Short Science, January 20, 2013

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 3:11am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 January, 2013, 4:50am


‘Kill switch’ found in HIV to attack virus

An Australian scientist says he has found a way to turn the HIV virus against itself in human cells in the laboratory. David Harrich from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research said he modified a protein in HIV that normally helped the virus spread, into a “potent” inhibitor. The protein was introduced to immune cells targeted by HIV, where it slowed the reproduction of the virus after infection. The experiments were conducted in a dish, and thorough testing on animals is needed before any human trials can begin. The study has been published in the journal Human Gene Therapy. AFP


Genes shed light on origin of Ashkenazis

Jews of European origin are a mix of ancestries, with many hailing from tribes in the Caucasus who converted to Judaism and created an empire that lasted half a millennium, a new gene study shows. The study should settle a debate that has been roiling for more than two centuries. Jews of European descent, often called Ashkenazis, account for some 90 per cent of the more than 13 million Jews in the world today. Published in the British journal Genome Biology and Evolution, the study compares the genomes of 1,287 unrelated individuals who hail from eight Jewish and 74 nonJewish populations. Geneticist Eran Elhaik of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland, trawled through this small mountain of data in search of single changes in the DNA code that are linked to a group’s geographical origins. Such telltales have been used in past research to delve into the origins of the Basque people and the pygmies people of central Africa. Among European Jews, Elhaik found ancestral signatures that pointed to the Caucasus and, to a smaller degree, the Middle East. Reuters 


Bat-killing fungus spreads to Kentucky

A fungus that has killed roughly 6 million bats in North America and Canada has now been found for the first time in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave National Park. White-nose syndrome, discovered in New York in 2006, has been confirmed in nine national parks and 19 states as far west as Missouri. The fungus Geomyces destructans, hits hardest among the 25 species of hibernating bats. Bats with the disease exhibit unusual behaviour during cold winter months, including flying outside in the day and clustering near the entrances of caves and mines where they hibernate. Bats have been found sick and dying near these hibernacula when there are no insects to eat. AFP