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Plants not adapting to climate change 

Researchers have suggested that some plants may not have the traits needed to rapidly respond to human-induced climate change.

The study co-authored by University of Florida scientists shows many angiosperms, or flowering plants, evolved mechanisms to cope with freezing temperatures as they radiated into nearly every climate during pre-historic times. Researchers found the plants likely acquired many of these adaptive traits prior to their movement into colder regions.

Study co-author Pam Soltis, a distinguished professor and curator of molecular systematics and evolutionary genetics at the Florida Museum on the UF campus, said that only some plants were able to make the adjustments to survive in cold climates.

She said that in fact, some had traits used for other purposes that they co-opted for cold tolerance, asserting that the results have implications for plant response to climate change - some plant lineages, including many crops, will not have the underlying genetic attributes that will allow for rapid responses to climate change.

Early flowering plants are thought to have been woody -- meaning they maintain a prominent stem above ground across years and changing weather conditions, such as a maple tree -- and restricted to warm, wet, tropical environments.

But they have since put down roots in colder climates, dominating large swaths of the globe where freezing occurs. 
Genetic causes of common disorders revealed

Researchers have found that six common diseases arise from DNA changes located outside genes.

The study from the laboratory of Peter Scacheri, PhD, shows that multiple DNA changes, or variants, work in concert to affect genes, leading to autoimmune diseases including rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, multiple sclerosis, lupus and colitis.

Further, for each disease, multiple different genes are manipulated by several small differences in DNA.

Scacheri, associate professor of genetics and genome sciences, said that they’ve known that rare diseases are due to one change within one gene with major effects, asserting that the key take away is that common diseases are due to many changes with small effects on a handful of genes. The human genome includes 3 billion letters of DNA. Only 1 to 2 percent of the letters are used as the blueprint for proteins, the body’s building blocks. Scacheri’s team is part of group of scientists investigating where and why DNA goes awry in the remaining 98 percent – the regions between genes.

These regions contain thousands of genetic switches that control the levels of genes. This new finding shows that in common diseases, the fine-tuning of those switches is not quite right, leading to incorrect expression of some key genes – previously unidentified.

The Scacheri lab’s study provides a new model for understanding how genetic variants explain variation in common, complex diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and colitis. 

That is, the effect of an individual variant may be very small, but when coupled with other nearby variants, the manifestations are much greater, said Anthony Wynshaw-Boris, MD, PhD, chair of the Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
Water in ageing spacesuit causes problems 

NASA’s Mission Control has revealed the root cause of the problem that prompted the early end of the latest spacewalk: Water in leading spacewalker astronaut’s 35-year-old spacesuits.

Expedition 38 Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio and his fellow astronaut Michael Hopkins had problems when they were conducting an urgent repair outside the ISS during a spacewalk that lasted five hours and 28 minutes, ABC News reported.

The spacewalk ended short of its scheduled six-and-a-half-hour time frame after Mastracchio, the lead spacewalker, said that his feet were cold during at least part of the nearly five-and-a-half-hour walk, and he at times had to re-adjust temperature controls in his suit.

Even before the emergency repair mission had started, NASA had admitted that they were working with aging spacesuits that were designed in the same era of the space shuttle.

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