genetics

The quest to save the banana from extinction

The quest to save the banana from extinction

Panama disease, an infection that ravages banana plants, has been sweeping across Asia, Australia, the Middle East and Africa. The impact has been devastating. In the Philippines alone, losses have totalled US$400m. And the disease threatens not only the livelihoods of everyone in this US$44 billion industry but also the 400m people in developing countries who depend on bananas for a substantial proportion of their calorie intake.

A weird thing happened to men about 7,000 years ago

A weird thing happened to men about 7,000 years ago

Starting about 7,000 years ago, and extending over the next two millennia, recent studies suggest, the genetic diversity of men—specifically, the diversity of their Y chromosomes—collapsed. The collapse was so extreme it was as if there were only one man left to mate for every 17 women.

A hidden code in our DNA explains how new pieces of genes are made

A hidden code in our DNA explains how new pieces of genes are made

We’re all here because of mutations. Random changes in genes are what creates variety in a species, and this is what allows it to adapt to new environments and eventually evolve into completely new species. But most random mutations actually disrupt the functions of our genes and so are a common source of genetic diseases.