Current Event January 23, 2019
Photosynthesis is the process that is foundationational for all life, in which plants use sunlight to change water and carbon dioxide into food and oxygen. Scientists have now genetically modified plants to perform that process more efficiently, thereby increasing agricultural productivity. Listen to this story to learn how researchers “hacked photosynthesis” and why it matters.
Current Event October 19, 2018
Malaria is a devastating disease transmitted by mosquitoes, affecting millions each year. A team of scientists has been experimenting with genetic engineering that would cause the mosquito population carrying malaria to destroy itself. Listen to hear how the genetic engineering process works and how different groups are responding to the controversial experiment, and then debate: Should mosquitoes be genetically modified to self-destruct?
Scientists are beginning to answer questions about whether our physical appearances and behaviors are linked to the DNA of an extinct species of hominid. Unexpectedly large portions of Neanderthal DNA are being found in the genomes of many modern humans. New evidence suggests that inherited Neanderthal DNA can vary dramatically from individual to individual, with some receiving beneficial genes as well as rejecting others. Listen to hear how these new findings are affecting our understanding of human evolution.
Current Event February 23, 2018
The first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell was a sheep named Dolly in 1997. The Dolly clone proved that cells could be used to create an exact copy of the animal they came from. Since then, scientists have been trying to use the same technique to clone other animals. Dogs, pigs and other animals have been successfully cloned, but the first primate clones were recently born in China. Since monkeys are people’s closest relatives, this may allow scientists to study human diseases and develop cures. Listen to hear about the benefits and concerns of cloning primates and then debate: Should we clone monkeys?
We live in an age when genetic engineering has the capacity to affect the course of human evolution. Scientists can edit human DNA, which could have profound benefits for society, but this ability also comes with dangers. Editing human DNA can allow for the treatment and prevention of disease, but this modified DNA can also become a permanent part of human genes, passed down from generation to generation. The scientific community met to discuss these issues. While experts agreed that creating a baby with edited DNA is unsafe, the support continued research to see what is possible. Listen to hear more about this issue and what scientists have concluded.
Woolly mammoths were large, elephant-like creatures that lived tens of thousands of years ago, during the last great ice age. The thick, furry coat is one of several traits that gave woolly mammoths an advantage in a very cold environment. Today, the closest biological relative is the Asian elephant, which prefers warmer climates. Scientists were curious about the genetic variations between the woolly mammoth and the Asian elephant, and what might account for the differences between the two species. In this audio story, we hear from a scientist who studied the DNA from the extinct mammoth and compared it to its contemporary descendant. Listen to learn more about what researchers discovered.
Current Event September 24, 2015
New technology is revolutionizing underwater science. A brand new field is using DNA testing to study and track species diversity in various ecosystems and environments. Biologists can study one liter of seawater and identify the fish that swam through that water. This allows them to study fish and whales without having seen them and without the expense of divers and equipment. But, there are a few issues with some of the data, such as finding the DNA of food that was eaten miles away. Listen to how data from genetic testing can be used to protect marine life, and how it is changing the research process.
A new way of looking at live cells is revolutionizing our understanding of how molecular life works. However, it is how how one scientist managed to complete his study despite facing World War II in Japan that makes his discovery so intriguing. By using an old machine gun, Shinya Inoue made a microscope that enabled him to start to see how a cell divides. Listen to learn how Inoue finished his microscope and why it is so important to the science community.
The study of genes is moving toward a new frontier. There is a new field studying microorganisms which exist in living organisms. Microbes control every process on earth, and a human is made up of 90% bacteria. However, we know very little about these microbes. There is now a newer, more efficient way, to study this bacteria. From this scientists can discover new species and genes. Listen to learn how the study of microorganisms became so important.
Small green sea slugs puzzle scientists because they can photosynthesize energy, just like plants. These Eastern Emerald Elysia sea slugs also appear to have several different types of DNA. Scientists are hopeful these sea slugs might help them discover more about human DNA and treat human diseases. Listen to learn how these tiny creatures are teaching us more about genetics.
Game wardens in California are now using DNA fingerprinting analysis to help protect illegal poaching of wildlife. There are many species, from large game to shellfish, which are being illegally caught or killed for food. Since there are so few game wardens to patrol the state, they are relying on forensic evidence to help track poachers. Listen to learn about the latest in DNA fingerprinting technology.
Current Event February 18, 2014
50,000 years ago, the arctic was not icy—but grassy, full of life and of course, woolly mammoths. After studying these giant animals’ DNA found in feces and soil, scientists hypothesize their extinction may be due to a flower. Listen to this story to find out why.
Current Event February 5, 2014
One of the first instances of a plague was found during the Roman Empire. The plague, which occurred during the 6th century, spread through Europe, Africa, and Asia. Today, an ancient burial site may hold DNA evidence of why and how it occurred. Listen to this story to learn the difference between ancient and modern bacteria.