Posts tagged genetics
There was a great deal of excitement last week as intriguing findings published in Nature yield clues into the mystery of autism. Autism, or more correctly put Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are defects in neural development that manifest themselves early in childhood as affected children have difficulties in socialization and language skills. Like any childhood disease autism is unimaginably frustrating for the millions of parents and relatives that have to find the best way to cope with a child who will have unexpected needs. Even more frustrating perhaps is the unanswered questions surrounding the cause of the disease and the More >
When we think of a detective the first thing that comes to mind is an investigator, either a member of a police agency or a private entity. However there are unique detectives within the multifaceted arena of medicine. All though we might already think of most doctors as detectives there are special doctors, units, working at the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) undiagnosed disease program. Doctors such as William A. Gahl at the NIH are disease detectives that try to elucidate the causes and genetic basis involved in the hundreds of unsolved and mysterious diseases that arise each year. Dr. Gahl More >
Autumn is my favorite season. I enjoy the cool weather, unpacking my sweaters from the attic and sleeping under my cozy comforter. But better than all of the above are the fantastic red, yellow and orange leaves that adorn the deciduous trees here in New York. Before I worked at the DNA Learning Center, this process was simply a beautiful rite of fall. Now, I see the whole process in a different light. It’s an elegant series of genetic steps that evolved millions of years ago, for a reason much bigger than beauty!
For most of the year, deciduous trees are More >
Recently I worked with a group of graduate students who volunteered to be science mentors for students in New York City. They were being trained in a small set of hands-on labs designed to introduce genetics in an engaging, informal environment. At some point during the training, we touched upon genetic mutations and variation. I mentioned that it was a perfect segway into discussion of natural selection and evolution. One participant raised her hand and asked, “Are we allowed to teach that?” My initial response was surprise. I said, “Of course!” It is unfortunate though, that as science educators we should even More >
Genetics plays a greater role in our lives than many of us realize. While certain behaviors seem obviously connected to a need for survival, many behaviors are linked to genes in ways we do not yet understand. So, to what extent do our genes dictate our behaviors?
One example of controlled behaviors has stirred up a variety of questions. A species of fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, infects a type of carpenter ant. What is unusual about the infection is that the fungus somehow directs the ant to move to a location on the leaves of the trees normally inhabited by the ants. More >
How do you cure a man of both leukemia and AIDS with just one procedure? No, it’s not a trick question: an American leukemia patient living in Berlin received a bone marrow transplant that also resolved his AIDS.
In a bone marrow transplant, a patient’s own marrow is destroyed and replaced with tissue from a donor. The donor marrow contains healthy hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs, adult stem cells in the blood) which repopulate the patient’s body with healthy red and white blood cells for oxygen transport and immune defense. Just as with other varieties of organ donation, tissue-type matches are critical. In the case of More >
Today there is a huge concern about obesity. It is a medical condition characterized by excessive body fat accumulated to a point where it has become a health issue. It is associated with high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, and heart disease – ultimately leading to reduced life expectancy. Obesity is a condition that can be caused by inactivity, excessive consumption of calories, or a genetic predisposition.
Scientists have used genome-wide studies to define a relationship between body mass index and polymorphisms in the FTO gene (Fat Mass and Obesity Associated Gene). Recently, insights into the function of the More >
For most people the ideas of genes and traits recall a few scattered facts from their primary schooling on Mendel and his pea plants; short ones, tall ones, Punnett squares and the like. When it comes it comes to simple traits, like eye color, people may think that it is only a matter of some combination of dominant or recessive genes, i.e. BB, Bb, or bb. As it turns out, eye color is more genetically complex than this. So one could imagine that solving the genetic mysteries behind autism are even more complex.
In a recent review of autism research, Brent More >
I love to talk about the biology behind how life works with other people. Some of the best conversations I have ever had have been with fifth graders learning about DNA. I am amazed that they know an incredible amount of information relating to genetics, way more than I ever knew when I was their age.
I currently teach genetics and molecular biology to middle school students, high school students, teachers, and the general public. One of the greatest skills I have learned in my current position is the importance of engaging your audience and making the material you are introducing More >
As a teacher, I find that the presentation of classical Mendelian inheritance is important, but can be misleading. Do genes always follow the rules that the “Father of Genetics” observed in his garden? Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate Mendel and his contribution to genetics, but the exceptions seem much more interesting!
For example, many genes are pleiotropic, meaning they affect more than one phenotype. How about the recent development on red heads and anasthetics? I happen to live with a red head, from a long line of red heads, so in our family this was a topic of discussion for days. The mutation More >