Genes are responsible for a myriad of processes in the human body; even more so now in the relationship between contracting heart disease and having a brain aneurysm. Researchers at Yale University’s School of Medicine have found a gene that links the two deadly incidents together. Out of the 20,000 people surveyed, three variants of DNA were found to the link. Researchers stated that one of the variants was arbitrarily close to the endothelin receptor type A gene which involves the elastic properties of vessel tissues, as seen in many cardiovascular disorders and vessel spasms due to bleeding from brain aneurysms. Although unclear just yet, it is suggested that the link between cardiovascular disease and aneurysms has a lot to do with a vessel’s inability to repair itself from rupture or hemmorhage; thus, causing an aneurysm to possibly occur. However, researchers at Yale University’s School of Medicine look forward to conducting more research and developing different therapies to decrease a patient’s risk.
It is a well known fact that the carcinogenic properties of tobacco products can lead to lung cancer; however, genetic researchers are now suggesting a gene related to the tendency to smoke. Researchers at Icelandic deCODE say that portions of chromosome fifteen have certain SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms, that attract the nicotine molecule. The researchers conducted a study of 13,945 smokers from Iceland and concluded that all of the severe smokers had a base pair involving a T in this loci, a correlation between a gene and smoking. In addition it was also found that having a T was popular amongst those who had been diagnosed with lung cancer. Although a relationship was found between the T variation and the likelihood of smoking, the researchers stated that it is not a precise indication as to whether or not someone would begin to smoke. However, it is still interesting to see that there may be a connection between our genes and our susceptibility to become a heavy smoker and even develop lung cancer.
Research at Iowa University has made a remarkable improvement in the production of algal biomass through gene manipulation and expression. There are two genes reponsible for algae‘s capturing of carbon dioxide for photosynthesis called LCIA and LCIB. When algae is in a region of an abudance of carbon dioxide, the genes will shut down in order to accomodate. Now, researchers have forced this gene to express in the abudance of carbon dioxide and therefore are able to produce even more growth. In fact, the biomass has increased fifty to eighty percent, more than the expected ten percent, by this method and the researchers at Iowa University have suggested continuing this process and utilizing it as an alternative fuel source in the future. By utilizing the biomass, researchers state that the Energy Independence and Security Act requirement for replacing ten percent of our current petroleum usage could be met in an excess of ten percent by the year 2022.
In a recent article from the Science Codex entitled “Genetic study confirms: First dogs came from East Asia,” Swedish scientists have concluded that man’s best friend, the domesticated dog, did not originate from the century-believed Middle East but rather from East Asia. Evolutionary genetics researcher Dr. Peter Savolainen states that the Asian region south of the Yangtze River was the main location for the domestication of wolves by humans. Up until this point in genetics research, it was obscure and not an absolute where the exact location of the domestication of wolves began by humans, but after Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA analysis, the signs point clear to the region close to southern China and Southeast Asia. Though this has spurred much debate, the Swedish geneticists have hard evidence that the DNA found in the Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial analyses is found the most in this region and therefore have had to have had the most domestication.
In recent studies conducted by researchers at the University Children’s Hospital of Boston, 12,000 children were surveyed and the test concluded that there is a correlation between a person’s height and the number of deletions on certain chromosomes in the human genome. Up until today’s genetic research, geneticists are only aware of approximately ten percent of the genetic makeup responsible for determining a person’s height later in development. Recently, researchers have spent more and more time trying to find a link between a person’s height and their genetic makeup. After careful research such as the studies completed at the University Children’s Hospital of Boston, genetic abnormalities, coined copy number variants, are responsible for too little or too much DNA on certain chromosomes in the body. In shorter people, it was found that there was too little or even missing copies of height-determining DNA that could definitely contribute to the patient’s height. For example, in his article Collins states, “While everyone has at least some of these deletions in their genome, covering thousands of individual components of DNA, others have several million.”
Although this is a remarkable and reasonable accusation between a person’s lack of DNA and thus shorter stature, the conductor of the research at the University Children’s Hospital of Boston, Dr. Joel Hirschhorn, stated, “it showed a small but firm link between the amount of genetic material missing and a decrease in height.” Therefore, no definite link has been established, but it is definitely an interesting step in the direction towards explaining a person’s height.
In the Science section of MSNBC.com an article entitled, “Striving to breed a better pumpkin” sparked interest in lieu of the current season. According to the article released by the Associated Press, Mosanto scientists are searching for a way to genetically engineer the pumpkin to produce a sturdy peduncle, or stem, that would be ideal for the perfect carved decoration. Mosanto, a company credited for engineering soybeans and corn for particular production as well, recently purchased California-based Seminis, Incorporated in order to expand its horizons. One scientist in particular, Bill Johnson, is on the hunt for the perfect peduncle to complement the perfect jack-o’-lantern lid. Johnson’s search includes analyzing thousands of pumpkins and choosing only the ones who have a certain thickness to their flesh, an improved stem quality, or a richer color that will in theory yield the best pumpkin crops. Pumpkins can be found across the United States; however, the “Pumpkin Belt” as it is now called is the prime area for pumpkin harvesting and stretches from Illinois to New Hampshire and up to Ontario, Canada. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the harvesting of these gene-specific pumpkins yielded an average of 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkin in the year 2005 alone, estimating a profit of nearly one hundred and six million dollars!
So how do these companies produce the perfect peduncle? Breeding is conducted in California and Florida greenhouses and breed only the most perfect pumpkin crops together in order to attain the desired yield.
What if you knew in advance that you could possibly contract different forms of cancers, heart diseases, or diabetes? Would you be inclined to change your lifestyle and work towards preventing such conditions? More than likely the response would be yes. Such an innovation is now being made possible through whole-family genomic sequencing, in which a whole family’s gene sequences are mapped out and compared in order to assess who may be at risk for certain diseases in the future. In the September 16, 2011 article from US News HealthDay entitled, “Family of Four Has Their Genome Sequenced,” reporter Jenifer Goodwin discusses how executive geneticist John West and his family were sequenced after the two pulmonary embolisms West faced turned out to be consequences of the genetic mutation he possesses, the Factor V mutation. The test results compiled showed that out of his son and daughter, his daughter was at risk and possessed this mutation as well. In addition to not only the Factor V mutation, the family also discovered their increased risk for skin cancer as well as everyone, with the exception of the son, being at risk for esophageal inflammation. Such news spurred the family to take initiative and to become more aware of their lifestyle choices in order to prevent such things from happening. This remarkable innovation can now be used, and at an increasingly lower cost, to save more lives than one can think imaginable. Researchers believe that in the near future, genome sequencing will be so affordable that patients will be able to visit their doctors and hand them their own sequence; thus, allowing the doctor to develop lifestyle and habit needs on-the-spot and be able to prescribe different medications in order to prevent any diseases that patients may be predisposed to. I found this article, and these advancements, to be very relieving because there is a lot of history of diabetes in my family, and it would be beneficial to know whether or not I personally may be at risk and should see the disease as a threat. I feel like many people’s lives would be positively affected by these sequencings going mainstream and would improve the overall health and quality of life around the world.