Chinese scientists crack another genome of cotton

Chinese scientists crack the genome of another diploid cotton Gossypium arboreum:

 

Chinese scientists crack the genome of another diploid cotton Gossypium arboreum

Chinese scientists crack the genome of another diploid cotton Gossypium arboreum

 

Chinese scientists from Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and BGI successfully deciphered the genome sequence of another diploid cotton– Gossypium arboreum (AA) after the completed sequencing of G. raimondii (DD) in 2012. G. arboreum, a cultivated cotton, is a putative contributor for the A subgenome of cotton. Its completed genome will play a vital contribution to the future molecular breeding and genetic improvement of cotton and its close relatives. The latest study today was published online in Nature Genetics.

As one of the most important economic crops in the world, cotton also serves as an excellent model system for studying polyploidization, cell elongation and cell wall biosynthesis. However, breeders and geneticists remain little knowledge on the genetic mechanisms underlying its complex allotetraploid nature of the cotton genome (AADD). It has been proposed that all diploid cotton species present may have evolved from a common ancestor, and all tetraploid cotton species came from interspecific hybridization between the cultivated species G. arboreum and the non-cultivated species G. raimondii.

After the completed sequencing of G. raimondii in 2012, researchers started the work on decoding the genome of G. arboreum. In this study, they sequenced and assembled the G. arboreum genome using whole-genome shotgun approach, yielding a draft cotton genome with the size of 1,694 Mb. About 90.4% of the G. arboretum assembled scaffolds were anchored and oriented on 13 pseudochromosomes.

Furthermore, researchers found the long terminal repeat (LTR) retrotransposons insertions and expansions of LTR families contributed significantly to forming the double-sized G. arboreum genome relative to that of G. raimondii. Further molecular phylogenetic analyses suggested that G. arboreum and G. raimondii diverged about 5 million years ago, and the protein-coding capacities of these two species remained largely unchanged.

To investigate the plant morphology mechanisms of cotton species, a series of comparative transcriptome studies were performed. Results suggested that NBS-encoding subfamilies played an essential role on the immune to Verticillium dahliae. The resistance of G. raimondii on Verticillium dahliae was caused by expansion and contraction in the numbers of NBS-encoding genes, accordingly the loss in the genome of G. arboreum was responsible to their susceptible.

Another interesting finding of this study is the cotton fiber cell growth, and they found the 1-aminocyclo-propane-1-carboxylic acid oxidase (ACO) gene was a key modulator. Researchers suggest the overproduction of ACO maybe the reason why G. raimondii have a poor production of spinnable fiber, while the inactivation of ACO in G. arboreum might benefit its fiber development.

The G. arboreum genome will be an essential reference for the assembly of tetraploid cotton genomes and for evolutionary studies of Gossypium species. It also provides an essential tool for the identification, isolation and manipulation of important cotton genes conferring agronomic traits for molecular breeding and genetic improvement.

 

Source:  eurekalert.org

Chinese Placentophagy — Practice of eating placenta after birth

Eating placenta is an age-old practice in China:

the practice of eating one's placenta after birth

the practice of eating one’s placenta after birth

After Wang Lan delivered, she brought home a baby girl and her placenta, which she plans to eat in a soup — adopting an age-old practice in Chinese traditional medicine. The health-giving qualities of placenta are currently creating a buzz in Western countries, where some believe it can help ward off postnatal depression, improve breast milk supply and boost energy levels. But placentophagy — the practice of eating one’s placenta after birth — is relatively common in China, where it is thought to have anti-ageing properties, and dates back more than 2,000 years. “It is in the refrigerator now and I am waiting for my mother to come and cook it to eat. After cleaning, it can be stewed for soup, without that fishy smell,” Wang said, adding she believed it would help her recover from delivery. Qin Shihuang, the first emperor of a unified China, is said to have designated placenta as having health properties some 2,200 years ago, and during China’s last dynasty, the dowager empress Cixi was said to have eaten it to stay young. A classic medical text from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) said placenta, which lines the uterus and is key to the survival of the fetus, was “heavily nutritious” and “if taken for the longer term… longevity will be achieved.” China’s state media says the practice of eating placenta has re-emerged over the past decade. One maternity hospital in the eastern city of Nanjing reported that about 10 percent of new parents took their placenta after childbirth. Internet postings swap recipes on how to prepare placenta. One popular health website suggests soup, dumplings, meat balls or mixing it with other kinds of traditional Chinese medicine. While trade in the organs has been banned since 2005, pills containing placentas ground into powder are legally available in Chinese pharmacies — indicating unwanted placenta is somehow making its way to drug companies. “It is a tonic to fortify the ‘qi’ and enrich the blood,” a traditional medicine doctor at Shanghai’s Lei Yun Shang pharmacy said, referring to the “life force” that practitioners believe flows through the body. “Sales are very good. Basically, every time we have supplies, they sell out very quickly,” a clerk at the shop told AFP. And it’s not just mothers who want to eat the placenta. One new father in Shanghai who did not want to be named said his relatives were eager to try the sought-after item. “My wife and I were still in the hospital… and they ate it,” he said. But strong demand has created a thriving black market with hospitals, medical workers and even mothers selling placentas in violation of the law. Last year, authorities investigated a hospital in the southern city of Guangzhou for selling placentas for 20 yuan ($2) apiece. “They (nurses) take the money and use it to buy breakfast,” a source told a the local Xin Kuai newspaper. They fetch a higher price in other parts of China like the eastern city of Jinan, where dealers ask as much as 300 yuan per placenta, most sourced from hospitals, the Jinan Times said last year. Last month, South Korean customs said they had uncovered multiple attempts to illegally import over 17,000 capsules apparently containing the powdered flesh of dead babies. Experts have said the pills may actually be made from human placenta, raising concerns that China’s trade in the organs has started to go international. Some people, meanwhile, are averse to the idea of eating the organ. “I know it’s good for health, but the idea of eating human flesh is just disgusting. I cannot do it,” said Shanghai accountant Grace Jiang, who opted to leave the placenta after giving birth to her son.

 

China’s mistake on One-Child Policy

China might change to a one-child policy:

China eyes change to one-child policy

China eyes change to one-child policy

The world awoke to some very encouraging news out of China this morning.  The country may scrap a 30-year-old policy that has resulted in millions of orphans. The Chinese government leaked a report on the country’s one-child policy that it commissioned from a high profile Chinese think tank called the China Development Research Foundation.  The report’s conclusion: China’s one-child policy should be abandoned immediately in favor of a two-child policy to be instituted until 2020 when all birth restrictions should be lifted. This news is sending shock waves through the international community at large and most especially the adoption community.  If the Chinese government adopts the report’s recommendations, the number of orphaned children—particularly girls, who make up the bulk of abandoned babies – will likely plummet in coming years. The one-child policy has been in place since Deng Xiaoping passed the legislation in 1979.  The actual policy sets forth rules a bit more complicated than simply one family, one child.  Some parents, like married only children and rural parents whose first born are girls, are permitted two children.  But, of course, these are the exceptions.  For the vast majority of Chinese, the one-child per family rule holds.  The policy was designed to control an exploding population in the world’s most populous country and lift millions out of poverty.  And by those measures the policy has been effective.  It is estimated that in the years since passing the policy China has succeeded in reducing its population anywhere between 100 to 400 million people. But at what cost? Today, more than 30 years after the policy took effect, there’s a gaping gender imbalance, as parents have preferred boys to girls. Additionally, China’s workforce is aging and with fewer younger workers to support the retiring Baby Boomers, resources are straining. China has also earned the ire of the international community because its orphanages are overflowing with unwanted first girls. With China’s middle class developing, its economy more stable and the negative side effects of the one child policy in full blossom, there is abundant pressure on the government to make bold changes.  The leaking of this early version of think tank’s report is a signal that the central government may be ready to do just that.  Some sources believe that the changes may be imminent as outgoing President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao are on a campaign to burnish their images. While it’s certainly welcome news that China may be at the brink giving greater freedoms to its citizens, there remains some doubt as to how big of an effect a change in policy will have on actual families. It is expensive to raise children and for many in China’s emerging middle class the idea of creating larger families holds limited appeal. Also, there remains a risk for China as a whole.  Even a slight uptick in population could put enormous pressure on the country’s health, infrastructure and educational resources. Time will tell whether China will overturn the one child policy or simply modify it.  What is certain is that either would be a move in the right direction both in terms of human rights and in reducing the number of orphaned children. 

Chinese drones to monitor islands

China seeks drones to monitor islands:

China seeks drones to monitor islands

China seeks drones to monitor islands

China said Monday that it plans to use unmanned drones to conduct marine surveillance by 2015 as it tries to increase its presence around uninhabited East China Sea islands at the center of a dispute with Japan. While still years away, the planned deployment comes as relations between the sides continue to be roiled by fury in China over the Japanese government’s purchase of the islands this month from their private Japanese owners. As part of efforts to contain the fallout, Japan on Monday dispatched a vice foreign minister to meet with his Chinese counterpart for talks on the state of relations between the countries. Li Mousheng, a spokesman for China’s State Oceanic Administration, said the decision to deploy drones followed a successful test Sunday. He offered no details on the test, but cited state media reports that said China aims to have drones and monitoring bases in place by 2015. The reports didn’t say when the drones would be deployed around the islands, called Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan. China has been aggressively developing unmanned aircraft for both civilian and military purposes, with missions ranging from guiding missile strikes to monitoring grain crops. Chinese outrage over the Japanese government’s purchase of the islands sparked days of sometimes violent street protests in scores of cities around China. Numerous informal boycotts of Japanese products have been launched and China has dispatched government marine monitoring vessels to patrol around the islands. Taiwan, which has an overlapping claim, has registered a formal protest. On Monday, several dozen Taiwanese fishing boats set out for the islands from the east coast port of Suao in what was being termed an apolitical protest to protect access to traditional fishing grounds.

 

China eats Human Babies

No one could accuse The Chinese of being squeamish about the things they eat – monkeys’ brains, owls’ eyes, bears’ paws and deep fried scorpions are all items on The menu:

Baby Soup

Baby Soup

Most dishes revered as national favorites sound as harmless as boiled rice when compared to the latest pint de jour allegedly gaining favor in Shenzhen – human fetus. Rumors that dead embryos were being used as dietary supplements started to spread early last year with reports that some doctors in Shenzhen hospitals were eating dead fetuses after carrying out abortions. The doctors allegedly defended their actions by saying the embryos were good for their skin and general health.  A trend was set and soon reports circulated that doctors in the city were promoting fetuses as a human tonic. Hospital cleaning women were seen fighting each other to take the treasured human remains home. Last month, reporters from EastWeek – a sister publication of Eastern Express – went to Shenzhen to see if the rumors could be substantiated. On March 7, a reporter entered the state-run Shenzhen Heath Center for Women and Children’s feigning illness and asked a female doctor for a fetus. The doctor said the department was out of stock but to come again.  The next day the reporter returned at lunch time. The doctor eventually emerged from the operating theatre holding a fist size glass bottle stuffed with thumbsized fetuses.  She said: “There are 10 fetuses here, all aborted this morning. You can take them. We are a state hospital and don’t charge anything.  “Normally, we doctors take them home to eat – all free. Since you don’t look well, you can take them.”  Not every state hospital is as generous with its dead embryos as the Health Center for Women and Children. At the Shenzhen People’s Hospital, for example, the reporter was in for a surprise.  When a Ms. Yang, the head nurse, was asked for fetuses, she looked anxious and asked other staff to leave. After closing the door, she asked the undercover buyer in a low voice: “Where did you (get to) know that we sell fetuses?”  The reporter answered: “A doctor friend in Hong Kong told me.”  “Who? What is his/her name?” The reporter was not prepared for this line of questioning and could not come up with a name. Yang told him that fetuses were only for sale within the hospital, and were not for public purchase. She added that some staff would, however, sell the fetuses on to Hong Kong buyers.  The reporter learned that the going rate for a fetus was $10 but when the merchandise was in short supply, the price could go up to $20. But these prices are pin money compared to those set by private clinics, which are said to make a fortune selling fetuses. One chap on Bong Men Lao Street charges $300 for one fetus. The person in charge of the clinic is a man in his 60’s. When he saw the ailing reporter, he offered to take an order for fetuses that had reached full-term and which, it is claimed, contain the best healing properties. When a female doctor named Yang – no relation – of Sin Hua clinic was asked whether fetuses were edible, she said emphatically: “Of course they are. They are even better than placentas.  “They can make your skin smoother, your body stronger and are good for kidneys. When I was in an army hospital in Jiangti province, I often brought fetuses home. They were pink, like little mice, with hands and feet. Normally, I buy some pork to make soup (with the fetuses added). I know they are human beings, and (eating them) feels disgusting. But at that time, it was already very popular.”  A Mr. Cheng from Hong Kong claims he has been eating fetus soup for more than six months. To begin, the man, in his 40’s, would make the trip to Shenzhen frequently for business and was introduced to fetuses by friends. He says he met a number of professors and doctors in government hospitals who helped him buy the fetuses. “At first, I felt uncomfortable, but doctors said the substances in fetuses could help cure my asthma. I started taking them and gradually, the asthma disappeared,” Cheng said.” Now, Cheng only eats fetuses occasionally to top up his treatment, but there was a time when he made regular cross border trips with the gruesome merchandise. “Everytime [I made the trip], I carried a Thermos flask to Shenzhen and brought the fetuses back to Hong Kong to make soup. If they gave me 20 or 30 at a time, I put them in the refrigerator. I didn’t have the soup every day – it depended on the supply.  “Usually, I washed the fetuses clean, and added ginger, orange peel and pork to make soup. After taking it for a while, I felt a lot better and my asthma disappeared. I used to take placenta, but it was not so helpful.” When asked if he was concerned about the fetuses containing diseases, Cheng was dismissive. “I bought them from government hospitals. They would check the pregnant women before doing the operations and only sell them to me if there was no problem. Also, I always boil them over high heat which kills any bacteria.” Although Cheng has overcome any squeamishness over eating fetus soup, he says he drew the line at consuming whole dead embryos. He also refrains from telling people of his grisly dietary habits.  Zou Qin, 32, a woman from Hubei with the fine skin of a someone several years younger, attributes her well preserved looks to a diet of fetuses. As a doctor at the Lun Hu Clinic, Zou has carried out abortions on several hundred patients. She believes fetuses are highly nutritious and claims to have eaten more than 100 in the past six months. She pulls out a fetus specimen before a reporter and explains the selection criteria. “People normally prefer (fetuses of) young women, and even better, the first baby and a male.” She adds: “They are wasted if we don’t eat them. The women who receive abortions here don’t want the fetuses. Also, the fetuses are already dead [when we eat them]. We don’t carry out abortions just to eat the fetuses.  “Before, my sister’s children were very weak. I heard that fetuses were good for your health and started taking some to my nephews,” Zou says, without remorse. “I wash them with clear water until they look transparent white and then stew them. Making soup is best.” But she admits there are drawbacks to this dubious delicacy. “Fetuses are very smelly and not everybody can take the stink,” she said. “You can also make meat cakes by mixing fetuses with minced meat but you have to add more ginger and chives to get rid of the smell.”  Hong Kong legislator Dr. Tan Siu-tong is surprised that it could be within anyone’s capability to overcome the stench of a dead fetus, even if their stomachs are lined with lead. “When all the placental tissue is dead, the smell is awful and is enough to make you feel sick. It is like having a dead mouse in the house,” he said.  The fetuses allegedly eaten by the Chinese are all provided by China’s extensive abortion services. Last year, doctors at the People’s Hospital – the biggest hospital in Shenzhen – carried out more than 7,000 terminations, 509 on Hong Kong women. The Hong Kong Family Planning Association (FPA) estimates that 24 percent of all abortions on Hong Kong women are performed in the dubious surroundings of a Chinese hospital. A Ms. Li from Hong Kong has had two abortions in Shenzhen but has never heard of people eating fetuses. “But I didn’t want the babies, so after the abortions, I just left them to the hospital,” she says. “I didn’t want to look at them, and I certainly didn’t want to keep them. Fetuses of two or three months are just water and blood when they come out. They are so small, how can you eat them?”  Doctors in the territory have responded with disgust and incredulity to stories of people supplementing their diets with fetuses. Many have read articles on fetal cannibalism but none has been able to verify the reports. They are treating the issue with skepticism. Dr. Margaret Kwan, a gynecologist who until two weeks ago held the post of chief executive at the FPA, says: “This is the strangest thing I have ever heard coming out of China. I just hope it is not true.”  Dr. Warren Lee, president of the Hong Kong Nutrition Association, is aware of the unsavory rumors. “Eating fetuses are a kind of traditional Chinese medicine and is deeply founded in Chinese folklore. In terms of nutrition, a fetus would be a good source of protein and fats, and there are minerals in bone. But I don’t know if eating fetuses are just folklore or more than that,” he says. According to Lee, it is conceivable that fetuses are rich in certain hormones that are beneficial to the adult human body, but should this be the case, the fetal matter would have to be converted into an indictable form for best results, as most hormones including the hormone for diabetes, insulin – are broken down in the digestive system before they have a chance to be absorbed by the body.  But Lee suggests that anyone who eats a fetus would be seeking a remedy that is far more elusive than a hormone or mineral. “Some people may think there is also an unidentified substance or chemical that has healing powers, but there is no evidence that this is true.” Lee urges people to be wary – “There are people out there who just want to make money and they will come up with all sorts of formulas or substances, which, they say will cure diseases.”  As a child, Patrick Yau was fed on human placentas by his mother who worked at a local hospital, but in his current position as a psychologist with the Social Welfare Department he is both repulsed and shocked by the notion of eating fetuses. “As a Catholic, I object to abortions because I believe the fetus is a human life, and I certainly object to eating a dead baby after it has been aborted,” he says. Yau concedes that in China, where the one child policy has turned abortions into an acceptable remedy to an unfortunate human blunder, people may have adopted a new outlook on life before birth, such that embryos are stripped of their status as human beings.  But Tang fails to understand how anyone anywhere can convince themselves “that they are just eating an organism when they are actually eating a dead body”. “It may not be a formed human being, but when they think about it most people would think: ‘Ugh! No, I can’t eat that.’ I don’t think civilized people with an education could do that sort of thing.”  Dr. Wong, a Hong Kong doctor who practices Western medicine, thinks only the ignorant would eat human fetuses. He explains that fetuses contain mucoploysaccharide, which is beneficial to the metabolism, but states that it can be found in a lot of other food – Chinese doctor Chu Ho-Ting agrees that there is no place for fetuses in medicine, and suggests that it might even be unhealthy if the pregnant woman was infected by the disease.  “Most bacteria can be killed under 100 degree heat but some require 400 degrees. Some people believe eating fetuses can strengthen the immunity of the human body against diseases, but this is wrong. Although fetuses contain protein, they are not as nutritious as placenta, which contains different kinds of nutrients. But even placenta has to be taken with other Chinese herbs.”