3 Questions. 3 Hints. 3 Answers. Every Tuesday.
1. What technology can finally tell the difference between the Doublemint gum twins?
Answer: back in 2004, available forensic tools could not differentiate between DNA belonging to identical twins. Fast-forward ten years: a genetic test able to make the distinction has been developed and, for the first time, may be introduced as evidence in a criminal case in a U.S. courtroom. It is called “ultra-deep, next-generation sequencing” and it is sensitive enough to detect random mutations in identical twins. To be determined is whether the genetic test and its results will be admissible in court. Read more here.
2. The holiday poinsettia is poisonous. True or false?
Answer: that’s “false” in Chinese. Poinsettias are not a health threat despite what some members of the medical profession and the public believed at one time. The “myth” goes back to 1919 when a story made the rounds that a child in Hawaii died after ingesting a poinsettia leaf. In fact, no child died and certainly not as a result of eating a misunderstood poinsettia leaf. Read the details here, along with a fact & fiction poinsettia timeline.
3. Why might exercise be one way to prevent, or at least curb, the effects of a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer’s?
Answer: people who carry the e4 version of the APOE gene have an increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s. Especially if they just sit around. The correlation between a sedentary lifestyle and disease-development may be mitigated with physical activity, believed to reduce accumulation of the toxic protein beta-amyloid, a trademark of Alzheimer’s. In 2014, two University of Arizona researchers interestingly suggested that the answer to why exercise protects APOE e4 carriers, lies in human beings’ evolutionary past, further advancing that thousands of years ago, when life demanded great amounts of physical activity, only the high-risk gene variant existed. According to these researchers, superior metabolism during long and/or intense periods of activity was the upside of the gene. Its downside, “faster cognitive decline, was counteracted by our ancestors’ active way of life. As human beings adopted more sedentary habits, other variants [what we presumably now consider "normal"] of the gene appeared, and in modern times [with a more sedentary lifestyle] we are now seeing the negative effect of the high-risk gene more often than its benefit,” claim the scientists. Read the story here.