Thursday, February 16, 2017
Super-intelligent lab mice are a common trope of science fiction, ranging from the heartrending Flowers for Algernon tale to the beloved Pinky and the Brain TV series. But today, scientists announced that they have boosted brain size in mice for real, using human DNA as a catalyst. The study's authors, based out of Duke University, successfully produced an excessively brainy mouse embryo by isolating a key genetic sequence involved in human brain growth. Their results were published today in Current Biology. "Many others have tried this and failed," co-author Gregory Wray said in a statement. "We've known other people who have looked at genes involved in brain size evolution, tested them out, and done the same kinds of experiments we've done and come up dry."
The Duke team tracked down this elusive sequence by comparing the genomes of humans and chimpanzees. They further narrowed the focus to include only sequences that were significantly different between the species, which revealed 106 "enhancer" sequences -- meaning that these short bits of DNA interact with neighboring genes and control their activity.
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