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This means that the chances of a randomly chosen young man having an aerobic power as high or higher than Big Mig’s would be about 1 in ten million. 1 billion is in the 20–35 age range. Some of those young men would not be available for various reasons — they may live in inaccessible areas, or already be involved in other sports, or be making a very nice living doing other things. Let’s say 50% of them are available to train as Tour de France cyclists. This would mean there would be just 47 people in the whole world who could be cyclists of the calibre of Big Mig.

It therefore lies off to ind a quieter area to live in. The observed difference in wariness between city and country swans may therefore arise. But things are never simple. Our comparison of light initiation distances between the city and country sites showed a difference of 83 metres, yet swans with the wary DRD4 variant escaped our approaches only 6 metres sooner than more tolerant swans. A lot of variation in wariness therefore remains unaccounted for. One likely explanation is that genes rarely function alone, and multiple genes are likely to inluence a swan’s wariness towards humans.

We now know that cancer cells have yet another trick up their sleeve – they can also exploit these DNA damage-signalling molecules to keep the ends of their chromosomes long, essentially endowing themselves with immortal life. The aspect of cell biology that has most fascinated me for the past 20 years is the process by which normal cells sense the fact that they are ageing. The ends of our chromosomes, known as “telomeres”, gradually shorten with each cell division over time. This process acts like an elegant biological “clock” that tells the cells of our body to age.

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Australasian Science [AU] (June 2016)


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