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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Belated Weekend News (4-5 July '09)

Firstly, my apologies to my brother-in-arms, Larian LeQuella, for my slackening off. This was due to me updating my Firefox browser from v3.0.11 to v3.5, and, for some inexplicable reason, all my previous bookmarks and RSS Feeds were subsequently erased -- D'oh! So, I had to re-establish all my RSS news feed sources and bookmarks. Man, when it comes to RSS Feeds and bookmarks, Internet Explorer 8 is better!

Autism

Here is a belated news item from Science Daily (June 29, 2009) on genes being associated with autism:

More Gene Mutations Linked To Autism Risk

More pieces in the complex autism inheritance puzzle are emerging in the latest study from a research team including geneticists from The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and several collaborating institutions. This study identified 27 different genetic regions where rare copy number variations – missing or extra copies of DNA segments – were found in the genes of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), but not in the healthy controls.

The complex combination of multiple genetic duplications and deletions is thought to interfere with gene function, which can disrupt the production of proteins necessary for normal neurological development.

"We focused on changes in the exons of DNA—protein-coding areas in which deletions or duplications are more likely to directly disrupt biological functions," said study leader Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. "We identified additional autism susceptibility genes, many of which, as we previously found, belong to the neuronal cell adhesion molecule family involved in the development of brain circuitry in early childhood." He added that the team discovered many "private" gene mutations, those found only in one or a few individuals or families—an indication of genetic complexity, in which many different gene changes may contribute to an autism spectrum disorder.

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Evolution

Strewth! Stone the flamin' crows...

Australia discovers 3 new large dinosaurs

SYDNEY, July 3, 2009 (Reuters) — Fossils of three new species of dinosaurs have been discovered in Australia, including a meat-eater larger than Velociraptor from the Jurassic Park movies, suggesting Australia may have a more complex prehistoric past.

The two plant-eating and one carnivore dinosaurs, the first large dinosaurs unearthed since 1981, were found in Queensland and date back 98 million years to the mid-Cretaceous period.

"It not only presents us with two new amazing long-necked giants of the ancient Australian continent, but also announces our first really big predator," paleontologist John Long, head of sciences at Museum Victoria said on Friday.

Paleontologist Ben Kear at La Trobe University in Melbourne said the discovery will pave the way for new studies on Australian dinosaurs and their environments.

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