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Darwin's Family Tree Under Examination

Charles Darwin carried out experiments on inbreeding in plants that led him to worry about the health of his children, note Francisco Ceballos and his colleagues in this month's BioScience. The researchers then examine the family trees of both Charles Darwin and his wife Emma Wedgewood, who was also his first cousin, to determine if Darwin's fears were founded — and the researchers say they were. The Darwin/Wedgewood lineage contains many consanguineous marriages and the researchers combed through it to look at how inbreeding affected childhood mortality over four generations. From that, they reported a statistically significant association between childhood mortality and inbreeding and for Darwin's children in particular, the researchers found "an inbreeding coefficient of 0.0630, meaning more than 6% of their autosomal genome is expected to be homozygous." His children, then, were at "increased risk of suffering the effects of detrimental recessive alleles" and the researchers suspect that that may be behind the infertility of three of Darwin's children.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.