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'Perfect Athlete' Not Purely a Product of the Genome

David Epstein at Sports Illustrated rounds up expert opinions about what he calls "the genetic playbook." In speaking with various geneticists, Epstein notes that all humans are distance runners from an evolutionary standpoint, and that "as more and more genes with subtle effects on athleticism have been identified, the predictive value of any single-gene test for talent … has fallen essentially to nil." Yannis Pitsiladis, a biologist at the University of Glasgow, has been collecting DNA samples from record-holding athletes for 10 years. "Pitsiladis has begun scanning these genomes for performance genes, so that humanity might know the slate upon which nurture can etch greatness," Epstein writes -- though, as it turns out, when examining 24 genetic variants associated with sprinting and/or endurance skills, Pitsiladis found that one of his graduate students "'has a better rating for sprinting than the likes of an Asafa Powell or Usain Bolt'" — hypothetical examples of record-holding sprinters, for privacy considerations — he told SI's Epstein.

Katherine Hobson at the Wall Street Journal Health Blog summarizes the article succinctly. "SI says genetics, the environment and elements usually chalked up to personality, like motivation or willpower, may interplay in ways we can’t even imagine," she writes.

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.