Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Monday, 27 December 2010

Merry Medical Christmas! 2010


  1. Human enzyme breaks down potentially toxic nanomaterials
  2. Printed cells to treat burn victims
  3. Arsenic used to treat leukemia
  4. First evidence that chitosan could repair spinal damage
  5. Building organs block by block: Tissue engineers create a new way to assemble artificial tissues
  6. Scientists discover new method for regenerating heart muscle by direct reprogramming
  7. Eliminating tooth decay: Breakthrough in dental plaque research
Today's news are simply WOW :) Many great news on the medical front. I hope that they won't be only short-lived sensation, but also very real medical options in the near future. Happy holidays, everyone!

Human enzyme breaks down potentially toxic nanomaterials

April 7, 2010
An international study based at the University of Pittsburgh provides the first identification of a human enzyme that can biodegrade carbon nanotubes—the superstrong materials found in products from electronics to plastics—and in laboratory tests offset the potentially damaging health effects of being exposed to the tiny components, according to findings published online in Nature Nanotechnology.
The results could open the door to the use of carbon nanotubes as a safe drug-delivery tool and also could lead to the development of a natural treatment for people exposed to nanotubes, either in the environment or the workplace, the team reported. The researchers found that carbon nanotubes degraded with the human enzyme myeloperoxidase (hMPO) did not produce the lung inflammation that intact nanotubes have been shown to cause. Furthermore, neutrophils, the that contain and emit hMPO to kill invading microorganisms, can be directed to attack carbon nanotubes specifically.
For the current study, the researchers focused on human MPO because it works via the release of strong acids and oxidants—similar to the chemicals used to break down carbon nanotubes. They first incubated short, single-walled nanotubes in an hMPO and hydrogen peroxide solution—the hydrogen peroxide sparks and sustains hMPO activity—for 24 hours, after which the structure and bulk of the tube had completely degenerated. The nanotubes degenerated even faster when sodium chloride was added to the solution to produce hypochlorite, a strong oxidizing compound known to break down nanotubes.After establishing the effectiveness of hMPO in degrading carbon nanotubes, the team developed a technique to prompt to attack nanotubes by capturing them and exposing them to the enzyme. They implanted a sample of nanotubes with antibodies known as immunoglobulin G (IgG), which made them specific neutrophil targets. After 12 hours, 100 percent of IgG nanotubes were degraded versus 30 percent of those without IgG.
In subsequent laboratory tests, lung tissue exposed to the degraded nanotubes for seven days exhibited negligible change when compared to unexposed tissue. On the other hand, tissue exposed to untreated nanotubes developed severe inflammation. source
My comment: That's actually very interesting article for more than one reason. First, the disposal of nanoparticles is very important for obvious reason - nano materails are used in so many product on the market, their accumulation is obviously dangerous. So understanding the way the body handles nanoparticles and reinforcing it is obviously essential. Another thing I find very curious is the use of hydrogen peroxide. Why I find it odd is because hydrogen peroxide is famous for its use as some kind of cure. Some people say it works. The question for me is why. And here we see one explanation. The hydrogen peroxide strengthen the work of hMPO which kills microorganisms. Interesting.

Printed cells to treat burn victims

April 12, 2010 by Lin Edwards

( -- A medical device that works rather like an inkjet printer is being developed in the US to heal burns and other wounds by "printing" skin cells directly onto the wound. The device, called a bioprinter, may reduce the need for skin grafts. It would be mounted on a wheeled frame and positioned over the bed of the patient.
A laser inside the bioprinter, which was developed at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, first measures the size and shape of the wound and then applies specific precisely where they are needed. The skin cell spray is produced by dissolving from pieces of skin and then separating cell types such as keratinocytes and fibroblasts. The purified cells are then incubated in a nutrient solution where they multiply. They are then placed into sterilized cartridges and sprayed onto the wound by a similar process to a multi-color , with the fibroblasts sprayed on first followed by a layer of keratinocytes. The sprayed-on cells form a protective shield for the wound.
The device has so far only been tested on mice, but the initial results show wounds heal quickly and safely, with wounds healing three weeks faster than those that were untreated. Professor of regenerative medicine at the University, George Christ, said the group would next test the device on pigs, who have skin resembling human skin. They will eventually apply for approval from the US to allow them to carry out human trials. source
My comment: Wow! That's pretty cool if you ask me. Especially for people with severe burns. 3 weeks difference is extremely serious. If I remember correctly, my burn wounds needed more than a month to heal properly. I spent like a week or two in hospital for treatment. So 3 weeks makes a lot of difference! I wish them quick and safe journey to human trials.

Arsenic used to treat leukemia

April 12, 2010 by Lin Edwards

( -- Arsenic, known in the West mainly as a poison, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for around two thousand years for the treatment of conditions such as syphilis and psoriasis. It has also been shown to have a substantial anti-cancer effect for a type of leukemia, but until now no one has known the mechanism for this effect. Now scientists in China have discovered arsenic targets proteins that contribute to the growth of cancer cells.
The group found that arsenic trioxide (As2O3) acts by promoting the degradation of a protein that encourages the growth of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cells, although a detailed mechanism of how it works has yet to be established.
It was already known that a fusion protein called PML-RARalpha is produced as a result of a genetic mutation in APL, and this protein is essential to the growth and survival of the . When arsenic trioxide is present, a known as SUMO tags the fusion protein, which is then destroyed. When the protein is destroyed, the cancer cell can no longer survive. What the new research demonstrated was that As2O3 binds to a part of the protein called a zinc finger, which is rich in cysteine residues. As a result several protein molecules join together to form an insoluble protein, and the aggregate is then bound by SUMO, which destroys it.
APL affects the blood and bone marrow, and causes a drop in production of normal and platelets. Now, as a result of treating APL with arsenic in China, over 90 per cent of patients survive at least five years with no signs of the disease.
Arsenic treatment has an advantage over chemotherapy because there is a lower incidence of side effects such as hair loss and suppression of the immune system. Many other countries now use arsenic in the treatment of APL, but some doctors refuse to recommend it, and some patients refuse to accept it because of its reputation as a poison. source
My comment:Wow! 90% of the people survived without a sign of the disease Because if something works like this, it's obviously good. and people hesitate before taking such treatment?! Are they crazy? Or are they greedy! I mean health insurance companies, of course, not patients. Because for me, the only reason why a patient won't try a treatment promising so much is if s/he is advised so by a doctor. And why a doctor will advice so is a mystery for me!

First evidence that chitosan could repair spinal damage

April 16, 2010
Spinal injuries are some of the most debilitating that anyone can suffer. However, Richard Borgens and his team from the Center for Paralysis Research at the Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine can now offer spinal cord damage sufferers some hope. They publish their discovery in the Journal of Experimental Biology that chitosan, a sugar, can target and repair damaged spinal cord nerve membranes and restore nerve function.
(..)Another therapy that is currently undergoing testing is the use of polyethylene glycol (PEG) to seal and repair damaged spinal cord nerve cells. By repairing the damaged membranes of nerve cells, Borgens and his team can restore the spinal cord's ability to transmit signals to the brain. However, there is one possible clinical drawback: PEG's breakdown products are potentially toxic.
Borgens teamed up with physiologist Riyi Shi and chemist Youngnam Cho, who pointed out that some sugars are capable of targeting damaged membranes. Could they find a sugar that restored spinal cord activity as effectively as PEG? Borgens and his team publish their discovery that chitosan can repair damaged nerve cell membranes in The on 16 April 2010.
Next Cho tested whether a dose of chitosan could prevent large molecules from leaking from damaged spinal cord cells. Testing for the presence of the colossal enzyme lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), Borgens admits he was amazed to see that levels of LDH leakage from chitosan treated spinal cord were lower than from undamaged spinal cords. Not only had the sugar repaired membranes at the compression site but also at other sites where the cell membranes were broken due to handling. And when the duo tested for the presence of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS), released when ATP generating mitochondria are damaged, they found that ROS levels also fell after applying chitosan to the damaged tissue: chitosan probably repairs mitochondrial membranes as well as the nerve cell membranes.
Measuring the brain's response to nerve signals generated in a guinea pig's hind leg, the duo saw that the signals were unable to reach the brain through a damaged spinal cord. However, 30·min after injecting chitosan into the rodents, the signals miraculously returned to the animals' brains. Chitosan was able to repair the damaged spinal cord so that it could carry signals from the animal's body to its brain. source
My comment: Another wow! Simply no comment.

Building organs block by block: Tissue engineers create a new way to assemble artificial tissues

May 13, 2010 by Anne Trafton
( -- Researchers at the MIT-Harvard Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST) have come up with a new way to overcome that challenge, by encapsulating living cells in cubes and arranging them into 3-D structures, just as a child would construct buildings out of blocks.
The new technique, dubbed "micromasonry," employs a gel-like material that acts like concrete, binding the cell "bricks" together as it hardens.
To obtain single cells for , researchers have to first break tissue apart, using enzymes that digest the extracellular material that normally holds cells together. However, once the cells are free, it's difficult to assemble them into structures that mimic natural tissue microarchitecture.The HST researchers built their "biological Legos" by encapsulating cells within a polymer called polyethylene glycol (PEG), which has many medical uses. Their version of the polymer is a liquid that becomes a gel when illuminated, so when the PEG-coated cells are exposed to light, the polymer hardens and encases the cells in cubes with side lengths ranging from 100 to 500 millionths of a meter.
Once the are in cube form, they can be arranged in specific shapes using templates made of PDMS, a silicon-based polymer used in many . Both template and cell cubes are coated again with the PEG polymer, which acts as a glue that holds the cubes together as they pack themselves tightly onto the scaffold surface.
After the cubes are arranged properly, they are illuminated again, and the liquid holding the cubes together solidifies. When the template is removed, the cubes hold their new structure.
Gomez Fernandez and Khademhosseini used this method to build tubes that could function as capillaries, potentially helping to overcome one of the most persistent problems with engineered organs — lack of an immediate blood supply.
Other researchers have developed a technique called organ printing to create complex 3-D tissues, but that process requires a robotic machine that is not in widespread use. The new technique does not require any special equipment. source
My comment: I'm not sure what the advantage of this technique over scaffolding is but let's say it's progress. I only wonder isn't PEG toxic to the cells as described in the previous article. Because if it is, it must be removed from the organ before it starts functioning.

Scientists discover new method for regenerating heart muscle by direct reprogramming

August 5, 2010 Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease (GICD) have found a new way to make beating heart cells from the body's own cells that could help regenerate damaged hearts.
In research published in the current issue of Cell, scientists in the laboratory of GICD director Deepak Srivastava, MD, directly reprogrammed structural cells called fibroblasts in the heart to become beating heart cells called cardiomyocytes. In doing so, they also found the first evidence that unrelated adult cells can be reprogrammed from one cell type to another without having to go all the way back to a stem cell state.
The researchers, led by Masaki Ieda, MD, PhD, started off with 14 important for formation of the heart and found that together they could reprogram fibroblasts into cardiomyocyte-like cells. Remarkably, a combination of just three of the factors (Gata4, Mef2c, and Tbx5) was enough to efficiently convert fibroblasts into cells that could beat like cardiomyocytes and turned on most of the same expressed in cardiomyocytes. When transplanted into mouse hearts 1 day after the three factors were introduced, fibroblasts turned into cardiomyocyte-like cells within the beating heart.
"Half of the cells in the heart are fibroblasts, so the ability to call upon this reservoir of cells already in the organ to become beating has tremendous promise for cardiac regeneration." The study results imply that cells in multiple organs within an individual might be directed into necessary cell types to repair defects within the body. source
My comment: Ok, but doesn't the heart need those fibroblasts? I guess this therapy is good only for certain class of heart failures, not for all of them. But hey, it's another progress. Awesome!

Eliminating tooth decay: Breakthrough in dental plaque research

December 7, 2010

Dutch professors Bauke Dijkstra and Lubbert Dijkhuizen have deciphered the structure and functional mechanism of the glucansucrase enzyme that is responsible for dental plaque sticking to teeth. This knowledge will stimulate the identification of substances that inhibit the enzyme. Just add that substance to toothpaste, or even sweets, and caries will be a thing of the past.  
The University of Groningen researchers analysed glucansucrase from the lactic acid bacterium Lactobacillus reuteri, which is present in the human mouth and digestive tract. The bacteria use the glucansucrase enzyme to convert sugar from food into long, sticky sugar chains. They use this glue to attach themselves to . The main cause of , the bacterium Streptococcus mutans, also uses this enzyme. Once attached to tooth enamel, these bacteria ferment sugars releasing acids that dissolve the calcium in teeth. This is how caries develops. source
My comment: I think that any hope for getting rid of caries is pretty far fetched for the moment, but as a person who spends a great deal of time with the dentist, I sincerely wish them luck. I wonder if there isn't some natural way to break this enzymes. Because as we all know, some people eat whatever they like, don't clean their teeth seriously and they still have healthy teeth! There must be a reason for that and I think this is a great way to fight caries. But then, what the poor dentist would do? Oh, don't worry, it's Christmas, so there is a miracle for them too. Purely and simply, not all the dental problem come from caries, so even if we eliminate it, they'll have a way to earn their living. So everybody is happy, now can we forget the word caries?! It's about time, I say! ;)


Saturday, 11 December 2010

Comet catastrophe(s) and Neanderthal sex, 2010


  1. Was a giant comet responsible for a North American catastrophe in 11000 BC?
  2. European-looking mummies found in China, shown in Calif.
  3. 4,200 year-old grave excavation reveals eternal embrace
  4. Indus Valley east theory challenged
  5. Complete Neanderthal genome yields insights into human evolution and evidence of interbreeding
And also few quite interesting shorties in the end. 

    Was a giant comet responsible for a North American catastrophe in 11000 BC?

    April 1, 2010 by Robert Massey
    ( -- 13,000 years ago the Earth was struck by thousands of Tunguska-sized cometary fragments over the course of an hour, leading to a dramatic cooling of the planet, according to astronomer Professor Bill Napier of the Cardiff University Astrobiology Centre.

    The cooling, by as much as 8°C, interrupted the warming which was occurring at the end of the last and caused glaciers to readvance. Evidence has been found that this catastrophic change was associated with some extraordinary extraterrestrial event. The boundary is marked by the occurrence of a "black mat" layer a few centimetres thick found at many sites throughout the United States containing high levels of soot indicative of continental-scale wildfires, as well as microscopic hexagonal diamonds (nanodiamonds) which are produced by shocks and are only found in meteorites or impact craters. These findings led to the suggestion that the catastrophic changes of that time were caused by the impact of an asteroid or 4 km across on the Laurentide ice sheet, which at that time covered what would become Canada and the northern part of the United States.
    The cooling lasted over a thousand years, and its onset coincides with the rapid extinction of 35 genera of North American mammals, as well as the disruption of the Palaeoindian culture. The chief objection to the idea of a big impact is that the odds against the Earth being struck by an asteroid this large only 13,000 years ago are a thousand to one against. And the heat generated by the rising fireball would be limited by the curvature of the horizon and could not explain the continent-wide occurrence of wildfires.
    Professor Napier has now come up with an astronomical model which accounts for the major features of the catastrophe without involving such an improbable event. According to his model, the Earth ran into a dense trail of material from a large disintegrating comet. He points out that there is compelling evidence that such a comet entered the inner planetary system between 20 000 and 30 000 years ago and has been fragmenting ever since, giving rise to a number of closely related meteor streams and comoving asteroids known as the Taurid Complex.
    In the course of the giant comet's disintegration, the Earth would probably have run through at least one dense swarm of cometary material. The new model indicates that such an encounter would last for about an hour during which thousands of impacts would take place over continental dimensions, each releasing the energy of a megaton-class nuclear bomb, generating the extensive wildfires which took place at that time. The nanodiamonds at the extinction boundary would then be explained as having come in with the comet swarm.
    One recent meteorite is known which may have come from this giant comet progenitor: the Tagish Lake meteorite, which fell over Yukon Territory in January 2000. It has the highest abundance of nanodiamonds of any so far analysed. source
    My comment: First of all, the argument that the odds against a big comet hitting the Earth in the last 15000 years are low, is ridiculous. The odds of many things (mostly unpleasant) are very low, but yet they happen. So this cannot be serious argument. What I find for more serious is that from time to time, new evidences of giant impact sites around the world appear. So I personally find it more plausible to believe that we're not speaking of one crash, but of many. Whether it was a comet trail or something artificial is another question, but people very conveniently tend to forget how powerful can actually be such crashes. And for mysterious reasons, every time someone claims to have solved the puzzle, 10 new people appear proving s/he's wrong. But for me, there's no question about whether there were such crashes or not. The only question is what caused them. And why.

    European-looking mummies found in China, shown in Calif.

    Updated 3/19/2010 1:57 PM

    The mummies from western China's arid Tarim Basin are so well-preserved that the viewer can see their intricate clothing and eyelashes, and also that they are distinctly non-Asian in appearance.
    One mummy, affectionately dubbed the "Beauty of Xiaohe"(3,800-years-old!!!) by archaeologists, is so lifelike that she looks as if she's taking a nap. She has fair skin, round eyes, and a felt hat resembling an alpine head covering with a long feather stuck in the top.
    The mummies' Caucasian appearance suggests that Bronze Age nomads speaking Indo-European languages from perhaps Russia and Ukraine brought culture, physical features and genes to parts of western China and may have also been the first to domesticate the horse, says Spencer Wells, who has studied the Tarim mummies.
    Some artifacts found with the mummies, including bronze and sheep bones, hint that Europeans brought technologies such as metallurgy and some domesticated animals to China, which may explain the European appearance of the mummies and suggest that trade between Europe and Asia existed nearly 4,000 years ago, Mair says.
    Mair adds that recent DNA research suggests that men from the West were "linking up with local women, the people in the central part of Asia."
    Although the artifacts imply that trade between Europe and Asia existed during the Bronze Age, the Silk Road, a trade route between different parts of Asia, Europe and Africa, did not formally develop until about 138 B.C., during the Han Dynasty, Mair says.
    The exhibit features not only artifacts from the mummies and the early formation of the Silk Road but also from the first millennium, including intricate silk shoes, Mair says. source
    My comment: Very conveniently, the article omits the age of the mummy and it appears only under the picture of the mummy. But anyway, it's 3 800 years! That's a hell lot! And how does it go with "Although the artifacts imply that trade between Europe and Asia existed during the Bronze Age, the Silk Road (..) did not formally develop until about 138 B.C."  So from one side, we have European mummies, obviously considered important-enough to be buried and preserved like this and from the other side, we claim that although they were there at such early times, there wasn't really serious trade between the East and the West. Also, how did we know they brought the technology to the East and not the other way around? Did we merely assume so, because Europeans were so much more developed than Asians at that time (and what Europeans exactly were there at 3 000 years ago?!!!) or we have some evidences pointing in that direction. Also, the article doesn't mention explicitly what is the genetic original of the mummies. It says "perhaps Russia or Ukraine". Why? What was in Russia or Ukraine during that periods that can point in that direction? Or it just sounds better than thinking who in Europe was advanced enough to trade with Asians. For me, the whole story sounds more like a fairy-tale than actual science. Because people very stubbornly deny the fact that there were many civilization centers on Eurasia, some of which, probably on the Balkans (pelasgians, Thracians and so on)

    4,200 year-old grave excavation reveals eternal embrace

    13:54, March 26, 2010
    In the ruins of a city that was once Rome's neighbor, archaeologists last summer found a 1,000-pound lead coffin.

    Who or what is inside is still a mystery, said Nicola Terrenato, the University of Michigan professor of classical studies who leads the project---the largest American dig in Italy in the past 50 years.
    The sarcophagus will soon be transported to the American Academy in Rome, where engineers will use heating techniques and tiny cameras in an effort to gain insights about the contents without breaking the coffin itself.
    "We're very excited about this find," Terrenato said. "Romans as a rule were not buried in coffins to begin with and when they did use coffins, they were mostly wooden. There are only a handful of other examples from Italy of lead coffins from this age---the second, third or fourth century A.D. We know of virtually no others in this region."
    This one is especially unusual because of its size.
    "It's a sheet of lead folded onto itself an inch thick," he said. "A thousand pounds of metal is an enormous amount of wealth in this era. To waste so much of it in a burial is pretty unusual."
    Human remains encased in lead coffins tend to be well preserved, if difficult to get to. Researchers want to avoid breaking into the coffin. The amount of force necessary to break through the lead would likely damage the contents. Instead, they will first use thermography and endoscopy. Thermography involves heating the coffin by a few degrees and monitoring the thermal response. Bones and any artifacts buried with them would have different thermal responses, Terrenato said. Endoscopy involves inserting a small camera into the coffin. But how well that works depends on how much dirt has found its way into the container over the centuries.
    If these approaches fail, the researchers could turn to an MRI scan---an expensive option that would involve hauling the half-ton casket to a hospital.
    The dig that unearthed this find started in summer 2009 and continues through 2013.
    The site of Gabii, situated on undeveloped land 11 miles east of Rome in modern-day Lazio, was a major city that pre-dates Rome but seems to have waned as the Roman Empire grew.
    sourceMy comment: What I don't understand is why such discovery that may be considered as national treasure for Italy will go to the American Academy for research. I'm not trying to be anti-American with this, but you never know what's hidden in the lead. It could be everything. So why letting it in the hands of foreigners. This discovery belongs to Italy and it should be kept safe. Maybe I sound little paranoid, but in the case, those are simple precautions. Because gold coffins were once found in Bulgaria. And now nobody knows where they are. All that's left from them are the memories of people seeing choppers taking away our national treasure. How about this?

    Indus Valley east theory challenged

    New Delhi, April 5: A study of hundreds of ancient Indus Valley civilisation sites has revealed previously unsuspected patterns of growth and decline that challenge a long-standing idea of a solely eastward-moving wave of Indus urbanisation.
    Researchers at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMS), Chennai, combined data from archaeology, radiocarbon dating, and river flows to study how settlements around the Indus Valley region had evolved from around 7000 BC till 1000 BC.
    Their analysis of 1,874 Indus region settlements has shown that the Indus urbanisation had three epicentres — Mehrgarh in present-day Baluchistan, Gujarat, and sites along an ancient river called the Ghaggar-Hakra in Haryana and Punjab.
    The findings, published in Current Science, a journal of the Indian Academy of Sciences, dispute suggestions by international researchers that farming and urbanisation in the region was driven by a “wave of advance” moving eastward.
    The 7000 BC site at Mehrgarh, Baluchistan, provides the earliest evidence for wheat and barley farming on the Indian subcontinent. But the new study and earlier archaeological data suggest that the Indus civilisation may have picked up rice cultivation from eastern India.
    “This work provides new evidence to suggest that the Indus Valley civilisation had influences from the west and from the east — it was not a one-way west-to-east flow,” said Vasant Shinde, an archaeologist with Deccan College, Pune, who was not associated with the study.
    Shinde said archaeological excavations had pointed to rice cultivation near present-day Gorakhpur in around 7000 BC — the same period as wheat and barley farming in Mehrgarh.
    The analysis by Adhikari and his colleagues shows a dense distribution of Indus Valley sites around 2500 BC which marks the beginning of the mature period of the civilisation — lasting about 600 years until about 1900 BC.
    The researchers believe it is during this period of high stability that the civilisation’s culture matured, leading to its script, the design of seals, and weights and measures. Adhikari said it was still unclear what kind of political organisation contributed to this uniformity in culture.
    The study shows a “catastrophic reduction” in the number of sites in the Ghaggar-Hakra region around 1900 BC.  But the decline around Mehrgarh and Gujarat occurred at a much slower pace.
     Archaeologists say the findings are consistent with the idea that a slow decline of the Indus urbanisaton eventually gave way to the growth of settlements along the Gangetic plain.
    My comment: (Indus-like inscription on South Indian pottery from Thailand) Another very interesting article. It basically gives very early time for beginning of farming in India - basically 9 000 years ago, which is surprisingly near the start of farming in the Fertile crescent 10 000 years ago. If they manage to drive that timing only 1000 years, some theories will be in SERIOUS trouble. Not to my displeasure, of course. Before that, however, that dating should be confirmed properly. Somehow, I don't have doubts that will happen. It makes sense after all. We read article after article, how human development has started earlier and earlier, we have to expect farming to go back too. It's just matter of time. (And more on the historical context of the area, read here: 3,000-year-old history unearthed, archaeologists believe Jajmau mound could be holding more - they found well-organised village of brick-houses with kitchens and bathrooms 3000-4000 years ago. For comparison, the Aryan theory claims the invasion happened around 1700 to 1300 BCE. It's close...very close.

    Complete Neanderthal genome yields insights into human evolution and evidence of interbreeding

    May 6, 2010
    After extracting ancient DNA from the 40,000-year-old bones of Neanderthals, scientists have obtained a draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome, yielding important new insights into the evolution of modern humans.
    Among the findings, published in the May 7 issue of Science, is evidence that shortly after early migrated out of Africa, some of them interbred with , leaving bits of Neanderthal scattered through the genomes of present-day non-Africans.
    "We can now say that, in all probability, there was from Neanderthals to modern humans," said the paper's first author, Richard E. (Ed) Green of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
    The researchers identified a catalog of genetic features unique to modern humans by comparing the Neanderthal, human, and chimpanzee genomes. Genes involved in cognitive development, skull structure, energy metabolism, and skin morphology and physiology are among those highlighted in the study as likely to have undergone important changes in recent human evolution.
    The Neanderthal DNA signal shows up not only in the genomes of Europeans, but also in people from East Asia and Papua New Guinea, where Neanderthals never lived.
    "The scenario is not what most people had envisioned," Green said. "We found the genetic signal of Neanderthals in all the non-African genomes, meaning that the admixture occurred early on, probably in the Middle East, and is shared with all descendants of the early humans who migrated out of Africa."
    The study did not address the functional significance of the finding that between 1 and 4 percent of the genomes of non-Africans is derived from Neanderthals. But Green said there is no evidence that anything genetically important came over from Neanderthals.
    The draft sequence of the Neanderthal genome is composed of more than 3 billion nucleotides--the "letters" of the genetic code (A, C, T, and G) that are strung together in DNA. The sequence was derived from DNA extracted from three Neanderthal bones found in the Vindiga Cave in Croatia; smaller amounts of sequence data were also obtained from three bones from other sites. Two of the Vindiga bones could be dated by carbon-dating of collagen and were found to be about 38,000 and 44,000 years old.
    The Neanderthal bones were not well preserved, and more than 95 percent of the DNA extracted from them came from bacteria and other organisms that had colonized the bone. The DNA itself was degraded into small fragments and had been chemically modified in many places.
    The draft Neanderthal sequence is probably riddled with errors, Green said, but having the human and chimpanzee genomes for comparison makes it extremely useful despite its limitations. Places where humans differ from chimps, while Neanderthals still have the ancestral chimp sequence, may represent uniquely human genetic traits. The evidence for more recent gene flow between Neanderthals and humans came from an analysis showing that Neanderthals are more closely related to some present-day humans than to others. Looking at a diverse set of modern humans--including individuals from Southern Africa, West Africa, Papua New Guinea, China, and Western Europe--the researchers found that the frequency of Neanderthal matches is higher for non-Africans than for Africans.
    According to Green, even a very small number of instances of interbreeding could account for these results. The researchers estimated that the gene flow from Neanderthals to humans occurred between 50,000 and 80,000 years ago. The best explanation is that the admixture occurred when early humans left Africa and encountered Neanderthals for the first time.
     sourceMy comment: Ha ha ha. So much about Neanderthals being THAT different from humans. After all, humans found them similar enough to mate and create offspring, that certainly makes them a lot less animal-like than some scientists want to believe. As for "no important traits were passed from Neanderthals" - they honestly admit they barely scratched the surface of the Neanderthal genome and yet they are so sure as to claim nothing good came from it? Is it pride or prejudice? Or both. I don't quite get what's the origin of the belief Neanderthals didn't have anything valuable to offer to humans, but it sounds very premature and unscientific to me. After all, we don't understand completely even our own genome, how could we know what's valuable or not. It might like like garbage today, it could be extremely important tomorrow. Who knows.
    DNA reveals origins of first European farmers - A team of international researchers led by ancient DNA experts from the University of Adelaide has resolved the longstanding issue of the origins of the people who introduced farming to Europe some 8000 years ago.
    A detailed genetic study of one of the first farming communities in Europe, from central Germany, reveals marked similarities with populations living in the Ancient Near East (modern-day Turkey, Iraq and other countries) rather than those from Europe. - The main question here for me, is why did they decide that German farmers were among the first in Europe. If what they found is correct, then the first farmers were on the way from Turkey to Central Europe. Meaning, on the Balkans. And that's kind of well-known. Again pride and prejudices...

    35,000-year-old axe head places Aboriginal ancestors at the cutting edge of technology - Unearthed from a sandstone cave in a remote part of south-west Arnhem Land (Australia) in May, the basalt axe piece measuring 4 centimetres in length has been radio-carbon dated at 35,000 years old.
    The discovery is significant as it predates by at least 5000 years the oldest known examples of other ground-edge implements from Japan and Australia, which have been dated at 22,000 to 30,000 years old. By comparison, the earliest ground-edge axes from Europe, West Asia and Africa are about 8,500 years old. - I hope you all note the name Australia in the brackets. How did that technology go to Australia so long ago? Very very odd.

    Mycenaean tombs discovered might be evidence of classless society - The team were surprised to find a lack of burial goods in the tombs. The Mycenaean civilization is known for its rich elite burials, but the goods found at Ayia Sotira were modest.
    A third possibility is that these people lived in a classless society – that despite being close to a rich city, the people of this settlement, for whatever reason, had no elites. - 
    Stone Age Scandinavians unable to digest milk - The hunter-gatherers who inhabited the southern coast of Scandinavia 4,000 years ago were lactose intolerant. - I was surprised to know how many people are still lactose intolerant. I wonder how that tolerance developed and why. And how come it spread out so quickly. It's a small miracle...
    'Java Man' takes age to extremes - After convincing most of their colleagues that H. erectus may have persisted on the Indonesian island of Java as recently as 30,000 years ago — late enough to have coexisted in Asia with modern humans for more than 100,000 years — anthropologists presented new analyses April 14 suggesting the fossils in question may actually predate Homo sapiens by hundreds of thousands of years.
    But a new analysis, based on measurements of radioactive argon’s decay in volcanic rock above and below the fossils, puts H. erectus’ age on Java at roughly 550,000 years. It’s not clear why these estimates differ so dramatically and which one is more accurate, Antón said.

    Archeological Findings back to 10th Millennium B.C. - "one of these panels portrayed an eagle with wings spread wide and snake-form sculptures on the two sides. Another panel has an abstract sculpture of three eagle sculptures spreading their wings behind which the sun appears."- wow, that sounds so much Thracian like and Mexico like. Obviously, this motif was very important, so that it could spread across time and space like this. I wonder why...