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New Paper: Human microRNAs transcribed by polymerase III November 14, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Evolution, Genetics, microRNA, Research, Science.
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A new paper out this week in Nature Structural and Molecular Biology presents evidence that Polymerase III is associated with miRNA genomic sequence and sufficient for transcription.  This is as opposed to the privious view that Pol II was required in mammals for expression.  The miRNAs they analyzed (miR-515-1, 517a, 517c, 519a-1) were interspersed among the Alu repeats, which are transcribed through Pol III recruitment.

Now, I had to ask myself after I read the abstract for this article, “What are Alu repeats?” and “Why do I care if they hang out on the chain with miRs?”  If Wikipedia is accurate, and I hope it is, the Alu family is a family of polymorphisms in the human genome, about 300 bp long.  Their repetitive sequences are the most abundant mobile units on the human genome and have been implemented in diseases, such as cancer.  As for the second question, this connection suggests that repetitive elements play an important role in human miRNA origin and expression, according to this new paper.


Two Puzzle Month November 13, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Mathematics, Puzzles.
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As I mentioned in my last post, I went to a puzzle challenge last weekend.  They had some great puzzles, so I’ve chosen two to be my puzzles of the month. 

The first one is time consuming, but even if you don’t solve the whole thing, the steps along the way are fun to do.  You use pictures and ASL letters to spell out words, then use those words to solve the puzzle.  I can’t link directly to the file because it’s a large .pdf, but go to the puzzle page hereand right click on “Local Wildlife” and choose the save file option.  Maybe your browser will just open the file, but I tried Firefox and IE and neither could do it.  Does anyone know what this type of puzzle is called?  I looked on Wikipedia in the puzzle type list and couldn’t find it. 

The second puzzle I recommend is called Equation Expedition.   This one is quicker and more mathy.   Make sure to read the handwriting on this one.

All the answers are here.

Have fun!

UW Puzzle Challenge November 12, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Puzzles, Technology and/or Microsoft.
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I just finished the College Puzzle Challenge.  It was a blast!  I won’t tell you our team name, because we didn’t place so well.  But that’s okay because we learned a ton, got some schwag, and had fun.  This was the first go for us, so we’ll kick butt next time.  I’ve been at school from 8am.  It’s now 9:30pm and we’re wrapping up.  I’ll post post a couple of my favorite puzzles for the puzzle(s) of the month tomorrow, once I’ve recovered. 

Thanks so much to all the hardworking Microsoft employees who put on a great event!     

Tech or Treat! November 1, 2006

Posted by Sacha in Humor.
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Raymond had this great post today about celebrating Halloween at Microsoft with the kids:

 I remember a colleague of mine who brought his young daughter to work for Hallowe’en. A conversation with “Cathy” some days later went like this:

“Hi, Cathy.”


“Do you know where your daddy works?”

“He works at Microsoft.”

“Do you know what your daddy does at work?”

“He walks around and gets candy.”

Hope you all had a frightfully fun Halloween!