Stories tagged genetics

Nov
04
2011

Another Experimonth I am working on is "My how you have grown". I started out by posting a recent picture of me:
Recent Photo of Myself: Here is a picture of me on Halloween 2011.  Obviously I was Freddy Krueger :)
Recent Photo of Myself: Here is a picture of me on Halloween 2011. Obviously I was Freddy Krueger :)Courtesy My Husband

From there the converstation went into Horror Movies, favorites, and what we like about them. I mentioned that I like being scared and that adrenaline rush you get from the suspense. I didn't put any thought into why until I received this comment:

"Kiki, do you think your "need for scary/adrenaline rushes" is a result of genetics or your environment growing up?"

My head started spinning!! I needed to respond right away because I never thought about the things I do now being a reflection of either genetics or my environment. So, I responded immediately. This is what I wrote:

"ooohhh, good question!! Most "people" would say it probably stems from my parents divorce when I was 10. Until I left for college,I had to deal with my parents crazy relationships (my parents got along with each other fine, it was their boyfriends/girlfriends that was crazy). I guess I really never had "normal" growing up, so I like horror/suspense movies because they aren't "normal".
I love goofy/raunchy comedies as well, but NOT romantic comedies (unless the couple does NOT end up together). I find romantic comedies fake (yeah, i know, a pot calling the kettle black)....I get so mad when they end up together in the end because in the real world, that isn't how it works. It frustrates me and I actually get angry at the movie!! Blue Valentine was good because (spoiler alert!) they didn't end up together.
So there is my environmental factor in a nutshell....however, I do believe that there is genetics involved as well. My mom loves Dean Koontz (horror/suspense novelist) and my dad loves crime books. I am the only one in the family though that takes it to an extreme, but that is the way I am, no gray area, all black and white.
A psychologist would love this right now. haha
That was all just a quick blurb off the top of my head, however, that question was really good and i will be thinking about this for awhile!!"

Now, like I said, this is all off the top of my head and I really want to spend more time thinking about this as I find it extremely interesting. So, the reason for my blog isn't just to share my thoughts, but also get thoughts from others on either my response above or what they think about genetic vs environmental factors playing a role in their current life.

Check it out:

Google Doodle for 7/20/2011: In honor of Gregor Mendel, father of genetics.
Google Doodle for 7/20/2011: In honor of Gregor Mendel, father of genetics.Courtesy Google

Today is the 189th anniversary of Gregor Mendel's birth. You can learn all you need to know about him from this great little Washington Post animation.

Jan
17
2011

Although, despite its elephant mother: it should be a true genetic mammoth, and not some sort of hybrid Altered Beast.
Although, despite its elephant mother: it should be a true genetic mammoth, and not some sort of hybrid Altered Beast.Courtesy Tracy O
Y'all were probably walking around thinking, "Hey! There's pretty much no way a woolly mammoth could kill me. Dip-de-doo!"

And y'all were probably snuggling into bed each night, cozy in the knowledge that if there was any way a mammoth could end your life, it would have to be from a 12,000-year-old tusk falling off an overloaded tusk-shelf, or something. And you went to sleep happy and safe.

Well, y'all are about to feel like a jerk. Sorry, but 3... 2... 1...

Scientists in Japan want to clone a woolly mammoth and there's a chance, however imperceptibly small, that that cloned mammoth could kill you!!! Like, maybe you're having a birthday party in Japan, and, attracted by the smell of cake, the mammoth breaks free from its enclosure and stomps your whole party. And it eats your cake!

You're thinking a) mammoths don't give a crap about cake; and b) they've talked about cloning mammoths for years, and it still hasn't happened, and I haven't been attacked by any Pleistocene megafauna.

Ok. A) How do you presume to know if a mammoth will want cake or not? Plus, it doesn't have to be cake. Maybe you're just jogging through Japan, and the mammoth sees your mousy ears and decides you need a stomping. The scenarios are practically limitless.

And B) this particular announcement may be something new in the field of wild speculation. While previous plans to do some mammoth cloning have been dismissed on account of all available mammoth DNA being damaged by a dozen millennia, a new technique may have bypassed that hurdle. Scientists at Kobe's Riken Center for Developmental Biology have cloned a mouse from cells that had been frozen for 16 years, and they think the same method could be applied to frozen mammoth remains. If enough viable DNA can be obtained, it would be implanted in the egg of an African elephant to create a mammoth embryo.

This won't happen overnight, however. There's still research to be done, and clone success rates in normal animals hover around 30%. And even if a mammoth embryo is successfully created, elephant gestation lasts about a year and a half. If all goes well, the scientists think it's possible to have a living, cloned mammoth within 6 years.

So enjoy the next six years. After that... it could be a bloodbath!

It's Friday, so it's time for another Science Friday video. Science Friday
Science Friday
Courtesy Science Friday
Today,
"New Caledonian crows are among only a handful of species on the planet that have been shown to use tools. They use twigs to fish out beetle larvae from dead trees. Reporting in Science, Christian Rutz and colleagues explore why the birds evolved to have this rare trait."

Going to the Minnesota State Fair is mostly about putting bad things into your body. Occasionally on the midway, things can come out of your body. But University of Minnesota researchers will be at the 2010 State Fair with hopes of taking DNA out of about 500 kids. And those who donate will get lots of cool stuff. But some wonder if this is the proper way to conduct medical research. What do you think?

Next time you're tempted to say a rare thing is "once in a blue moon" consider switching your verbage to "it's as rare as a yellow lobster." Learn more at this video clip:

Jun
29
2009

Super Corn!: Resistant to bugs AND delicious!
Super Corn!: Resistant to bugs AND delicious!Courtesy U.S. Department of Agriculture

While every other industry in the world seems to be tanking and going to visit their loyal bankruptcy lawyer, science and the genome project is on top!

The cost of sequencing has drastically decreased over the past few years and now smaller institutes can afford to contribute to the genome project. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council has recently opened a new research center in Norwich, England to aid farmers in the face of climate change.

Their main overarching goal is to help boost food production for future generations. They take seriously the threats of climate change on the global food sources. As such the institute is hoping to develop crops that are more resistant to harmful insects and can withstand severe drought. Outside of issues surrounding climate change there is great interest on the board to develop new strains of vegetables that will contain compounds that reduce the incidence of some cancers.

With more institutes like the one in Norwich and affordable genome sequencing we may well survive the terrors of climate change!

At least one clinic in the US is using preimplantation genetic testing (PGD) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) to allow parents to select traits such as the hair and eye color of their children. The clinic director expects a trait-selected baby to be born next year. (This technique has been used for years to help select embryos free sex-linked and other genetic diseases, but the deliberate selection of non-medical traits is new.)

More on PGD

An advisory panel to the FDA is recommending approval of the first US drug made with help from genetically engineered animals. GTC Biotherapeutics makes Atryn, an anti-clotting therapy, using a herd of 200 goats bred to express a human protein in their milk. The drug is meant to help people with hereditary antithrombin deficiency, a genetic disorder that causes blood clotting. Patients and their families want the drug approved and say studies show it's safe and effective. But other folks argue that there hasn't been enough safety testing around the use of transgenic animals. The final FDA decision is expected February 7.

Dec
23
2008

Prejudice against the rural poor: Well, sure, but a fictional rural poor. This gentleman is an urban musician who shops at trendy surplus stores, and it's too difficult to tell if his parents are closely related.
Prejudice against the rural poor: Well, sure, but a fictional rural poor. This gentleman is an urban musician who shops at trendy surplus stores, and it's too difficult to tell if his parents are closely related.Courtesy Poodleface
Well, Buzzketeers, we’re in the thick of the holiday season now—wading through that sticky caramel center of winter festivities, thigh-deep in a swamp of sweater clad relatives, up to our necks in mixed metaphors…

And, you know what? I hope you dig it. That’s my gift to y’all: the honest wish that you are all enjoying your elbow to elbow time with your closest kin. There’s your non-denominational seasonal gift, everyone, I hope you like it. (Personally I celebrate “Wintermania,” during which my family falls into a Wham!-induced frenzy, and then sacrifices anything to our winter deities. We come out of it with a lot fewer pets and household appliances, but it’s an exciting and high-spirited occasion. But I won’t force my beliefs on you.)

There’s some extra thought behind my gift, though. I mean, I know you’ll like it anyway, but it’s practical too! See, it just might happen that, someday, you’ll be bumping more than elbows with your cousins, and working your way up to that may start with the holiday conviviality. So you’re welcome for my making your life easier.

“What?” you say. “I’m not doing… that… with my cousin!”

Nor should you, sensitive Buzzketeer, nor should you. Necessarily.

But you could. Generally not legally, of course. But it turns out that, genetically, the whole “kissin’ cousins” thing might not be as problematic as you have been lead to believe. So says a new article on population genetics in the journal PLoS Biology.

See, the thing about serious inbreeding with close relatives is that it drains your gene pool—it reduces the variety of genes in your offspring. There are a couple reasons to have a nice assortment of genetic traits in a population. If everyone is the same genetically, then they all have the same genetic vulnerabilities, and something like a specialized disease or an abrupt change in the environment could wipe out the whole group. Also, and here’s the kissin’ cousins problem, a lot of genetic disorders result from having two recessive genes matched up in your DNA. If you just have one recessive gene for a disorder, you won’t develop the disorder, but you could pass that gene on to your kid, and if the kid got another copy of that recessive gene from his or her other parent, the kid would develop the disorder. People get disorders caused by matched recessive genes even when their parents aren’t related at all, but if a recessive gene for a particular disorder runs in a family, the chances that a kid in that family will get the gene from both parents is greatly increased if those parents are related.

That’s the idea, anyway. The folks who published this new article, however, say that, in reality, the chances that the offspring of two cousins will have birth defects (caused by recessive genes pairing up) really isn’t as great as most of us think. Specifically, the odds that two cousins would produce a child with congenital defects are only 1-2% greater than those for the rest of the un-related, child-producing population. Women over 40 have a similar risk of having children with congenital defects, the researchers point out, and there are no laws prohibiting them from having kids, whereas 31 states have laws against cousins being married. Laws like these, they say, aren’t based in solid science and reflect “outmoded prejudices about immigrants and the rural poor.”

So there. Do with your present what you will. Try it on for size, or give it to someone else—you won’t hurt my feelings. Merry Wintermania!