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Would You Wear a Ring With Someone Else's DNA Inside of It?

"Til death do us part" doesn't have to be the end of things, thanks to a new jewelry invention that can keep you and your loved ones together for much longer. Robert Grass of the Swiss company TurboBeads has developed a way to take samples of DNA and store them beneath diamonds on rings and other jewelry so that the wearer can carry a piece of you wherever they go. Grass recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project.

Grass says the idea came to him while shopping for his wife. Disappointed by the lack of truly personal gifts on the market, he developed the idea for Identity Inside. The scientist-turned-entrepreneur studied ancient fossils for clues about how to make DNA last outside of the body. Grass claims that he can store DNA in a "stable form" for 100 years.

Grass explains the process on his Kickstarter page: "Upon receiving your sample (from a buccal swab) we purify the DNA and after further quality control, it is fossilized into glass utilizing our patent pending, room temperature, water based process (not harming the DNA). The result is a white powder (DNA fossil), which safeguards the DNA, very similar to what is found in ancient amber and bone samples."

The fossilized DNA is placed into a small opening on a custom-made ring, watch, or pendant. The opening is then sealed and capped with a 0.02 carat diamond. 

A similar product from a company called Life Gem claims that it can use the carbon from cremated remains to create diamonds. Of course, neither of these are as weird as the blood vials that Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton wore around their necks (#neverforget).

To learn more about the possibilities for Identity Inside, check out the Kickstarter. The project is a little more than halfway funded, with eight days to go. 

All images courtesy Robert Grass, Kickstarter

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Food
Researchers Pinpoint the Genes Behind the Durian's Foul Stench
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Durian is a popular fruit in parts of southeast Asia. It's also known for having the most putrid, off-putting odor of any item sold in the produce section. Even fans of durian know why the fruit gets a bad rap, but what exactly causes its divisive scent is less obvious. Determined to find the answer, a team of researchers funded by "a group of anonymous durian lovers" mapped the fruit's genome, as reported by the BBC.

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics [PDF], contains data from the first-ever complete genetic mapping of a durian fruit. It confirms that durian's excess stinkiness comes from sulfur, a chemical element whose scent is often compared to that of rotten eggs.

Analysis of the fruit's chemical makeup has been done in the past, so the idea that sulfur is a major contributor to its signature smell is nothing new. What is new is the identification of the specific class of sulfur-producing genes. These genes pump out sulfur at a "turbocharged" rate, which explains why the stench is powerful enough to have durian banned in some public areas. It may seem like the smell is a defense mechanism to ward off predators, but the study authors write that it's meant to have the opposite effect. According to the paper, "it is possible that linking odor and ripening may provide an evolutionary advantage for durian in facilitating fruit dispersal." In other words, the scent attracts hungry primates that help spread the seeds of ripe durian fruits by consuming them.

The revelation opens the door to genetically modified durian that are tweaked to produce less sulfur and therefore have a milder taste and smell. But such a product would likely inspire outrage from the food's passionate fans. While the flavor profile has been compared to rotten garbage and dead animal meat, it's also been praised for its "overtones of hazelnut, apricot, caramelized banana, and egg custard" by those who appreciate its unique character.

[h/t BBC]

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science
Why DNA Is So Hard to Visualize
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Picture a strand of DNA and the image you see will likely be similar to the artist’s rendering above. The iconic twisted ladder, or double-helix structure, was first revealed in a photo captured by Rosalind Franklin in the 1950s, but this popular visualization only tells part of the story of DNA. In the video below, It’s Okay to Be Smart explains a more accurate way to imagine the blueprints of life.

Even with sophisticated lab equipment, DNA isn’t easy to study. That’s because a strand of the stuff is just 2 nanometers wide, which is smaller than a wavelength of light. Researchers can use electron microscopes to observe the genetic material or x-rays like Rosalind Franklin did, but even these tools paint a flawed picture. The best method scientists have come up with to visualize DNA as it exists inside our cells is computer modeling.

By rendering a 3D image of a genome on a computer, we can see that DNA isn’t just a bunch of free-floating squiggles. Most of the time the strands sit tightly wound in a well-organized web inside the nucleus. These balls of genes are efficient, packing 2 meters of DNA into a space just 10 millionths of a meter across. So if you ever see a giant sculpture inspired by an elegant double-helix structure, imagine it folded into a space smaller than a shoe box to get closer to the truth.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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