together, coloured, and mixed with fat to make the final burger.

As the BBC reports, an independent study shows that lab-grown beef uses 55 percent of the energy and 1 percent of the land compared with traditional methods. What’s more, greenhouse gas emissions are reduced by 96 percent along the way.

Rhabdomyosarcomas And Other Heart Cancers Are So Extremely Rare It’s As If They Didn’t Exist


Food for thought: there are cancers of the brain, blood, lymph nodes, lungs, bone, and every other bodily organ, part, or system imaginable. Why, then, do we never hear about heartcancer — could it be our hearts, long symbolized as the root of loving emotion, are somehow immune to the dreaded disease? Unfortunately, the reason no one ever talks about heart cancer is much more mundane.

“We do have tumors that occur in the heart,” Dr. Jacqueline Barrientos, assistant professor, Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine, told Medical Daily in an email, “but these are not as common, so you don’t hear about them.”

Indeed, malignant heart tumors, known as rhabdomyosarcomas, are extremely rare. A sarcoma is a type of tumor that originates in the soft tissues of the body; a rhabdomyosarcoma occurs in the muscle tissue of the heart. Their incidence is estimated at less than 0.1 percent, based on a study of more than 12,000 autopsies, which identified only seven cases of any kind of primary cardiac tumor. (Primary tumors are those that have originated where they are found, and have not spread from some other part of the body.)

That said, “most cancers found in the heart have come from elsewhere in the body,” according to Dr. Timothy J. Moynihan of the Mayo Institute, meaning they are secondary tumors. To understand exactly what he means, it might be necessary to review the fundamentals.

Back to (Cancer) Basics

Our bodies have an astronomical number of cells — uncountable, really — though one estimate places the number at 37.2 trillion. When we are healthy, our many cells cooperate and share the vast work of our body, all while they go about their separate business of growing, dividing (to provide a replacement for themselves), and then efficiently dying. Cancer, then, is simply an aberration of these cellular processes.

Cancer begins when cells start to grow out of control. This is due to damaged DNA, the genetic material carried in the nucleus of each and every cell. Normally, a cell repairs any damaged DNA, or simply dies, but cancer cells do not repair or die. Instead, they divide and make many more abnormal cells with damaged DNA. Another unusual property possessed by cancer cells is they are able to grow into —invade, really — other tissues. Normal cells cannot do the same.

So, when Moynihan says cancers in the heart have come from “elsewhere in the body,” he is talking about just such an invasion — the cancer began somewhere else in the body, but now it has infiltrated the heart.

Dr. Mitchell Gaynor, clinical assistant professor at Weill Cornell Medical College, told Medical Daily the most common secondary tumors spreading to the heart “come from the lung, from the esophagus, and you can also see them from the liver, and the stomach. Even nests of leukemia cells form tumors in the heart.” More importantly, all of these different types of tumors “usually go to the right side of the heart,” Gaynor explained. “That’s where the blood enters the heart — on the right side.”

But a tumor is a tumor is a tumor, you say. How do doctors know where a tumor originates — especially when a new tumor may appear years later in a part of the body far from the original cancer site? When a new tumor appears, its cells are identical to those of the original tumor. So if a person had pancreatic cancer, say, and it spread to the brain, the tumor appearing in their brain, when viewed through a microscope, would look nothing like the tumor of a person with brain cancer — the cells of this brain tumor would look identical to pancreatic tumor cells.

If secondary tumors invade the heart, why is it so rare for primary tumors to develop there? According to Gaynor, the explanation begins and ends with our genes.

The Reason We Don’t Get Heart Cancer

As you likely know, we receive half our genes from our mothers, half from our fathers. While it would seem our genetic fate is sealed, “nothing could be further from the truth,” said Gaynor, whose new book on the subject, The Gene Therapy Plan, will be available in 2015. “We understand now how gene expression can be modified throughout your life… and that can create cancer,” he said.

In fact, our environment affects which genes become expressed (activated) as well as how frequently they become activated. And carcinogens coming from our food and environment are one of the many factors that influence which genes are activated or not.

“A lot of toxins are found in breast tissue, because there are a lot of fat cells there,” Gaynor explained. “And toxins are found wherever there is the most fat.”

While our bodies have some defenses against these contaminants, in the form of detoxifying enzymes, and while our bodies are supported by micronutrients which turn on tumor suppressor genes, dangerous toxins found in our fat tissue still modify our genes, which can result in cancers forming in the organs of our bodies, especially those containing fatty tissue.

This, then, is why the heart is so exceptional:

“There’s not a lot of fatty tissue [in the heart],” Gaynor said. Even more, “the heart’s enclosed in a membrane,” he explained. Known as the pericardium, this fluid-filled sac may itself become engulfed by cancer, with tumors metastasizing to the outside of it, but still it does its job of protecting our precious hearts.

So, even though cancer can happen anywhere there are cells, your heart remains virtually immune due to its muscular nature and the assistance of the pericardium. Smart heart.