Genetics & Molecular Biology

Two protein structures from an avian influenza virus are shown below. One form of the protein makes influenza virus resistant to Oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) Don't worry, these proteins aren't from H5N1, but they do come from a related influenza virus that also infects birds.

One protein structure is from a strain that is sensitive to an anti-viral drug called "Tamiflu®". The other structure is from the same virus, except there's a slight difference. A single base change in the viral RNA changed the codon that tells the translation ... Read more
During the past few Fridays (or least here and here), we've been looking at a paper that was published from China with some Β-lactamase sequences that were supposedly from Streptococcus pneumoniae. The amazing thing about these particular sequences is that Β-lactamase has never been seen in S. pneumoniae before, making this a rather significant (and possibly scary) discovery ... Read more
One of my readers asked: Why does genome sequencing cost so much? My short answer is because it's big. But I thought it would be fun to give a better answer to this question, especially since I'm sure many of you are wondering the same thing. Okay, so let's do some math. Don't worry, this math isn't very complicated and I'll explain where most of the numbers come from. Estimating costs from salaries First, we'll take the easy route. My experience with grant budgets has taught me that the greatest cost for any project comes from salaries. If ... Read more

If you've read any of the many stories lately about Craig Venter or Jim Watson's genome, you've probably seen a "SNP" appear somewhere. You may be wondering, and rightly so: just what is a SNP?

Never fear, hopefully this post will answer some of those questions.

SNP stands for Single Nucleotide Polymorphism. That's a mouthful. It means some people, will have one base at a certain position, in a sequence of bases, and other people will have a different base at that position. The two forms of SNP are called "alleles." (Usually there are two forms, but that's ... Read more

We were all thrilled last spring when the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act passed the House by a vote of 420 to 3. When GINA gets through the Senate, this act will protect individuals against discrimination based on their genetic information with health insurance and employment. The promise of genomic project won't ever be achieved until individuals (besides Watson and Venter) can use their own genetic information to benefit their own health, without fear of insurance ... Read more
"Come quickly, Watson," said Sherlock Holmes, "I've been asked to review a mysterious sequence, whose importance I'm only now beginning to comprehend." The unidentified stranger handed Holmes a piece of paper inscribed with symbols and said it was a map of unparalleled value. Holmes gazed thoughtfully at the map, then slowly lifted his eyes and coldly surveyed his subject's beaming countenance. "You have an affinity for the ocean," said Holmes, "that you indulged to excess as a reckless youth. An experience as a medic in the military changed your ... Read more
Thanks to Steven Colbert you can hear about DNA directly from Dr. Spencer Wells from the National Genographic Project. I read about this video in the GenomeWeb Daily Scan and had to check it out. Who would have thought scientists could be so funny? ... Read more
If you're in Seattle this week, and you're not going to the zoo concert on Wednesday night, you might enjoy this lecture series from the UW Genome Sciences department. We missed the first two talks because of travel, but our college-age daughter and her friend persuaded us to go last Weds. and hear Debbie Nickerson talk about genetics and drugs. Usually these sorts of talks are held during the school year and they're packed with high school students who're getting extra credit for attending and taking notes. This time it was different. We looked around the room ... Read more
By now, many of you have probably seen the the new BLAST web interface at the NCBI. There are many good things that I can say about it, but there are a few others that caught me by surprise during my last couple of classes.

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Because of these changes, and because I'm giving a workshop for teachers on BLAST at the Fralin Biotechnology Conference in Blacksburg, VA, next week, it seemed like a good time to update our animated ... Read more
I want my genome sequenced, too! Apparently, it's become a popular thing to get your genome sequenced. Craig Venter was the first. Jim Watson's genome (of Project Jim) was ceremonially released this morning (courtesy of 454), and now George Chuch, Larry King, cosmologist Stephen Hawking, Google co-founder Larry Page, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and former junk-bond trader Michael Milken want theirs done, too (1). Two articles from different GenomeWeb releases made a strange combination this morning when I turned on my computer. In one release, GW mentioned that NHGRI (the ... Read more

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