Upon the Genome is the Epigenome

•November 1, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Researchers are beginning to understand why cells have specialized rolls when they maintain the same genome.  This has been one of the many mysteries of biology that is beginning to be debunked.

According to MedicineNet.com a genome is all of the genetic information, the entire genetic complement and all of the hereditary material possessed by an organism.

It is understandable why there would be some confusion on how cells posses different duties when all of the bodies cells, for example with the human genome, contain the exact same genome.   Two types of genomes actually make up the entire genome; the chromosomal genome, inside the nucleus, and mitochondrial genome, outside the nucleus.

Researchers are finding that a second layer of information is embedded in the special proteins that package the DNA of the genome.  The second layer is referred to as the epigenome and controls access to the genes.  The epigenome, epi- meaning “on”, “upon”, or “at”, not only allows each cell type to activate its own special genes but blocks off most of the rest and also controls when the accessible genes may be activated.

The epigenome controls many things and changes with age.  Any change is the epigenome can have devastating effects on the cell which may contribute to disease or cancer.

To put it into perspective, twins look and behave differently because of changes in their epigenome as they grow older.  A single person has only one genome but many different epigenomes.

According to an article in the New York Times, the epigenome may hold the key to the dream of regenerative medicine.

Regenerative medicine involves using the bodies own mechanisms to heal it, deriving safe and efficient replacement tissues from a patients own cells.

The epigenome is composed of many chemical modifications, or marks, along the material the makes up the chromosomes, or chromatin.  The chromatin, which is located in the nucleus, is a mass of genetic material composed of DNA and tightly woven proteins.  Chromatin regulator proteins recognize and preform the tasks indicated by the marks.

In some marked domains, regulator proteins cause the DNA to be so tightly wound that the genes are permanently inaccessible.  This gives reason as to why the cell can only preform certain functions.


Google Earth updates!

•October 31, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Imagine if fish had hands … and fingers … and Internet access.  Thanks to Google Earth they would now be able have as much fun that has been allotted to the general human population.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that most of us have taken the time to zoom in on our state, city, and even houses with the always impressing Google system just to get a glimpse of the evolving technology of Google and today’s generation.

Google Earth has now taken another leap to fill a data gap, adding the two-thirds of the globe that is covered by water.  What was previously blue, and black online will now be filled with our world’s oceans, seas, rivers and lakes. All of Google Earth’s previous images such as mountains, valleys, cities, plains, ice sheets were programmable because they all existed from an elevation of 0 up.

“We had this arbitrary distinction that if it was below sea level it didn’t count,” said John Hanke, the Internet entrepreneur who co-created the progenitor of Google Earth to the New York Times.

Because  oceans dive deeper under the sea level, they couldn’t be simulated until new upgrades that culminated today, Monday.  The new upgraded version of Google Earth can be downloaded free at earth.google.com and will include another feature called History Imagery that will do exactly what it sounds and allow the user to scroll back through past decades.  Also included is a function called, Touring, where users can simulate tours on land or above and below the sea surface.

The Veggie Van

•October 30, 2009 • Leave a Comment



Westchester County is taking a stand to help the environment with a new program.  There are seven vehicles in the county that now run solely on excess cooking oil produced from restaurants in the surrounding area.  There are also 125 vehicles that run on a mix of cooking oil and diesel fuel.  The program will look to take excess cooking oil from restaurants to run these vehicles.    

According to an article in the New York Times, for every 10,000 gallons of cooking oil collected, the county could save about $25,000 in diesel fuel costs.  Restaurants are also experiencing a cut in costs.  The county’s  program takes cooking oil off the hands of restaurants for free when normally  restaurants rely on private disposal services to take away frying oil that cannot be reused.  

Running vehicles on a mix of vegetable oil and diesel fuel is, first of all, a lot cheaper for the county and secondly, part of its initiative to reduce its impact on the environment.  

So, make way for the Veggie Van, one of the seven vehicles that are more environmentally friendly in Westchester, because not only is it cheap to use cooking oil, it’s relatively inexpensive to build processing systems for the oil.  The price averages out to be about $1,000 for each system and there are currently seven in the county.  

The program is relatively new and therefore Westchester is not certain on the number of restaurants that will participate.  But with benefits on both ends, the outlook is groovy.  

“Turning Cooking Oil into Fuel for the County”

Stay away from the light!

•February 3, 2009 • 2 Comments


The Viperfish

 Remember this little guy from the popular children’s movie, “Finding Nemo”? From a cartoon’s standpoint, the Viperfish may appear to be harmless but a closer look will tell you otherwise.  Notice the fangs.  They happen to be so large that they will not fit inside the fish’s mouth.  To fit, they are curved back close to the fish’s eyes.  The first vertebra, located directly behind the head acts as a shock absorber for the Viperfish when it slams into its victims, moving at incredible speeds.  Most like a deep sea car collision.  The large fangs help the fish to grab and hold onto its pray.



What draws me most to this unusual creature is the small light that extends from the spine.  It’s called a photophore and it’s actually a light-producing organ.  This sneaky animal uses the light to attract its pray.  Like a bug is attracted to light, the Viperfish ropes in and feeds on the lesser-equipped by turning the light on and off. This process is known as bioluminexcence.


(Image courtesy of Danté Fenolio)

)For those of you that are sticklers for specifics: bioluminexcence – (bioluminescence) the emission of visible light either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Photophores can also be found on the bottom side of the Viperfish.  Unlike the more popular extremity, these lights act as a disguise to camouflage the fish from predators.   These may also serve a purpose for communication or to find mates.



1. Other Names – Slogan’s Viperfish, Slogans Fangfish 

2. Max size – 30 cm 

3. Appearance – Green, silver, black, blue 

4. They can survive many days without food (small fish, shrimp)

5. Water depth – 1.600m (daytime), 600m (nighttime) for feeding 

6. Predators – Sharks, dolphins 

7. Lifespan – 30 – 40 years