On BioScience and Life and Such

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

How to have your cake, eat it, and then complain

In Uncategorized on September 20, 2009 at 3:26 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

WASHINGTON - JULY 09:  Giant panda Tai Shan ch...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

First: State that most of our genome is junk.

Second: When more and more promoters, enhancers, repressors and other regulatory elements are discovered, claim that this of course was not included in the definition of “most of the genome”. The perfect excuse because it means you’ll never be wrong.

Last: Complain when the press does not understand that “most of our DNA” actually meant “much of our DNA , but with a lot of exceptions” and that science reporters don’t intuitively know which exceptions these are.

Post written using the zpen in dire agony over extremely poor science communication from the same persons who most eagerly criticize science communication from others.

Paper in question added to junk DNA coffin post.

Update: response from Professor Laurence A.  Moran here.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Finally some serious genetic testing (post I)

In Uncategorized on September 18, 2009 at 12:49 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

The structure of Cholesterol
Image via Wikipedia

Despite some ridiculous legal obstacles in this country, we are finally able to set up some proper genetic tests. I need to update myself on these tests – and what better way than to do it while blogging about them at the same time.

We are setting up 8 tests in this first stage of expansion, which I plan to cover in 5-6 posts.

1. Familal Hypercholesterolemia. A disease leading to highly elevated levels of cholesterol and increased risk of heart disease (good review here). Rough numbers: heterozygosity 1:500, homozygosity 1:1000000. Multiple genetic variations (SNPs, insertions/deletions) in LDL-receptor gene. Preferred analytical method: sequencing or genotyping (real-time PCR) a selection of genetic variants.

Normal function of the hepatic low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor is obligate for normal levels of plasma LDL cholesterol. The LDL receptor regulates the concentration of plasma LDL cholesterol by internalizing apolipoprotein B-100- and apolipoprotein E-containing lipoproteins by receptor-mediated endocytosis. Mutations in the gene encoding the LDL receptor protein give rise to one of the most common classical autosomal dominant inherited disorders in man, familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). The estimated prevalence of heterozygous FH is 0.2% (1:500) in most populations of the world. – from here

In addition to LDL-receptor mutation analysis (which will take a little while to set up) we’ll be doing SNP-analysis for ApoB-100. One SNP-assay of R3500Q in the ApoB-100 gene.

Familial defective apolipoprotein B (FDB) caused by the R3500Q apolipoprotein B gene mutation may mimic FH but the clinical course, however, is often milder than that seen in patients with LDL receptor gene mutations. -from here

Tests to follow: Thrombophilia, Hemochromatosis, Lactose intolerance, Osteoporosis, Macular degeneration and Crohn’s Disease.

Enhanced by Zemanta

End of summer quote

In Uncategorized on September 13, 2009 at 8:51 pm
The cast of Watchmen; Clockwise from top: Doct...
Image via Wikipedia

From Watchmen (introduction to chapter VII / ending of chapter VI):

Is it possible, I wonder, to study a bird so closely, to observe and catalogue its perculiarities in such minute detail, that it becomes invisible? Is it possible that while fastidiously calibrating the span of its wings or the length of its tarsus, we somehow lose sight of its poetry? That in our pedestrian descriptions of a marbled or vermiculated plummage we forfeit a glimpse of living canvases, cascades of carefully toned browns and golds that would shame Kandinsky, misty explosions of color to rival Monet? I believe that we do. I believe that in approaching our subject with the sensibilities of statisticians and dissectionists, we distance ourselves increasingly from the marvelous and spell-binding planet of imagination whose gravity drew us to our studies in the first place.

This is not to say that we should cease to establish facts and to verify our information, but merely to suggest that unless those facts can be imbued with the flash of poetic insight then they remain dull gems; semi-precious stones scarcely worth the collecting.”

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

They say men haven’t evolved towards domestic use

In Uncategorized on September 10, 2009 at 2:11 pm

post to news.thinkgene.com

Male symbol. Created by Gustavb.

Image via Wikipedia

First off, I have to admit that my scientific knowledge is a bit sketchy on this one. Nevertheless – my impression is that there is a (scientific ?) consensus out there saying the following:

The nature of men is that of the restless promiscuous hunter. Evolution has provided pressure towards maximizing the spread of male genes through procreating with as many women as possible. This way the number of offspring one man can obtain is maximized. Apparently observations supporting this view are the vast amount of sperm cells produced in the male reproductive organs and the continuous (not cyclic) nature of this sperm-production. The logic is, I think, that the production of all these sperm cells would be futile if destined for only one woman with a cyclic reproduction cycle. So far so good.

Consequently, the masculine “nature” is continuously compromised in our modern monogamous lifestyle. Male infidelity is often excused using the arguments above. The same arguments also makes domestic life and caring for the family into a compromise with “natural” masculinity.

Still good ?

Even if making as many offspring as possible seems like a good strategy to pass on (male) genetic material, isn’t it possible that another strategy would work just as well.

You could argue that continuous sperm production is present to counter a single woman’s unpredictable cycle, – or compensate for miscarriages, – or compensate for children born by this woman dying young (not so rare in those older days). This make-one-woman-pregnant-many-times strategy could potentially lead to as many offspring, themselves reaching reproductive age, as the multiple partner strategy.

If you buy into that last argument, there is no reason why the selective pressure on men has been towards domestication and taking maximal care of his one-woman family. And, against inclination towards infidelity.

I’m so sorry for ruining our excuses here my fellow men, but the whole man-as-a-hunter-excuse has been bugging me for a long time. I find it hard to understand why such an idea has been elevated to universal truth. I believe a need for behavioral excuses has overridden scientific rigor on this one. Anyone who can convince me otherwise is more than welcome.

Enhanced by Zemanta