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Scientists Find New Ways of Tracking Objects by Combining DNA of Dust Particles

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists

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dust particles, DNA
Scientists say they have new ways of tracking where clothing, medicines and other items are made, making it harder for unscrupulous businesses to sell items that don't work or violate laws. VOA

Clothing, medicine and other items in one’s environment all have genetic markers, or fingerprints, that provide clues to where they came from, according to scientists.

Researchers are analyzing the microorganisms in dust particles that land on surfaces and are using artificial intelligence to read and classify the unique genetic codes of the microbes that vary from place to place.

“It is the collection of bacteria, fungi, viruses, protozoa that are present in any environment,” said Jessica Green, microbial systems expert and co-founder of Phylagen, a company that is building a microbial map of the world. Phylagen is collecting dust from different places and turning it into data by studying the DNA of the microscopic organisms in the particles.

DNA, dust particles
This digitally colorized microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) shows Staphylococcus aureus bacteria in yellow. Bacteria are part of the collection of microorganisms that tell scientists where an object has been. VOA

Exposing labor abuses

Phylagen says its findings will provide real world applications. The California-based company says one application involves companies that outsource the manufacturing of products, such as clothing.

According to Human Rights Watch, unauthorized subcontracting of facilities in the apparel industry occurs often, and it is in these places that some of the worse labor abuses happen.

Phylagen is digitizing the genome of different locations by working in more than 40 countries and sampling the dust in hundreds of factories. The goal is to create a database so the microbes on each product can be traced.

“We sample the DNA of the products, and then, we use machine learning algorithms to map what is on the product with the factory, and can therefore verify for brands that their goods are made by their trusted suppliers in factories where you have good labor conditions, good environmental conditions versus unauthorized facilities which can be really detrimental,” Green said.

Tracking diseases, ships

With a database of distinct microbial DNA, Green said other possible future uses could include predicting the outbreak of disease and helping law enforcement track the movement of ships, since shipping logs can be falsified. Even counterfeit medicines could be traced as the database of microbial information grows, she said.

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“We can sequence the DNA of seized counterfeit pills, cluster together pills that have similar microbial signatures and then use that to help both pharmaceutical companies and the government, the U.S. government, gain some intelligence about how many different sources of these manufacturing facilities are there,” Green said. (VOA)

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Development of Alzheimer’s Disease Not Totally Linked to Genetics: Study

The research team analyzed the gene sequence and the biological age of the body's cells from blood

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Genetics
With additional funding, researchers could further explore the interaction between Genetics and environment in the development of Alzheimer's disease and the impact of environmental factors in delaying the onset of this disorder. Pixabay

The colour of our eyes or the straightness of our hair is linked to our DNA, but the development of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t exclusively linked to Genetics, suggest new research.

In the first study published about Alzheimer’s disease among identical triplets, researchers found that despite sharing the same DNA, two of the triplets developed Alzheimer’s while one did not.

The two triplets that developed Alzheimer’s were diagnosed in their mid-70s, said the paper published in the journal Brain.

“These findings show that your genetic code doesn’t dictate whether you are guaranteed to develop Alzheimer’s,” said Dr Morris Freedman, head of neurology at Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care.

“There is hope for people who have a strong family history of dementia since there are other factors, whether it’s the environment or lifestyle, we don’t know what it is, which could either protect against or accelerate dementia.”

All three, 85-year-old siblings had hypertension, but the two with Alzheimer’s had long-standing, obsessive-compulsive behaviour.

The research team analyzed the gene sequence and the biological age of the body’s cells from blood that was taken from each of the triplets, as well as the children of one of the triplet’s with Alzheimer’s.

Genetics
The colour of our eyes or the straightness of our hair is linked to our DNA, but the development of Alzheimer’s disease isn’t exclusively linked to Genetics, suggest new research. Pixabay

Among the children, one developed early onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 50 and the other did not report signs of dementia.

The research team also discovered that although the triplets were octogenarians at the time of the study, the biological age of their cells was six to ten years younger than their chronological age.

In contrast, one of the triplet’s children, who developed early onset Alzheimer’s, had a biological age that was nine years older than the chronological age.

The other child, who did not have dementia, of the same triplet showed a biological age that was close to their actual age.

Genetic
Your Genetic code doesn’t dictate whether you are guaranteed to develop Alzheimer’s Disease. Pixabay

“The latest genetics research is finding that the DNA we die with isn’t necessarily what we received as a baby, which could relate to why two of the triplets developed Alzheimer’s and one didn’t,” says Dr. Ekaterina Rogaeva, senior author on the paper and researcher at the University of Toronto’s Tanz Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases.

“As we age, our DNA ages with us and as a result, some cells could mutate and change over time”.

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With additional funding, researchers could further explore the interaction between genetics and environment in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and the impact of environmental factors in delaying the onset of this disorder. (IANS)