Scientists make new discovery about Stone-Age sex

Scientists make new discovery about Stone-Age sex

This undated image made available by the NIH’s National Cancer Institute shows the 46 human chromosomes. (AP Photo/NIH, National Cancer Institute, Hesed Padilla-Nash, Thomas Ried)

Scientists are puzzling over a new discovery regarding Stone Age sex: It seems that for every 17 women who reproduced at the time, just one man did the same.

The findings are based on an analysis of the DNA of 450 people from geographically diverse locations. Researchers compared Y-chromosome DNA, which is inherited only from our male forbears, with mitochondrial DNA, which comes from women, Pacific Standard reports.

Such analysis can show experts our numbers of male and female ancestors, and the mystery here is why these ancient numbers are so out of whack.

“It wasn’t like there was a mass death of males,” says Melissa Wilson Sayres of Arizona State University. “They were there, so what were they doing?” Her team has suggested that perhaps a few males accumulated a great deal of wealth, pushing out others when it came to reproduction.

As Danielle Paquette puts it at the Washington Post, “Survival of the fittest might have actually been survival of the richest.” This would have occurred after the dawn of agriculture, suggesting that the top male reproducers were essentially the best farmers.

Amanda Marcotte writes at Slate that the findings would seem to run counter to the thinking of evolutionary biologists who believe our nature was defined during the earlier hunter-gatherer period of cavemen.

She’s also glad that an age in which a few men got all the women is long gone. “That sounds terrible for both men and women.” (Other recent evolutionary research examines why men like curvy women.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: 8K Years Ago, Women Reproduced Way More Often Than Men

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Researchers identify more than 20 million genetic variants in Icelanders

DNA Encyclopedia.jpg

Sept. 5, 2012: The 46 human chromosomes, where DNA resides and does its work. Each chromosome contains genes, but genes comprise only 2 percent of DNA. (AP Photo/National Cancer Institute)

Researchers who sequenced the genomes of Icelanders now know more about their DNA than any other nation on earth, and say their findings could lead to determining who is at risk for certain diseases with just the push of a button.

Scientists at deCODE genetics published their data in the journal Nature Genetics, and say that it would be “criminal” to not use the information for medicinal purposes, according to BBC News.

In the studies, scientists sequenced the genomes of 2,636 residents of Iceland and identified more than 20 million genetic variants. All DNA data has remained anonymous thus far.

“By using these tricks we can predict, with substantial accuracy, the genome of the entire nation,” Dr. Kari Stefansson, the chief executive of deCODE told BBC News.

The report was published days after actress Angelina Jolie announced she underwent preventative surgery to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed after finding out she was at high-risk for developing ovarian cancer. Jolie also underwent a mastectomy two years ago after learning she had a mutation in the BRCA1 gene.

“We could, in Iceland, at the push of a button find all women who carry mutations in the BRCA2 gene,” Dr. Stefansson told BBC News.

“The risk could basically be nullified by preventative mastectomies and overiectomies. It would be criminal not to take advantage of it and I am convinced that my fellow countrymen will begin to use it pretty soon,” Stefansson said.

The research also identified a new gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease, according to BBC News.

However, some caution that the use of such data may raise ethical concerns, as not everyone volunteered their DNA for the study.

“The concerns are that the data is going to be made public, anonymity technically promises protection, but you can be re-identified in datasets,” Dr. Susan Wallace of the Nuffield Council of Bioethics told the BBC News.

“There are also concerns of commercial interests in the use of these databases, so there are a lot of concerns that need to be addressed,” she said.

Click for more from BBC News.

South African doctors perform world’s first penis transplant


 (Photo courtesy Stellenbosch University)

South African doctors have successfully performed the world’s first penis transplant on a young man who had his organ amputated after a botched circumcision ritual, a hospital said on Friday.

The nine-hour transplant, which occurred in December last year, was part of a pilot study by Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town and the University of Stellenbosch to help scores of initiates who either die or lose their penises in botched circumcisions each year.

“This is a very serious situation. For a young man of 18 or 19 years the loss of his penis can be deeply traumatic,” said Andre van der Merwe, head of the university’s urology unit and who led the operation said in a statement.

The young patient had recovered full use of his manhood, doctors said, adding that the procedure could eventually be extended to men who have lost their penises to cancer or as a last resort for severe erectile dysfunction.

“There is a greater need in South Africa for this type of procedure than elsewhere in the world, as many young men lose their penises every year due to complications from traditional circumcision,” Van der Merwe said.

The patient, who is not being named for ethical reasons, was 21 years old when his penis was amputated three years ago after he developed severe complications due to a traditional circumcision as a rite of passage into manhood.

Finding a donor organ was one of the major challenges of the study, a statement by the university said.

The donor was a deceased person who donated his organs for transplant, doctors said without elaborating.

Each year thousands of young men, mainly from the Xhosa tribe in South Africa, have their foreskins removed in traditional rituals, with experts estimating around 250 losing their penises each year to medical complications.

Initiates are required to live in special huts away from the community for several weeks, have their heads shaved and smear white clay from head to toe and they move into adulthood.

Another nine patients will receive penile transplants as part of the study, doctors said, but it was not clear when the operations could be carried out. (Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by James Macharia)

Man gets bionic eye, sees family for first time in 10 years


 (YouTube/Mayo Clinic)

A Minnesota man saw his wife for the first time in 10 years— and most of his grandchildren for the first time ever— after receiving a bionic eye at the Mayo Clinic earlier this month, reported.

Allen Zderad, 68, has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative, genetic eye disease that affects the part of the retina that translates light into sight. The condition progressively stole the Forest Lake man’s vision over the course of his life.  Zderad uses a cane to walk and has leaned on his wife, Carmen Zderad, as his sighted guide since losing his ability to see.

“Ten years,” Zderad told Valley News Live of the last time he saw his wife, “but I still kiss her with my eyes closed.”

Zderad is the 15th person to receive the “Second Sight Argus II” retinal prosthesis system, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved for implantation in January 2014. The technology reportedly took 25 years and an estimated $300 to $500 million to develop.

Implanting the bionic eye involves the insertion of 60 electrodes into the retina. Zderad’s surgery took about three hours and, two weeks later, he can now see with the artificial vision.

“It’s a bionic eye— in every sense of the word. It’s not a replacement for the eyeball, but it works with interacting with the eye, Rayond Iezzi, the Mayo Clinic retinal surgeon ophthalmologist who chose Zderad as the first Minnesotan to receive the bionic eye, told Valley News Live.

“Mankind has been seeking to cure blindness for 2,000 years or more,” Iezzi added, “but only in the past quarter of a century have we had the electronics and the packaging and all the other things come together to build a retinal prosthesis that could restore sight to the blind.”

The camera in Zderad’s pair of glasses run on a camera pack that sends information to the electrodes implanted in his retina. That process replaces the damaged retinal cells and sends signals directly to the optic nerve, according to Valley News Live. The device generates pixelated scenes of mostly black and white images, but despite the less-than-perfect eyesight, Zderad and his wife are grateful.

“His whole life, we have heard, ‘Nothing can be done, nothing can be done.’ It’s all we heard until now,” Carmen Zderad said.

The success of the technology is just as meaningful for Zderad’s 13-year-old grandson Caleb, who has inherited the eye disease and faces loss of eyesight without aid.

“He can succeed,” Zderad said of his grandson. “He’s defined not by his limitations but by the ability God has given him… I hope he appreciates that.”

Iezzi is reportedly preparing to implant the device in a second patient and researching whether the technology may be able to help patients with other eye conditions such as glaucoma or soldiers who may have lost their eyes in combat.

Baby born pregnant with twin fetuses


 (Hong Kong Medical Journal)

Being born pregnant is so rare it has only been documented 200 times, but it does happen. Now researchers are reporting this week in the Hong Kong Medical Journal on the November 2010 case of a newborn girl thought to have two tumors in her abdomen that were found to be 8- to 10-week-old fetuses instead.

Weighing half an ounce and a third of an ounce, they were far enough along to each have four limbs, a spine, a rib cage, intestines, and an anus, and to be connected through an umbilical cord to a single placenta-like mass.

“Since it is impossible for the little girl to have conceived the pregnancy on her own, the fertilization of the twin fetuses, of course, belongs to her parents, which has gone to the wrong place,” a local doctor tells the South China Morning Post.

The baby girl carrying the fetuses underwent successful surgery to remove them at just two weeks of age. The condition, called fetus in fetu, is thought to occur in 1 in 500,000 births worldwide.

This was the second such case to be reported in the region. The World Health Organization has classified it as a type of cancer called mature teratoma, but researchers write “the theory of demised multiple pregnancy has gained much support recently. More evidence is needed to confirm either theory.” (Last year, doctors found a 44-year-old calcified fetus in an 84-year-old woman.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Girl Born Pregnant With Twin Fetuses

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Cancer study pinpoints 8 signs death is nigh

Cancer study pinpoints 8 signs death Is nigh

 (AP Photo/Melissa Sloan)

It’s possible to know when a cancer patient’s death is imminent, according to a new study the has identified eight “tell-tale” signs that indicate that the end is nigh.

A researcher involved in the study, published in Cancer, explains why the findings are so novel: Previous studies focused on “people who were recognized as dying, so there’s a potential bias built into this model.” In this instance, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center instead observed their subjects twice daily—noting 52 physical and cognitive signs—from the moment they were admitted to one of two acute palliative care units, “without knowing if the patient would die or be discharged,” explains Dr. David Hui. Of the 357 patients they studied, 57 percent died, and eight of the 52 signs were deemed most associated with death coming within three days.

Write the authors, “These signs were commonly observed in the last three days of life with a frequency in patients between 38 percent and 78 percent.” They are:

  1. nonreactive pupils
  2. decreased response to verbal stimuli
  3. decreased response to visual stimuli
  4. inability to close eyelids
  5. drooping of the nasolabial fold (the skin fold that runs from the corner of the nose to the mouth, ie, “smile lines”)
  6. neck hyperextension
  7. grunting of vocal cords
  8. upper gastrointestinal bleeding

“Knowing when death is imminent would provide more information so caregivers can plan appropriately,” explains Hui—for instance, remaining in the hospital overnight so as not to miss a loved one’s passing.

From a clinical standpoint, “time and resources” can be conserved by, for instance, ending daily blood tests, reports Medical News Today. The researchers next plan to review whether the results hold in settings other than cancer centers, such as home hospice, notes ecancernews.

(A recent UK cancer study came to a staggering conclusion.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: 8 Signs That Mean Cancer Death Is Nigh

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Mostly male’ woman births twins

baby twins.jpg


When a 32-year-old sought fertility treatment in India, she learned that while her appearance is female, her chromosomes are 95 percent male; the intersex condition is known as XY gonadal dysgenesis, reports the Daily Mail.

Thanks to extensive hormone treatments, she has just given birth to healthy twins—a feat that’s only been reported in five previous cases. “This is akin to a male delivering twins,” fertility specialist Sunil Jindal tells AFP.

“It’s nothing short of a medical miracle. We are really happy that we could pull it off.” The woman had never gone through puberty or menstruated, and was “flabbergasted” to learn of her condition, though her husband remained supportive and reportedly told her, “No matter what, you continue to be my wife.” To prep her body for pregnancy, the woman first underwent a year of hormonal and other medical treatments to develop her “infantile uterus,” at which point donor eggs fertilized by her husband’s sperm were implanted.

Born via Cesarean, the boy and girl weighed in at 4.9lbs. and 5.5lbs. (A woman born “genetically male” also recently gave birth to twins.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: ‘Mostly Male’ Woman Gives Birth to Twins

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Mystery footage found of 1915 Chicago River disaster


 (AP Photo/File)

Ted Wachholz couldn’t believe his eyes: He opened Facebook on Saturday morning and saw film footage of the SS Eastland disaster, which claimed 844 lives on the Chicago River in 1915, the Chicago Tribune reports.

“I’m reasonably confident that this is the first opportunity that the public has had” to see footage of the disaster, says Wachholz, who heads the Eastland Disaster Historical Society.

One clip (here, starting at the 1:10 minute mark) shows firefighters, volunteers, and police officers walking on the capsized ship, which was about to go to Indiana for a Western Electric employee picnic when it tipped over while tied to a dock, CBS Chicago reports.

FOX 32 News Chicago

“It was a free-for-all early on,” says Wachholz. “Anyone who was able to help out and contribute was jumping to the scene.” A second clip (here, starting at 9:10) shows the righted ship a week later.

Wachholz figures the footage was taken by a professional (considering how expensive cameras were back then) from a small boat or raft floating nearby. What’s more mysterious is how the footage cropped up: A US doctoral candidate found the footage, which is housed at a Netherlands film institute, while doing online research for his dissertation on Chicago during the First World War.

The clips were spliced between footage of marching soldiers and ceremonies, and it’s not clear how it got there. “That’s part of the intrigue, part of the mystery behind even having this footage available,” says Wachholz.

The student then posted his find on the historical society’s Facebook page. The footage itself gives him “chills” and “goose bumps,” Wachholz tells MyFox Chicago.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience quite like that before.” (Secrets of a 1629 mutiny and massacre were recently unearthed.)

This article originally appeared on Newser: Mystery Footage Found of 1915 Eastland Disaster

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2 billion years unchanged, bacteria pose an evolutionary puzzle


These sulfur bacteria haven’t evolved for billions of years. (UCLA Center for the Study of Evolution and the Origin of Life)

Wedged inside rocks in the deep sea off the coast of Western Australia lurks an organism that hasn’t evolved in more than 2 billion years, scientists say.

From this deep-sea location, a team of researchers collected fossilized sulfur bacteria that was 1.8 billion years old and compared it to bacteria that lived in the same region 2.3 billion years ago. Both sets of microbes were indistinguishable from modern sulfur bacteria found off the coast of Chile.

But do the findings contradict Darwin’s theory of evolution? [Evolution vs. Creationism: 6 Big Battles]

“It seems astounding that [this] life has not evolved for more than 2 billion years — nearly half the history of the Earth,” the study’s leader, J. William Schopf, a paleobiologist at UCLA, said in a statement. “Given that evolution is a fact, this lack of evolution needs to be explained.”

Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection states that all species develop from heritable genetic changes that make an individual better able to survive in its environment and reproduce.

So how can Darwin’s theory account for these apparently nonchanging bacteria? The answer comes in looking at the bacteria’s similarly stable surroundings. True, the deep-sea bacteria in this study haven’t changed for eons, but neither has their environment, Schopf said. Darwin’s theory doesn’t call for organisms to evolve unless their environment changes, so the microbes’ lack of evolution is consistent with the theory, Schopf added.

To compare the fossils, Schopf and his colleagues used a method known as Raman spectroscopy to measure the composition and chemistry of the rocks. Then, using confocal laser scanning microscopy, they produced 3D images of the fossils and compared these visualizations with the modern bacteria. The ancient microbes looked identical to the present-day ones, the team found.

The fossils studied date back to a period known as the Great Oxidation Event, which occurred when oxygen levels surged on Earth between 2.2 billion and 2.4 billion years ago. During this time, there was also a large rise in sulfate and nitrate levels, which provided all the nutrition the sulfur bacteria needed to survive and reproduce. The environment inside these deep-sea rocks hasn’t changed since then, so there has been no need for the organisms to adapt, the researchers said.

The findings were published Feb. 2 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Copyright 2015 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Parasitic worm eats woman’s kidney, kills her


(Central European News)

A Czech woman went to the hospital after suffering from severe stomach pain, only for doctors to discover a huge parasite in her kidneys, which eventually led to her death, Central European News reported.

Hana Foldynova, 76, was admitted to the Krnov Hospital in northeastern Czech Republic after her general practitioner discovered blood in her urine. Doctors thought it was a blood clot, but when they went in for surgery, they were shocked to discover a blood-red, 3.9 inch-long parasite living in one of her kidneys.

To make matters worse, a second, 2.4-inch-long worm had crawled into her bladder. Doctors removed both worms.

“When patients have blood in their urine, it is usually caused by some kidney stone, inflammation or cancer. But this was very surprising for us,” urologist Dr. Jan Pulcer told Czech media.

The parasite in her kidney was identified as a giant kidney worm, called Dioctophyme renale, that is not uncommon in dogs but extremely rare in humans. Surgery is the only method of removal; if left, it will destroy the kidney it inhabits.

The worm weaked Foldynova, and doctors said she was unable to recover after they removed it from her body.

Both parasitic worms were sent to National Laboratory in Prague to confirm the diagnosis.

It’s unclear how the parasite entered Foldynova’s body, as the usual method is by eating badly cooked fish, Dr. Ivo Odstrcil, head urologist at Krnov Hospital, told CEN.

“Her family have said that she liked local seafood. We assume that she was infected after she had eaten badly cooked fish,” Odstrcil said.

A giant kidney worm can live in the human body up to five years, according to scientific literature, reported CEN. Human infestation is extremely rare, and the current case is the first and only one recorded in the Czech Republic.