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Look, Ma! Science gifts!


The tchotchke

If your mom’s mantle is covered in a sea of crystal animals, porcelain dolls, or collectors’ plates, then what you need is a like-minded gift she can show off to friends and visitors. Try the James Watson and Francis Crick bobblehead dolls from The DNA Store. For most people, we recommend the friendly, sweatervested Watson. But if your mom truly values discipline, she might prefer the prim (and slightly disapproving) Crick.

The tried-and-true

How can you go wrong with flowers? This lovely bouquet is made up of petunias (don’t forget to point out the pioneering role these flowers played in the understanding of RNA interference) with decorative sprays of Arabidopsis and Medicago.

The trip

So you haven’t spent much quality time with your mother for the last, say, couple of years. Rectify the situation with a fun family trip to the zoo. Some suggested talking points: the latest model organisms to be sequenced (elephant shrew, orangutan, dolphin, and llama, to name a few); plant pathogen research; and the new potential for cloning a woolly mammoth.

The tribute

Who doesn’t need a page-sized image of her DNA profile? A company known as DNA Artistry (and we use the term “artis-try” loosely) offers to take a cheek swab of your favorite person, profile the DNA, and display that profile as a portrait with your choice of background color. Personally, we think this has the potential to lead to family feuds, à la: “You gave me this genetic flaw!” “No, I didn’t!” “Oh, yeah? I can see it right there in your DNA portrait!” Best to proceed with caution.

The trompe l’oeil

If you’ve spent your whole career studying a particular molecule, then this gift is for you. A UK-based company called Luminorum offers a crystal-block-encased 3D rendering of virtually any molecule you send their way. The company says it does DNA, RNA, and proteins. Apparently if you don’t have a favorite molecule but still think your mom could use a large crystal block, the company has a selection of “favorites” to choose from. They offer a DNA double helix version, but we’re partial to the E. coli polymerase.


The Scan

Octopus Brain Complexity Linked to MicroRNA Expansions

Investigators saw microRNA gene expansions coinciding with complex brains when they analyzed certain cephalopod transcriptomes, as they report in Science Advances.

Study Tracks Outcomes in Children Born to Zika Virus-Infected Mothers

By following pregnancy outcomes for women with RT-PCR-confirmed Zika virus infections, researchers saw in Lancet Regional Health congenital abnormalities in roughly one-third of live-born children.

Team Presents Benchmark Study of RNA Classification Tools

With more than 135 transcriptomic datasets, researchers tested two dozen coding and non-coding RNA classification tools, establishing a set of potentially misclassified transcripts, as they report in Nucleic Acids Research.

Breast Cancer Risk Related to Pathogenic BRCA1 Mutation May Be Modified by Repeats

Several variable number tandem repeats appear to impact breast cancer risk and age at diagnosis in almost 350 individuals carrying a risky Ashkenazi Jewish BRCA1 founder mutation.