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genes

2020 in Review

The Year in Biology

December 23, 2020

While the study of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was the most urgent priority, biologists also learned more about how brains process information, how to define individuality and why sleep deprivation kills.

Abstractions blog

The Mystery of Mistletoe’s Missing Genes

December 21, 2020

Mistletoes have all but shut down the powerhouses of their cells. Scientists are still trying to understand the plants’ unorthodox survival strategy.

Colorized micrograph of a cell’s nucleus, showing euchromatin and heterochromatin.
Abstractions blog

Scientists Find Vital Genes Evolving in Genome’s Junkyard

November 16, 2020

Even genes essential for life can be caught in an evolutionary arms race that forces them to change or be replaced.

Fluorescent cross-section of a mouse’s brain.
Abstractions blog

Brain Cell DNA Refolds Itself to Aid Memory Recall

November 2, 2020

Researchers see structural changes in genetic material that allow memories to strengthen when remembered.

Illustration of two fantastical creatures. One lifts an urn in its arms. The other lacks arms but lifts the urn on its tail.
evolution

By Losing Genes, Life Often Evolved More Complexity

September 1, 2020

Recent major surveys show that reductions in genomic complexity — including the loss of key genes — have successfully shaped the evolution of life throughout history.

Illustration of anxious woman surrounded by mitochondria.
physiology

Mitochondria May Hold Keys to Anxiety and Mental Health

August 10, 2020

Research hints that the energy-generating organelles of cells may play a surprisingly pivotal role in mediating anxiety and depression.

Illustration of a woman brandishing a shield to keep viruses at bay. One virus has slipped through a small hole in it.
infectious disease

Our Genes May Explain Severity of COVID-19 and Other Infections

July 27, 2020

Researchers are examining the power of subtle genetic weaknesses in the immune system to affect the severity of infectious diseases, including COVID-19.

A baby lizard emerging from a transparent egg membrane.
Abstractions blog

Egg Laying or Live Birth: How Evolution Chooses

May 18, 2020

A lizard that both lays eggs and gives birth to live young is helping scientists understand how and why these forms of reproduction evolved.

Video of two slipper-shaped paramecia engaged in a sexual process called conjugation.
evolution

Why Sex? Biologists Find New Explanations.

April 23, 2020

Why did sex evolve? Theories usually focus on the diversity of future generations, but some researchers find compelling explanations in the immediate benefits to individuals.