Thursday, January 31, 2008

Incest in Romance Novels? Fuel to the Fire....

Scientists find that blue-eyed individuals have a single, common ancestor

Image: Reese Witherspoon
Carolyn Kaster / AP file
How did actress Reese Witherspoon get those big blue eyes? A team of scientists has found that blue eyes are linked to a genetic mutation that occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago.

A team of scientists has tracked down a genetic mutation that leads to blue eyes. The mutation occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, so before then, there were no blue eyes.

"Originally, we all had brown eyes," said Hans Eiberg from the Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

The mutation affected the so-called OCA2 gene, which is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives color to our hair, eyes and skin.

"A genetic mutation affecting the OCA2 gene in our chromosomes resulted in the creation of a 'switch,' which literally 'turned off' the ability to produce brown eyes," Eiberg said.

The genetic switch is located in the gene adjacent to OCA2 and rather than completely turning off the gene, the switch limits its action, which reduces the production of melanin in the iris. In effect, the turned-down switch diluted brown eyes to blue.

If the OCA2 gene had been completely shut down, our hair, eyes and skin would be melanin-less, a condition known as albinism.

"It's exactly what I sort of expected to see from what we know about selection around this area," said John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, referring to the study results regarding the OCA2 gene. Hawks was not involved in the current study.

Baby blues
Eiberg and his team examined DNA from mitochondria, the cells' energy-making structures, of blue-eyed individuals in countries including Jordan, Denmark and Turkey. This genetic material comes from females, so it can trace maternal lineages.

They specifically looked at sequences of DNA on the OCA2 gene and the genetic mutation associated with turning down melanin production.

Over the course of several generations, segments of ancestral DNA get shuffled so that individuals have varying sequences. Some of these segments, however, that haven't been reshuffled are called haplotypes. If a group of individuals shares long haplotypes, that means the sequence arose relatively recently in our human ancestors. The DNA sequence didn't have enough time to get mixed up.

"What they were able to show is that the people who have blue eyes in Denmark, as far as Jordan, these people all have this same haplotype, they all have exactly the same gene changes that are all linked to this one mutation that makes eyes blue," Hawks said in a telephone interview.

Melanin switch
The mutation is what regulates the OCA2 switch for melanin production. And depending on the amount of melanin in the iris, a person can end up with eye color ranging from brown to green. Brown-eyed individuals have considerable individual variation in the area of their DNA that controls melanin production. But they found that blue-eyed individuals only have a small degree of variation in the amount of melanin in their eyes.

"Out of 800 persons we have only found one person which didn't fit — but his eye color was blue with a single brown spot," Eiberg told LiveScience, referring to the finding that blue-eyed individuals all had the same sequence of DNA linked with melanin production.

"From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor," Eiberg . "They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA." Eiberg and his colleagues detailed their study in the Jan. 3 online edition of the journal Human Genetics.

That genetic switch somehow spread throughout Europe and now other parts of the world.

"The question really is, 'Why did we go from having nobody on Earth with blue eyes 10,000 years ago to having 20 or 40 percent of Europeans having blue eyes now?" Hawks said. "This gene does something good for people. It makes them have more kids."

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Whoa Baby!

We have cover art!

I'm wiggling here! Was just informed that ya'll might have to wait until late summer/early fall to read this contemporary, fluffy bit of confection, and if the edits my editormentor imposed on me are any indication, that's probably pretty accurate. It'll be worth the wait, though. Can't you tell by this cover!

Oh, and I kept another title. Six for six. Huzzah!

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hacking Made Easy

And I didn't even have to invent a contraption like that one. No no. All I had to do was spend four or five hours fiddling with my antique Linksys router, open up a few connections at a time and wait, wait, wait for my weak-ass antennae to catch a wave on one of them.

The good news: once they get primed, they work fabulously. The bad news, it takes about 20 mins from start up to prime them. If the computer goes to sleep, it starts all over again. Kinda reminds me of the olden days, waiting for a page to load on our 2 gig dialup. I could take a shower then run to the library and back before it loaded.

Ah well. At least I can surf in the comfort of my own apartment now while waiting for the fios guy to blaze in.

*hack hack*

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Logging in from my local coffee shop here while I wait for Internet access in my apartment. Why, I ask you, does it take so long to install blazing fast wireless? What's the use of having a speed-o-light information superhighway when the people who use/invent/install it are still so freakin' slow?

Hopefully I'll be fully functional by the weekend, but it could be a whole week.


The DTs... The DTs are upon me!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

Top Ten Signs a Book is Written By Me

Here's a special meme that's looping blogland-- inspired, I suspect, by the Cassie Edwards debacle. Anyway, thought I'd take a stab at it. Add some more in comments if you can think of any!

A book is written by Ann Wesley Hardin if it contains:

1) Wacky secondary characters

2) An airplane (or some sort of flying vehicle)

3) The word "freakin"

4) A title I came up with myself (so far...)

5) Characters with atypical professions

6) Humor!

7) Obscure facts no one but me (most of the time) notices or even thinks are important

8) At least one line stolen from my children

9) A shitload of dialogue

10) A personal dedication (does anyone ever even read those?)