Sunday, December 24, 2006

2006 - a year for small genomes and cells

Earlier this fall, Nakabachi et al. described a 160-Kilobase genome from the bacterial endosymbiont Carsonella in Science (PubMed). Now, Baker et al. describe acidophilic Archaea that may be the smallest cells yet observed (Science, PubMed). The authors themselves express this claim cautiously ("It has not escaped our attention that if the average cell size estimated from TEM observations is accurate, the ARMAN cells have volumes of <0.006>3, making them smaller than any other known cellular life form."), but it seems to me that even if this is some sort of artifact (perhaps these cells are larger, but extremely reticulate) it still bears on the controversy regarding microfossils in the martial meteorite ALH84001, which have been thought too small to be life.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

National Geographic's Genographic project

Today's New York Times reports (on the front page, in "DNA Gatherers Hit Snag: Tribes Don't Trust Them" by Amy Harmon) that the Genographic Project of National Geographic has been slowed by resistance from skeptical indigenous people, and a specific case involving "the Alaska review board" is highlighted. However, the same article also states that they have collected over 18,000 samples from remote places and 150,ooo samples from nonindigenous Americans interested in their roots. The picture is a screenshot from the National Geographic site.