The concept of genetics has always been of interest to me, especially the passing down of traits and alleles to future generations. Something that is really interesting is the genetic traits passed down that ideally predict the height of the offspring. However, one could have very short parents but a very tall offspring, and one could have very tall parents but a short offspring . For example, both my parents stand at 5 feet 5 inches tall, however I stand at 6 feet 4 inches tall. However, I have a friend whose parents are much taller than mine, but my friend is much shorter than I am. Another concept that is intriguing to me is human DNA, and what effects it can have on future generations. I was wondering if human DNA could play a role in the probability of testing positive for a current global pandemic: COVID-19. Past inheritance of DNA from ancestors or parents could affect this likelihood for future generations. I stumbled upon a very interesting article regarding a particular gene which could increase the chance of obtaining the virus. These specific genes and DNA come from neanderthals from thousands of years ago.
Toucan Play That Game
There was a show I watched when I was younger called Gravity Falls. It was about two siblings who were in a mystical town and their magical adventures there. In one of the episodes, the main character put himself on a copy machine and printed 10 copies of himself! They all came to life, perfectly healthy, and looked exactly like him (then again, it was a kid’s show). Of course, it’s more complicated than that. It was when I grew up, that I realized that this was possible, despite the complications they’ve had.
If you don’t know yet, cloning has been successful. A goat named Yang Yang was one of the first goats to be cloned and able to live. He lived to be up to 16 years old! It’s crazy, I know. So, before I get into successfully cloned animals, people, plants, etc., there should be some background information.
About 3.5% of all the births globally result in twins, and this includes two of my friends being born exactly today, February 19, who both do not wish their names to be mentioned (but I can hint that they both belong to the AP Biology classes this year). To celebrate their births and the sushi dinner they are about to throw this Friday night, I have decided to write a blog post about twins and how they are formed.
What is DNA? We hear about DNA all the time but what really is it? DNA is the hereditary material in organisms. It is very important because it contains the instructions to make the proteins and molecules essential for growth, reproduction, and health. Each segment of DNA codes for something new and different. What if there is a segment that needs to be edited because it is damaged and it causes complications? This is when the new technological advancement of CRISPR comes into play. CRISPR also known as CRISPR Cas9 is used to edit genomes in DNA. It allows scientists to edit and modify certain parts of the gene to help cure genetic diseases. The Cas9 protein is an enzyme that cuts DNA strands and acts as scissors for DNA. Here is a short video overview and summary of what CRISPR can do. Using CRISPR Cas9, we can modify genes to help cancer and help cure other diseases. Let’s look at some of the possibilities with CRISPR.
Hearing loss has been something that has been in the back of my mind since I was five-years-old, when I was first diagnosed with it. I knew that sooner rather than later I would have to wear hearing aids, and ended up getting my first pair when I was sixteen-years-old. Our most recent unit about genetics made me wonder about the genetics of hearing loss, knowing that it runs in my family.
Ring-tailed lemurs hugging each other with their tails.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
Do you know the remedy for a love that lasts a lifetime? Some might say that lemurs and voles have the answer. Both of these species mate for life unlike many animals, making them great candidates to research in order to find the answer scientists continue to look for. Once a lemur finds a spouse, they spend almost all of their time together, cleaning each other with their tails wrapped around their lover. What causes this attraction?
Everyone remembers March 11th, 2020, as the day the world shutdown. Professional and collegiate sports canceled, flights and travel banned, the economy tanking, rumors of lockdowns, quarantines, and online school force school boards and government officials to make tough decisions instantaneously to prevent the spread, the spread of “severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)”, also, more commonly known as Covid-19. Words and phrases like “6 feet apart”,“high-risk”, “social distancing”,“asymptomatic”, “flatten the curve”, “stimulus checks”, “covid testing”, “contact tracing and exposure” and “wear a mask” became part of our vocabulary. Today, the death toll rises to 2.41 million people worldwide and almost 500,000 American deaths. After approximately 109 million cases world wide, the percentage of dying due to Covid-19 is 3%. While this number is still too high, and I feel sympathetic for all those impacted due to Covid-19, those numbers had me curious as to what makes a person more at risk than another. Through lots of scientific research and study, biologists and geneticists have determined that there are direct linkages to genetics and the inherited risks of Covid-19, like pre-existing conditions that a person may already deal with, increasing disease progression and spread in the body, and genetic variants are identified to significantly increase risk of COVID-19 mortality among the patients.
Caffeine comes in many different forms, though normally we tend to get our fix through coffee, tea, energy drinks, and more. Millions of people across the world and in various situations depend on caffeine to give them an energy boost or help them get through the day after a sleepless night. Obviously, the widespread consumption of caffeine has brought to light many of its perks while simultaneously exposing the harmful effects of the drug.
While global warming is not a new concept, the effects of it, however, are still being discovered. All sorts of people, places and creatures are affected by it, some more than others. A major area of the world that is affected is the oceans and the animals that live in them. While the full extent of the damage caused to the oceans is not fully understood, there is a general understanding of some potential changes and just how deeply they may affect marine life.
Image from Wikimedia Commons
One of the most vital substances to an organism is its genome in its DNA, which is often prone to mutations which can be harmless or have a devastating effect on the organism. An article detailing some of the findings made by a group of researchers at Penn State entitled “Unusual DNA folding increases the rates of mutations” explores the effects of the shape of strands of DNA on organisms in terms of evolution, mutations, and advancements in the medical community. A normal strand of DNA is configured in the shape of a double helix, which is referred to as “B-DNA”. When a portion of DNA is in a shape other than the double helix, or “non-B-DNA”, the team found that it has a much higher rate of genetic mutations occurring during DNA synthesis. In order to prove their hypothesis, the research team compared the genomes of many different humans, where they looked for mutations of singular nucleotides in the genetic sequences. Using statistical analysis techniques, similar to the chi-squared equation, the team of researchers was able to determine that the significantly higher rate of mutation in non-B-DNA strands was caused by something more than chance, likely the shape in which the DNA was configured. Because these strands have such a high rate of mutation, they are significant contributors to genetic variation. Should these mutations be helpful for the organism, they are more likely to be passed onto offspring through reproduction. This phenomenon is essential for aiding the process of evolution. The finding made by Penn State will be useful in the medical field as well, as humans with significant amounts of non-B-DNA are more likely to develop genetic disorders caused by the mutations more often produced in non-B-DNA strands.