Eye on DNA Links for 29 July 2007

Eye on DNA Links for 29 July 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted July 29, 2007 in DNA and the Law, DNA in General, Eye on DNA Headlines

  • A Harry Potter themed Pediatric Grand Rounds 2.8 is up at Highlight HEALTH today. And I just want to say to Michelle at the underwear drawer that I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows last weekend so yes, we can talk about it!
  • athlete genesNew Scientist looks at elite athletes and their genes this week. They’ve listed five genes–ACTN3, ACE, PPAR-delta, CKMM, and myostatin–that will help the budding sprinter, mountaineer, marathon runner, cyclist, and weightlifter excel. Click the image on the right to see more details.
  • Martin Heidgen of New York stands accused of trying to fake a DNA test by passing off someone else’s saliva as his own. The DNA sample had both his genetic profile as well as his jail cell mate’s. Heidgen is charged with murder for his involvement in a drunk driving incident that led to the death of two people and an additional five injuries.
  • Physicist Paul Callaghan, recent recipient of the Blake Medal, shares his top picks for key scientific concepts that everyone should understand. Among them, he lists evolution and DNA.

    “The fundamental question for all of us is why are we here. How did humans come to be? So it’s important to have an understanding of the fundamental engine of life, which is DNA: how it expresses itself through proteins, how that leads to disease when proteins don’t fold properly.”

  • Patt Morrison reviews Kristen Gore’s novel, Sammy’s House and goes full on with the genetics analogies.

    “I, for one, am mighty relieved to find out that humor genes did not completely bypass the Al Gore family. Recessive though they may be, they shine forth in the DNA of the Gores’ middle daughter, Kristin, who made her funny bones as an editor of the Harvard Lampoon and a writer on “Saturday Night Live,” where her work included a sly, deadpan “presidential” speech delivered by her father.”

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Comment by NA Subscribed to comments via email

Why do people still ponder “why are we here” and “how did humans come to be?” I don’t know about the rest of you, but these questions were explained in great detail in my general biology course when I was a freshman in college.

Can we get past pondering why we belong on this planet and how we came about? Instead, we need to realize that we are here and just deal with it and do research that is meaningful so we can improve our lives, not focus so many efforts on why we are here and how we came about. When it comes to evolutionary research, what is the most important is knowing how a disease has evolved, not how monkeys walked on all fours and walking on all fours transitioned to use walking on two legs.

It must be nice for us tax payer seeing millions, and millions, and millions of dollars being spent in the state of Texas to recreate the “Big Bang.”

Comment by Hsien

NA, Your general biology course sounds like it covers some issues that mine surely didn’t! I personally find myself wondering often about the point of life. It’s an esp. pertinent question for me since I’m not religious.

I also appreciate scientific curiosity about the world around us as it exists today and in the past. Life isn’t just about the here and now. We strive to know more about natural phenomena because it enriches our existence beyond just scrabbling for daily subsistence.

Comment by Jonathan Eisen Subscribed to comments via email

I understand the general sentiment about this comment but I think it is short sighted. In terms of national priorities, it is generally accepted by virtual all in government (e.g., congress, senate, etc) that it is important to fund both applied AND basic science research. Your comment implies that you only support applied research. I think this is very short sighted. It has been historically very difficult to predict in advance exactly what type of knowledge will be useful for some practical benefit. And we are constantly struck by how things that seemed esoteric take off. The internet would be a good example – originally funded by DARPA many thought what people were doing connecting computers was ridiculous. It seemed to have no practical value. The same is true for biology research. In terms of evolutionary biology, if we want to predict the future evolution of infectious disease or the response of humans to different drugs, we NEED to know how evolution works. The more we know, the better off we are. You can read more about this in my new evolution textbook . Understanding the rules and mechanisms of evolution is fundamental to medicine, agriculture, and environmental studies.

All that being said, I would like to note that my focus in evolutionary biology is using an understanding of evolution to study modern organisms such as humans and bacteria. So I understand your point. I just think basic science, especially in evolutionary biology, is fundamental to all the areas you likely think are important.


[...] the other hand, Eye on DNA links to a New Scientist entry. They’ve listed five genes–ACTN3, ACE, PPAR-delta, CKMM, and [...]


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