Nathalie Jonsson

Science Writer 

DNA Is The Gift That Keeps On Giving

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I love science.

Perhaps, a more descriptive way to put it would be:
I love learning new things and I tend to find science at the core of everything. What I find most satisfying is making connections between my personal everyday experiences and scientific discoveries. But before I started looking for science in my everyday life, I was absolutely fascinated by DNA. I still am. DNA is awesome, here are two reasons why:

Last week, Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published their findings in people who undergo gastric bypass surgery and have part of their gut removed to combat obesity. As a consequence of the surgery people lose weight, but until recently it was unknown why the surgery made many lose their type 2 diabetes as well. The new research shows that the way DNA in obese people works makes their bodies unsuccessful at breaking down sugar, leading to type 2 diabetes. When the person loses weight from surgery, the function of the DNA is normalised and breakdown of sugar starts again. So, the DNA is not this rigid big molecule that sits at the nucleus of all cells and dictates how the body works, it is actually affected by what happens in the rest of the body. And as seen here, when we lose control of our body the DNA can lose control of itself as well.

In addition, the Science news website Phys.org published a story on the size of squirrel offspring today. Apparently, researchers from Michigan State University in the US and the University of Guelph in Canada have found that female squirrels can make their offspring grow faster if there is overcrowding. The mothers increase their own stress hormone levels during the pregnancy and once outside the babies grow bigger, faster. Maybe I don’t need to add that it is the first evidence of animals being able to respond to social overcrowding cues (rather than availability of food) and within the matter of one generation impact on the survival of their offspring.
Exactly how the mothers are able to control the size of their babies is still unknown, but what is sure is that the DNA holds possibilities that apparently can be manipulated to appear at very short notice.

It’s not an overstatement to call DNA one of the most significant scientific discoveries of the last century, since we are still learning about it in this century. DNA is a never-ending source of surprises. Prepare to keep on being amazed.

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