You Can Thank Junk DNA For That Face Of Yours

Junk DNA -- so called because it was thought to have no biological function -- may actually play a role in determining facial shape, say scientists.

What's the Latest Development?

Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory created three-dimensional digital models of mouse embryos in order to examine how genes express themselves in different parts of the developing body. They noticed that short sequences of noncoding DNA, also known as junk DNA, were active in the facial region. To understand what was going on, they created mice that were genetically engineered to lack one of these sequences. Comparisons of these mice with a control group revealed subtle differences in facial shape. For example, one deleted sequence "left mice with faces that were longer – but skulls that were broader and shorter – than the control mice."

What's the Big Idea?

As with everything else, genetics control human face shape, but the number of genes that scientists knew about accounted for a very small fraction of the many different types of human faces. Also, it was believed that junk DNA didn't contribute much, if anything, to biological functions. Lawrence Berkeley geneticist Axel Visel says that their discovery may help pinpoint not only how faces are formed, but how a facial deformity such as a cleft palate can develop. Details of the research were published in Science.

Photo Credit:

Read it at NewScientist

'Upstreamism': Your zip code affects your health as much as genetics

Upstreamism advocate Rishi Manchanda calls us to understand health not as a "personal responsibility" but a "common good."

Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Upstreamism tasks health care professionals to combat unhealthy social and cultural influences that exist outside — or upstream — of medical facilities.
  • Patients from low-income neighborhoods are most at risk of negative health impacts.
  • Thankfully, health care professionals are not alone. Upstreamism is increasingly part of our cultural consciousness.
Keep reading Show less

Meet the Bajau sea nomads — they can reportedly hold their breath for 13 minutes

The Bajau people's nomadic lifestyle has given them remarkable adaptions, enabling them to stay underwater for unbelievable periods of time. Their lifestyle, however, is quickly disappearing.

Wikimedia Commons
Culture & Religion
  • The Bajau people travel in small flotillas throughout the Phillipines, Malaysia, and Indonesia, hunting fish underwater for food.
  • Over the years, practicing this lifestyle has given the Bajau unique adaptations to swimming underwater. Many find it straightforward to dive up to 13 minutes 200 feet below the surface of the ocean.
  • Unfortunately, many disparate factors are erasing the traditional Bajau way of life.
Keep reading Show less

Golden blood: The rarest blood in the world

We explore the history of blood types and how they are classified to find out what makes the Rh-null type important to science and dangerous for those who live with it.

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Surprising Science
  • Fewer than 50 people worldwide have 'golden blood' — or Rh-null.
  • Blood is considered Rh-null if it lacks all of the 61 possible antigens in the Rh system.
  • It's also very dangerous to live with this blood type, as so few people have it.
Keep reading Show less

Scientists create a "lifelike" material that has metabolism and can self-reproduce

An innovation may lead to lifelike evolving machines.

Shogo Hamada/Cornell University
Surprising Science
  • Scientists at Cornell University devise a material with 3 key traits of life.
  • The goal for the researchers is not to create life but lifelike machines.
  • The researchers were able to program metabolism into the material's DNA.
Keep reading Show less