All Posts Tagged With: "genetics"
Simon Fraser researchers part of team
A team of North American scientists has cracked a particularly-complex genetic code that reveals ethnicity may determine how well a person is able to fend off diseases such as HIV or the common flu.
Five scientists from Simon Fraser University were among those who found a link between race and antibodies, the culmination of years of research that may have implications in the way doctors treat patients.
The team found certain ethnicities have missing or added DNA links, a factor that could influence immunity to certain diseases, said Corey Watson, one of the team’s 14 researchers.
Inherited behavioural tendencies lead to victimization
A new study suggests a child’s likelihood of being bullied in elementary school is partially dictated by genetics.
The study published in the journal Child Development found genes helped dictate behaviours that most often led to a person being ostracized or victimized by fellow students.
Those behaviours included aggression, impulsiveness and hyperactivity.
The study surveyed nearly 800 pairs of identical and fraternal twins three times between kindergarten and grade four.
Researchers found that identical twins, who have the same genetic makeup, are more likely to have similar classroom experience than fraternal twins whose DNA is not a perfect match.
The study says the research demonstrates the importance of intervening to nip problematic behaviours in the bud at an early age.
…is the one you (almost) fail.
At the beginning of the semester, I was actually looking forward to my Embryology course. Not enough to actually want summer vacation to come to an end, but on the spectrum of courses, biology has always been my favourite. I assumed it would be the same this semester.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It’s kind of like audiences who went to see Star Wars Episode One expecting a worthy prequel to one of the most beloved movie franchises of all time. Everybody probably assumed that even if the new movie was half as good as the original trilogy, it would still be great.
No one saw Jar Jar Binks coming.
It’s the exact same thing with my Embryology course. Based on the fact that I’ve enjoyed my genetics and cell biology courses over the past two years, I figured it would be my favourite course this semester. Until I opened the textbook for the first time.
For some reason, biologists collectively decided that when a new protein or gene is discovered it should be named something that’s impossible to remember on a final exam. Like PAX3, DAX1, WNT, GGF, and SOX9. And never mind remembering the difference between FGF9, FGF2, FGF10, FGF8, FGF1, FGFR1 and FGFR2.
On the other hand, there’s the one scientist who, in an act of rebellion, actually named a protein Sonic hedgehog. Seriously.
When I was studying for the exam last week, I finally decided it might be easier to keep track of the full names, instead of just the acronyms.
Until I found out that SOX stands for SRY-related HMG box.
Incoming students at Berkeley given gene-testing kit
A plan by the University of California, Berkeley to voluntarily test the DNA of incoming freshman has come under fire from critics who said the school was pushing an unproven technology on impressionable students.
The university has said it will send test kits to 5,500 new students to analyze genes that help control the body’s responses to alcohol, dairy products and folic acid. The voluntary tests are intended to spur conversation about the growing field of personal genomics, not predict the likelihood of disease, university officials said Thursday. “We thought that this would be a more engaging vehicle for discussion than having them read a book or an article,” said Mark Schlissel, dean of biology at UC Berkeley.
Critics, however, worry that students could get the idea the school approves of widely available direct-to-consumer gene-testing kits that claim to predict the risk of future health problems, said Jesse Reynolds, a policy analyst at the Center for Genetics and Society, a bioethics think thank. Students might think, “Berkeley gave it to us. It must be good. UC Berkeley would never be giving its incoming students anything bad or controversial,” Reynolds said.
One such kit was set to go on sale at Walgreen’s pharmacies last week. However, the chain changed its mind after federal regulators said the kit’s manufacturer never submitted the product to the Food and Drug Administration for review, a requirement for medical devices.
University officials said they were careful to choose genes for testing that were not related to serious health issues. “We wanted to pick genes in which the variants were very easy to understand, not threatening, and probably reveal information students have about themselves already,” said Jasper Rine, a UC Berkeley genetics professor who is spearheading the testing program.
The program’s organizers said it was important to get students talking about the issues because genetic testing would likely become an everyday part of medicine in coming decades. A key concern about many direct-to-consumer genetic tests is their reliance on studies that use statistics to determine how likely a particular gene variation is to be connected to a specific disease.
Many such studies are preliminary, but public health officials worry that without proper counselling, consumers are likely to take their test results as definitive. Schlissel said the science behind the tests being given to students was well-grounded in years of research. In addition, students arriving in the fall will be able to attend a presentation of the overall results for the entire incoming class and learn what the results mean.
All DNA will be collected privately, officials said. Students will use a barcode that only they have to locate their individual results, and the university said all DNA will be incinerated after the analysis is completed. Students also will be able to compete to win one of four much more comprehensive personal gene scans from 23andMe Inc., a Google-backed company that has been at the centre of the debate over direct-to-consumer genetic testing.
Dr. Muin J. Khoury, director of the National Office of Public Health Genomics at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the value of the tests to students will depend on how well the results are presented and discussed. The test for a gene related to how quickly a person absorbs alcohol could easily lead new college students to get the wrong idea, he said. “I just worry about 18-year-old kids saying, ‘Oh, I’m a fast metabolizer, I can drink a lot of alcohol, it won’t affect me.’” Still, said Khoury, “if it’s packaged well, it could be a great experience.”
The Canadian Press
When choosing your courses, be bold.
Recently, I came across the following advice and wanted to share it with the three of you who read this blog:
All through my undergraduate days, I worried that my limited mathematical talents might keep me from being more than a naturalist. In deciding to go for the gene, whose essence was surely in its molecular properties, there seemed no choice but to tackle my weakness head-on [...] And so my Bs in two genuinely tough math courses were worth far more in confidence capital than any A I would likely have received in a biology course, no matter how demanding.
This advice comes from James Watson, one of the co-discoverers of the structure of DNA.
It is good advice for today’s students who have, I have often noticed, a distressing essentialism when it comes to their abilities. Students often come to university convinced that they “can’t do math” or that they are “no good at writing essays” and that no amount of diligent study or sound instruction could ever remedy that deficiency.
One culprit, ironically enough in this context, may be a wide-spread misunderstanding of genetics itself, whereby people have come to see their genes as determiners of fate rather than generators of proteins. Another may be the current fashion for teaching based on “learning styles” that often imply that students can only learn in certain ways and should not be encouraged to learn in ways that are not easy for them.
But I agree with Watson. Students should extend themselves into those areas which they find intimidating, especially when they would otherwise miss out on what they want to study. If astronomy fascinates you, take the course and figure out how to do the math you need to do (or take the math, first). If medieval literature is your thing, get into that course and work your butt off learning how to write research papers. Others have done it, and so can you.
As Watson acknowledges, you may not be the best in your class, but what you learn will make up for it. And while there may be a few cases of genuine impairment, I contend that for the vast majority of qualified university students, there is very little that you really can’t do.
[An earlier version of this post mistakenly identified the author of the quoted passage as Francis Crick. The present author regrets any confusion.]
How genetics class scared the cell out of me
Last week my 13-year-old brother David came home from school burnt to a crisp. He’d been outside for hours at track and field, and had forgotten to wear sunscreen. Yeah, that’s right. “Forgotten.”
But if David had been in my genetics course last semester, he wouldn’t have risked the sun exposure of track and field without first slathering some SPF 4,000 sun screen all over his body.
After taking that class, I’m sold on wearing it from now on. Year round.
Ultraviolet rays are a form of radiation. You forget that. And they can cause mutations in your DNA. The vitamin D threshold easily passes into the Mutant Turtle threshold.
Every time DNA is mutated, you risk the chance of it being a section of DNA that codes for something important. Like information that dictates how your cells are put together. Or how some proteins in your body work.
But you’re really in trouble if it mutates p53.
p53 is a protein that acts as a tumor suppressor. Tumor suppressors work to stop cells from growing and dividing uncontrollably, preventing cells from becoming cancerous. And if a cell starts dividing, and won’t stop, p53 will make the cell undergo apoptosis. Programed cell death.
Tumor suppressors are your body’s private cancer-fighting army. And every time you go in the Sun, you’re basically telling them to go AWOL. If p53 isn’t working, a cell might continue dividing. And growing. Straight into a tumor.
For me, my genetics class turned out to be more than just another biology prerequisite for my program. After imagining all the tiny, silent screams from my poor skin cells under attack by those cruel UV rays, I had something I could immediately take away from the course. Something I could use to go all first born know-it-all on my brother with.
I laid it all out to David. I told him that if he doesn’t use sunscreen, 40 years from now he’ll end up with wrinkly, saggy gross skin, mutant DNA, and maybe even cancer.
But David still wasn’t impressed. “If I wear sun screen, it’ll make me look shiny all day.”
Be shiny all day? Even if it means not ending up a flaming red, sore lobster five hours later, unable to sit down because your legs are too crispy to bend?
Oh yeah, I forgot.
It’s grade seven. Protecting your skin is so totally not cool.
-Photo courtesy of kirinqueen
16-year-old worked with two mentors at USaskatchean department of plant sciences
Scott Adams never expected to take a prize in a competition for the best student biotech research projects in Canada – he was just happy to come to the nation’s capital as one of 14 finalists.
But on Wednesday, the 16-year-old from Saskatoon was awarded the $5,000 first prize in the Sanofi-Aventis BioTalent Challenge for his genetic research involving the bread-and-butter crop of his home province, wheat.
“I didn’t come to Ottawa expecting a prize,” said a surprised Adams. “I thought the trip to Ottawa was enough of a prize.”
The Grade 10 student’s project involved a novel process for turning off a gene in wheat to alter its starch elements. The discovery might one day make it possible for farmers to grow “designer wheat” with starch content aimed at different products, from textiles and packaging to flour-based foods and glues.
Adams worked with two mentors in the department of plant sciences at the University of Saskatchewan on the gene-silencing research.
While genetics is one of his areas of interest – he reads scientific journals on the subject – he doesn’t know if he will pursue science as a career.
“It’s certainly a possibility, but I’m still keeping my options open,” he said. “My parents have often said in the past (to become an) optometrist, but that’s not final at all.”
Adams and second-prize winner Joseph McNeil, an 18-year-old, Grade 12 student in Cape Breton, N.S., will compete for Canada at the International BioGENEius Challenge in Atlanta next month.
McNeil was awarded the $4,000 runner-up prize for using antioxidant compounds like those found in green tea to promote growth of nerve cells in a study related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
He is hoping to attend Dalhousie University in Halifax next year, possibly in its biological engineering program.
The joys of not sitting beside the Loud Whisperer
There are more than 300 students in my genetics class. With that many people crammed into a lecture hall, chances are, you’re probably sitting in front of a Sneezer.Or a Loud Whisperer.
Or a Person Who Somehow Keeps Bumping the Back of Your Head With Their Stupid Binder.
But during my last genetics lecture, I didn’t feel a single sneeze mist the back of my neck. My body space wasn’t invaded by someone else’s notebook, or bulky book bag. And I didn’t get stuck beside any of those people who don’t understand the finer points of whispering. Like, uh, actually whispering.
And at one point, when I didn’t quite understand something the professor had said, I just paused the lecture and referred to my textbook for clarification.
Yup. Podcasted lectures rule.