According to Science Daily,Australian Scientists believe a gene called SRY plays a huge role in a Males response to stress. Dr Joohyung Lee explains that men tend to express the aggressive “fight or flight” response much more frequent than women in a stressful situation. The SRY gene is found on the Y chromosome and is understood to be vital in forming the testes for males. Recently SRY protein has been found in the brain “controlling movement via dopamine”. According to Medical News Today , Dopamine is conventionally understood as a product of a rewarding stimuli. Recently it has been discovered that aggression is processed as a reward in the brain; therefore, dopamine is produced. This may explain the presence of the SRY protein in the brain with dopamine activity. Science Daily also found SRY protein in the heart and lungs, which proves it serves a purpose further than sexual determination. Since the heart and lungs are involved in stressful situations this clearly indicates SRY could prime the organs to respond to stress in a different way to prepare for aggressive behavior. An increase in catecholamine and blood will enter the organs allowing a fight or flight response to take place. Females utilize oestrogen and opiates to remain calmer in stressful situations. It is amazing that the SRY gene originally believed to only form the testes plays such a role in a male’s aggression during a stressful event. I certainly believe other factors play a role in an individuals response to stress; however, it is pretty clear that the SRY gene has a major influence on a Male’s behavior.
An article on Science Daily discusses a study conducted by David Kaplan and other scientists. It explains that the idea of gene therapy has been studied for quite some time (over 1,500 trials since 1989). Although the idea of gene therapy is not new safety is the main concern. The idea of utilizing genetically altered viruses to treat patients has been studied; however, it has not been approved by the FDA. Kaplan and other scientists proposed the idea to utilize silk proteins from spiders to transport genes. The silk proteins were modified to attach to unhealthy cells and glow(same gene as fireflies have), in order to “pinpoint” where the gene is. An experiment involving modified silk protein took place with mice who had human breast cancer cells. According to Science Direct as well as News-Medical.net it appeared the spider silk injected its DNA into the cancerous cells and did not harm the mice at all. News-Medical states, “genetically-engineered spider-silk proteins represent a versatile, very highly tailorable and useful new platform polymer for non viral gene delivery”. The idea of treating cancer with silk extracted from spiders is mind blowing. The discoveries made by scientists in gene therapy is very impressive. Perhaps with more clinical studies Kaplan and other scientists will be able to convince the FDA that there are safe and effective.
New Scientist reported that switching off a certain gene could treat sickle cell disease. The disease creates
mutated blood cells which contain long sticky chains. The mutated cells could clog small vessels, cutting off oxygen to organs. The gene scientists are targeting is called BCL11A. The gene switches fetal haemoglobin to adult haemoglobin. Studies have been conducted to turn off the BCL11A gene in mice. By doing so this allows the mice to produce fetal blood cells with working hemoglobin molecules. Harvard Medical School conducted an experiment to switch of the BCL11A gene in mice with sickle cell disease. After doing so it was observed that the mice produced 20 times more fetal haemoglobins, the cells produced contained nearly zero sickle cells. Organs in the mice were virtually completely healthy. The article goes on to explain that the gene could be targeted in humans by redesigning the length of the patients RNA and injecting it into the blood stream. The drug hydroxyurea could also be taken to produce fetal haemoglobin. The problem with redesigning RNA is the expense. On the other hand hydroxyurea has been known to reduce white blood cells. Science Now reported identical results from the Harvard experiment. Science Now explains that more complications would arise if the gene was targeted in humans rather than mice. All in all more research has to be performed before targeting the BCL11A gene in human beings. Perhaps within the next few years scientists will have a better method to targeting the gene and individuals with sickle cell disease will be cured.
According to the website New Scientist, Lee Sweeney (University of Pennsylvania) has altered and intentionally injected a virus into rats . Sweeney was attempting to create a virus which would transport a gene named IGF-I. The gene is responsible for stimulating growth hormone, which triggers muscle growth. The rats hind leg muscles rapidly grew in size. Some of the rats were put on an intense exercise routine. In very little time the rats that had exercised intensely showed a 15-30% increase in strength. Sweeney also had a group of rats that were injected but did not follow an exercise routine, these rats still showed 15-20% increase in leg strength. The purpose of Sweeney’s experiment was to discover a cure for muscular dystrophy. Although the results seem promising, the genetic alterations are not ready to be used on humans. To Sweeney’s surprise half of the emails he received in reference to the experiment were from patients, the other half was from athletes. Unlike any other illegal enhancement drug, these injections would not show up in blood or urine. Although athletes may be able to get away with the injections without being caught there could be horrific side effects. Similar gene therapies in Europe for sickly patients have caused cases of leukemia. Sweeney also explains modifying the IGF-I for the sole purpose of athletic enhancement could actually cause muscles to become too big and actually destroy bones. Although this discovery is a big step towards a cure for muscular dystrophy, it is still in the beginning stages and further research needs to carried out. As far as athletic use, in my opinion it is too risky and the risks outweigh the benefits.
Researchers have determined that the 9p21 gene greatly increases an individual’s risk of having heart disease. According to Science Daily, individuals who unfortunately inherit this gene are not necessarily doomed. McGill University states a diet rich in fruits and vegetables substantially reduces the effects of the 9p21 gene. 27,000 individuals from European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab countries were observed. The individuals with the gene 9p21 who ate healthy had the equivalent risk to having a heart attack as an individual without the gene who ate an average diet. The NY Daily News reports the same findings as Science Daily. The NY Daily News reports that 20% of people carry the 9p21 gene; however, “Healthy eating can help fight genetic predisposition”. It is encouraging to realize that various heart diseases could be avoided despite poor genetics. In my opinion a healthy diet could greatly reduce the risk of various diseases despite inheriting “bad genes”. I encourage those of you with a poor diet to consider healthier alternatives.
The thought of genetically altering foods we eat is quite a controversial topic. Many are against the idea of genetically enhancing animals or plants we eat. According to the CNN article, “The good, the bad and the genetically engineered”, genetic modification could be beneficial to human health contrary to the common belief. The article explains that it is possible to make healthy foods even more healthy with genetic enhancement. For instance an orange could be programed to have nutrient levels equivalent to a multivitamin or tomatoes and broccoli could be injected with cancer fighting substances. The article also explains that the “good” in certain plants and animals could be crossed with another plant or animal to create new foods that were never seen before. The article also suggests the idea of altering genes in certain foods to enable anyone allergic to be able to consume the food. An article on Wired Science discusses the idea of ”clipping genes” in peanuts to reduce the risk of food accidents. Wired Science explains that it will be difficult to create a perfectly safe peanut; however, researchers have been trying to discover a way. Personally I never really liked the idea of genetically altering foods; however, my view point has been changed after reading the articles on CNN and Wired Science. The articles clearly presented positive usage of genetic modification in foods, proving genetic enhancement is not always a bad thing.
According to the article, “Happiness Is Mostly Genetic”, happiness is greatly influenced by inherited factors. Studies have proven that environmental factors have very little to do with an individual’s happiness. David Lykken conducted a study to measure how separated twins described personal contentment with their life. Approximately 60 percent of twins that were separated at birth described their lives as happy, despite living in different environments. Genes form personalities; therefore, the twins that describe themselves as happy were “genetically programed”. Science Daily reports similar findings with twins separated at birth. Science Daily’s article explains happiness is 50% inherited and 50% external factors. Those who inherit happiness have an “affective reserve” in times of distress. I always felt external factors played a larger role in happiness . The two studies that observed separated twins was quite convincing. It provided evidence that environment has little to do with happiness, and genetics seems to have a greater impact. After reading the two articles I agree that genetics has a great influence on personality and happiness.