2007 October

Halloween The DNA Way

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 31, 2007 in Geeky DNA T-shirts

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For this Halloween, my son is going as the Upgrade superhero which is an alter ego of Cartoon Network’s Ben 10. Because Ben 10 derives his powers from merging his DNA with alien DNA, I created a costume for my son with the Upgrade badge stitched on top of a DNA t-shirt I got from JMK Genealogy Gifts. I also embroidered black felt gloves for him which he’ll wear with a ski hat.

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Anyone you know going as anything DNA-related for Halloween?

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Evil Genes by Barbara Oakley (and why I’ll never write a book)

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 30, 2007 in DNA Podcasts and Videos

Update: Sorry to those who came looking for this post earlier. The hard disk of the machine handling the MySQL databases failed and the last back-up did not include this post. Thank goodness I had a back-up of my own! Also a big thank you to Kenny who emailed to let me know the post went missing.

Here are five reasons (among many) why I’ll never be able to write a book about genetics and DNA:

  1. I do not have a soul twisted enough to spin a fanciful yarn nor twisted enough to endure the agony of writing a book.
  2. I don’t have have any sordid tales of family and friends to draw upon.
  3. I don’t like to offend people, living or dead.
  4. I’m not sure if I could beg anyone as cool as Dr. Helen to write a blurb for my book.
  5. I’m clueless about writing a book. (Ahh, this may be the crux of the problem.)

So what am I yammering on about? A while ago, someone asked if I had any book ideas. The simple answer was, “No, I ain’t got time for that.” The more prideful answer was “No. Well maybe. Erm. Should I?” Anyhow, according to writer and literary agent Peter Tallack,

Genetics is usually a no-go area, unless you are a particularly gifted writer.

Well, that settled it!

evil genesProfessor Barbara Oakley, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of my hang-ups. This month, she published Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend. Kapow!

From Publishers Weekly:

Borne out of a quest to understand her sister Carolyn’s lifelong sinister behavior (which, systems engineer Oakley suggests, may have been compounded by childhood polio), the author sets out on an exploration of evil, or Machiavellian, individuals. Drawing on the advances in brain imaging that have illuminated the relationship of emotions, genetics and the brain (with accompanying imaging scans), Oakley collects detailed case histories of famed evil geniuses such as Slobodan Milosevic and Mao Zedong, interspersed with a memoir of Carolyn’s life. Oakley posits that they all had borderline personality disorder or antisocial personality disorder, a claim she supports with evidence from scientists’ genetic and neurological research.

Here’s an interview with Dr. Oakley from Point of Inquiry with DJ Grothe. She starts with why she revealed the story of her sister’s cruel behavior and the impact of such behavior on people’s day-to-day lives. Later she talks about the dual influences of genetics and parenting on behavior. Dr. Oakley says good parenting can only go so far in dealing with amoral or psychopathic behavior.


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I haven’t read the book yet but if you’re interested in a discussion of Evil Genes, visit the Center for Inquiry discussion forum.

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New Line Genetics and SellMyDNA.com Offer $5,000 for Your DNA

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 29, 2007 in DNA Testing, DNA in General, Gene Therapy, Polls About DNA

cold spring harbor dnaOver the past few weeks, I’ve been communicating with Anthony Martin, the founder and owner of New Line Genetics, a Silicon Valley company positioned at the forefront of the genomics revolution. He’s got some interesting and innovative ideas that will definitely get people talking. I’ve invited him to introduce his company today. (Disclaimer: I have no financial interest in New Line Genetics.)

Hsien has graciously offered me the space for a guest post today, and I am honored to accept. I would like to use this platform to announce the official launch of SellMyDNA.com! This site will allow any individual to sell his or her DNA to New Line Genetics for research and development purposes, and each DNA donor will be paid at least $5,000 USD for their sample.

Since I launched the company back in 2002, we’ve invested hundreds of millions of dollars into genetics research, and we’ve grown at a 50% rate in both profits and staff size every year. With the enormous revenue growth we expect from our proprietary organ-farming system, we are poised to become the largest and most influential genetics company in the world within the next five years. During this time we plan to vastly improve the current state of medical genetics, and use our developing cybernetics technology to lay the groundwork for the next stage of human evolution.

In order to continue at our current pace of research and development, we need your help. Our existing cell lines are no longer sufficient for the volume of work we’re doing, so we’ve been looking into ways to obtain viable samples in a cost-effective and legal way. To this end, New Line Genetics is leading a pilot program with the patent office that allows us to patent individual genomes. This new process circumvents all current restrictions on sequence patents, since we are patenting a totally unique sequence, not a generic one. As long as the individual donor is aware that his genomic sequence will no longer belong to him, and said donor receives appropriate payment for goods sold, we are free to use the DNA sample in any of our existing programs.

This is good news for both us and you. We will be able to continue our groundbreaking research, and you’ll be able to earn at least $5,000 USD by selling something you don’t even use! As an added bonus to you, if your specific DNA sample is used to generate a replacement organ that we grow in our lab and sell to a hospital, you will be eligible to receive a percentage of the profit. So please, tell your friends and family about SellMyDNA.com, and keep those samples coming in!

Would you sell your DNA? Take the poll below the fold!

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DIY DNA from BBC 5 Live Report

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 28, 2007 in DNA Podcasts and Videos, DNA Testing, Nutrigenomics


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This week’s BBC 5 Live Report looked at personalized genetic testing, specifically with respect to nutrigenomics. Click play to listen.

Dr. Paul Jenkins of Genetic Health is quoted in the BBC write-up:

All of the genes we analyse have been published in very large-scale studies in the most eminent medical studies and show a clear association between those polymorphisms [genetic variations] that individuals possess and their risk of having a disease.

These are not diagnostic tests and that is a point I make very firmly to all the patients.

We’re not guaranteeing either they will or they will not develop a disease, but I think individuals have a right to know whether they are at increased risk genetically, in the same way that knowing you have high blood risk puts you at increased risk of heart disease.

We definitely have the right to know but how much information is there available “to know”? We desperately need a resource like Genome Commons but for consumer genetic tests. Who wants to start one with me?

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What’s in your DNA? #15

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 28, 2007 in In Your DNA

From Steve Duplessie at Steve’s IT Rants:

As a tortured Boston sports fan for life, I must first remind all of you that until about 5 years ago, if you remove the Larry Bird era, being a Boston sports fan has been like being Charlie Brown thinking that this time Lucy won’t pull the ball away. I was 9 in 1975 and woke up the house when Pudge Fiske hit that homerun, only to lose game 7. I was 22 in 1986 when Bill Buckner permanently implanted a fatalistic outlook in my DNA.

Maria at just eat your cupcake:

What inborn trait do you see in others that you wish you had for yourself?

Patience. The ability to forgive easily. It just isn’t in my DNA.

Cartoon Network’s Ben 10 features Ben who has a watch-like alien device called the Omnitrix that binds alien DNA to Ben’s DNA so that he’s able to morph into 10 different kinds of superheroes. Enjoy the video!

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DNA Ranks Number One!

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 27, 2007 in DNA Fun

The ever creative David Ng at The World’s Fair has started a new meme.

I’d like to suggest a meme, where the premise is that you will attempt to find 5 statements, which if you were to type into google (preferably google.com, but we’ll take the other country specific ones if need be), you’ll find that you are returned with your blog as the number one hit.

corndogsDavid says quotes are ok so I used them sparingly to come up these five funky DNA searches where Eye on DNA pops up number one on the results. Of course, your results may vary depending on the Google datacenter your search accesses.

  1. [Britney Spears DNA "corn dogs"] yields Get a DNA Sample from Almost Anything
  2. [Eye on Crazy DNA] yields Google Answers DNA: Having Children (Crazy indeed!)
  3. [top cool dna things] yields 5 Cool Things You Can Do With Your DNA
  4. [Email Francis Collins DNA] yields I Found Francis Collins!
  5. [DNA "has no health value"] yields Sodium Benzoate and Vitamin C in Soft Drinks Damage Mitochondrial DNA

Told you DNA’s fun. ;)

via ScienceRoll

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(2 comments)


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DNA Video: Microarray Method for Genetic Testing

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 27, 2007 in DNA Podcasts and Videos, DNA Testing

A very detailed video explanation of how genetic tests are performed using microarray.

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DNA Quote: Dr. Svante Paabo

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 26, 2007 in DNA Quotes and Excerpts

svante paaboDr. Svante Paabo, director of evolutionary genetics, Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, Germany, in the October 15, 2007 issue of Newsweek:

NEWSWEEK: You are trying to sequence the genome of a Neanderthal. Why?

PAABO: The genetic differences we find between humans and our closest relative—who happens to be extinct—will tell us how fully modern humans were able to spread over the world, develop technology, start producing art, and so on. By sequencing the genome we will be able to make a catalogue of all the genetic changes that happened in our ancestors after we separated from Neanderthals, and this will help scientists identify which genetic differences are unique to modern humans.

How could your findings benefit people down the road?

In the long run, aspects of what we do might become important medically. It may be that we can understand, for example, human speech and how language evolved. This could enable us to understand and eventually treat language problems more efficiently. That may also be true for things such as autism, and other diseases that seem to be specific to humans.

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Breaking DNA News: James Watson Resigns

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 25, 2007 in Personalities with DNA

james watson girls genesAbout an hour ago, USA Today published excerpts from an email Dr. James Watson sent directly to them announcing his resignation from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory:

This morning I have conveyed to the Trustees of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory my desire to retire immediately from my position as its Chancellor, as well as from my position on its Board, on which I have served for the past 43 years. Closer now to 80 than 79, the passing on of my remaining vestiges of leadership is more than overdue. The circumstances in which this transfer is occurring, however, are not those which I could ever have anticipated or desired.

This week’s events focus me ever more intensely on the moral values passed on to me by my father, whose Watson surname marks his long ago Scots-Irish Appalachian heritage; and by my mother, whose father, Lauchlin Mitchell, came from Glasgow and whose mother, Lizzie Gleason, had parents from Tipperary. To my great advantage, their lives were guided by a faith in reason; an honest application of its messages; and for social justice, especially the need for those on top to help care for the less fortunate. As an educator, I have always striven to see that the fruits of the American Dream are available to all. I have been much blessed.

More about the debacle:

Update: The full letter is available at GenomeWeb.

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Eye on DNA Headlines for 25 October 2007

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 25, 2007 in Eye on DNA Headlines

Photo: Radula (”tongue”) of a periwinkle, a marine snail-like gastropod from Wellcome Images under Creative Commons

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