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What we’re reading this month: April 2018

In between meetings, events, science workshops, and getting work done in the lab, Helix employees love finding a few minutes here and there to read. (A, C, G, and T might be our four favorite letters, but we actually like all of them.) Each month, we’ll be highlighting articles and books that catch our attention.
Have any recommendations of your own? Connect with us on Twitter and let us know.
This month, we celebrate DNA Day by diving right into some interesting research articles ranging from speciation of whales to the genetic underpinnings of cancer. We also enjoyed talking about genetics with Reddit users—and reading the lively AMA led by NIH director Francis Collins.

“Baleen Whales Intermingled as They Evolved, and Share DNA With Distant Cousins”
The New York Times
It comes as no surprise that a humpback whale is a different species from the blue whale—after all, the blue whale is the largest mammal on this planet and makes the humpback look tiny by comparison. But a recent study found that these whales have much more in common than was previously thought. Researchers compared DNA from 6 of the known 10 species of baleen whales which revealed a more complex evolutionary story than scientists expected. These findings give us a new view into how species evolution can occur.

“Physiological and Genetic Adaptations to Diving in Sea Nomads”
This was a good month for the spleen! The Bajau people of Southeast Asia—often referred to as the Sea Nomads—are known for their exceptional freediving abilities. Using multiple methods including whole genome sequencing, researchers reported that the Bajau people have specific genetic variants that may affect blood vessel contraction as well as spleen size and function. Collectively, these findings suggest that the Bajau people may have evolved genetic adaptations that support their way of life.

“Perspective on Oncogenic Processes at the End of the Beginning of Cancer Genomics”
Cancer is a complex disease that involves a person’s environment and their genetics. Advances in sequencing technology have enabled researchers to study the genetics behind cancer on a large scale. This month, researchers from more than 15 different medical and academic institutions reported the completion of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) project, which aimed to characterize the diverse genomic alterations that lead to human cancers. In total, data is reported on more than 11,000 different tumors from 33 different cancer types.