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Archive - Feb 4, 2014

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Smooth Horse Gaits Controlled by Gene Mutation Spread Around the World

From the Faroe Pony to the Spanish Mustang, fewer animals have played such a central role in human history as the horse. New research published online on January 21, 2014 in an open-access article in Animal Genetics reveals that a horse's gait, an attribute central to its importance to humans, is influenced by a genetic mutation, spread by humans across the world. The research team, led by Dr. Leif Andersson from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, explored the distribution of a mutation in the DMRT3 gene which affects the gait of horses, known as the 'gait keeper’ mutation. "All over the world, horses have been used for everyday transportation, in military settings, cattle herding, and agricultural power, pulling carriages and carts, pleasure riding, or racing," said Dr. Andersson. "Over the centuries, horse populations and breeds have been shaped by humans based on the different purposes for which the animals were used." The DMRT3 gene is central to the utility of horses to humans, as it controls a range of gaits as well as pace. From racing to pleasure riding, many species have been bred to encourage smoothness of gait. "For example, the Paso Fino (image) is a breed from Latin America in which the frequency of the 'gait keeper' mutation is nearly 100%. It is claimed that the Paso Fino is so smooth that you can have a glass of wine in your hand without letting it spill," said Dr. Andersson. The team analyzed 4,396 horses from 141 breeds around the world and found that the 'gait keeper' mutation is spread across Eurasia from Japan in the East, to the British Isles in West, on Iceland, in both South and North America, and also in breeds from South Africa.

Scientists Unravel 10-Gene Pathway of Sulpho-Glucose Degradation

By discovering sulpho-glycolysis, researchers of the University of Konstanz have revealed an important degradation pathway. Similarly to the sugar glucose, its sulphurous analogue sulpho-glucose is produced by all photosynthetically active organisms. The annual production of sulpho-glucose in nature is estimated at approximately ten billion tons. Researchers of the Department of Biology of the University of Konstanz, in Germany, led by the microbiologists Dr. David Schleheck and Professor Dr. Alasdair Cook, and supported by colleagues from the Department of Chemistry, have now revealed how sulpho-glucose is degraded. The scientists could identify one degradation pathway in the bacterium Escherichia coli (image), the most widely studied bacterial model organism: the sulpho-glycolytic pathway, encoded by ten genes, whose function had remained unknown thus far. The results have now been published in the online edition of Nature. Sulpho-glucose is present in all plants, mosses, ferns, and algae. The degradation pathway, or metabolic pathway, for sulpho-glucose, sulpho-glycolysis, is therefore an important component of the material cycles in ecosystems. As sulpho-glucose is not commercially available, Dr. Thomas Huhn of the neighboring Department of Chemistry synthesised this special form of sugar in sufficient amounts and purity for study. The analytical-chemical studies to give proof of intermediates were conducted via modern mass spectrometry by the doctoral student Alexander Schneider and the chemists Profesor Dr. Christoph Mayer, now at the University of Tübingen, and Professor Dr. Dieter Spiteller. "The excellent collaboration between biologists and chemists was an important aspect of our work.

NIH Announces $230 Million "AMP" Partnership with Big Pharma to Accelerate Drug Development

On Tuesday, February 4, 2014, The National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced the launch of the Accelerating Medicines Partnership (AMP), an innovative public-private collaboration developed with guidance from The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) over the last year and a half. AMP is the first systematic investment in understanding the biology of difficult-to-treat diseases that was designed from the start by industry, academic, and government partners working together. "Currently, we are investing too much money and time in avenues that don't pan out while patients and their families wait," said NIH director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. (image). "All sectors of the biomedical enterprise agree that this challenge is beyond the scope of any one sector, and it's time to work together in new ways to increase our collective odds of success." AMP -- cofounded by the NIH, ten leading pharmaceutical companies, and a number of nonprofit organizations -- will invest $230 million over five years to support the large-scale characterization of the underlying pathology of Alzheimer's disease, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. BCG was pleased to have supported AMP's initial conception, organization design, and detailed research plans for each of the diseases targeted. "Too many hoped-for drugs fail during R&D, and the reason for this is that we don't fundamentally understand the biology we're trying to modify," said Michael Ringel, J.D., Ph.D., a BCG partner and co-leader of the firm's team facilitating the partnership.