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

Courtesy of Nature
Scientists Create Three Puppy Clones of 'Snuppy,' the World's First Cloned Dog
Courtesy of Nature
Courtesy of Nature

Snuppy, the world's first cloned dog, died in 2015, but his genetic legacy lives on. As the National Post reports, South Korean scientists recently described in the journal Scientific Reports the birth of three clone puppies, all of which are identical replicas of the famous Afghan hound.

Those who lived through the 1990s might remember Dolly, the Scottish sheep that gained fame for being the very first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell. Following Dolly's 1996 cloning, scientists managed to replicate other animals, including cats, mice, cows, and horses. But dog cloning initially stymied scientists, Time reports, as their breeding period is limited and their eggs are also hard to extract.

Ultimately, researchers ended up using somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) to clone a dog, the same method that was used to make Dolly. In the early 2000s, a team of South Korean scientists inserted DNA harvested from an Afghan hound's skin cells into a dog egg from which the DNA had been removed. The egg divided, which produced multiple cloned embryos.

The scientists implanted 1095 of these embryos in 123 dogs, an exhaustive initiative that yielded just three pregnancies, according to NPR. Of these, Snuppy—whose name is a combination of "puppy" and Seoul National University's initials—was the only survivor.

Snuppy died from cancer in April 2015, just shortly after his 10th birthday. To celebrate his successful life, the same South Korean researchers decided to re-clone him using mesenchymal stem cells from the dog's belly fat, which were taken when he was five. This time around, they transferred 94 reconstructed embryos to seven dogs. Four clones were later born, although one ended up dying shortly after birth.

The tiny Snuppy clones are now more than a year old, and researchers say that they don't think that the pups face the risk of accelerated aging, nor are they more disease-prone than other dogs. (Dolly died when she was just six years old, while cloned mice have also experienced shorter lifespans.) Snuppy's somatic cell donor, Tai, lived just two years longer than Snuppy, dying at age 12, the average lifespan of an Afghan hound.

Researchers say that this new generation of Snuppys will yield new insights into the health and longevity of cloned animals. Meanwhile, in other animal cloning news, a Texas-based company called ViaGen Pets is now offering to clone people's beloved pets, according to CBS Pittsburgh—a service that costs a cool $50,000 for dogs.

[h/t National Post]

Researchers Pinpoint the Genes Behind the Durian's Foul Stench

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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