Making Sense of the Human Genome

“In the decade since the Human Genome Project wrapped up, scientists have had a surprising amount of difficulty transforming genetic knowledge into medical treatments.”

Article written by guest writer Rin Mitchell


What’s the Latest Development?

Humans have a gene within their chromosome 10 that can either repair or flaw basic cell processes. The gene called ercc6 plays a very important role, and in the instance of causing a disruptionmental and physical issues will plague a person. Yet, somehow people can avoid experiencing the effects of such a “destruction” to their genetic make up when ercc6 goes awry. For example James Watson, who co-discovered the double helix structure of DNA and was the first head of the Human Genome Project. Based on Watson’s DNA sequenceas reported in 2008, he should have been “blind, deaf, photophobic, prematurely decrepit, and possibly mentally retarded.” Apparently, he had two copies of the ercc6 gene that reportedly should have given Watson Cockaynebut it didn't. “Scientists call this state incomplete penetrance, and they often have no idea how people escape. As a result, predicting who will and won’t get a disease becomes more or less impossible.” The inability to trace diseases back to a person’s DNA and DNA back to diseases “has serious “consequences.” So, what are scientists doing to find ways to make these connections? 

What’s the Big Idea? 

Rare genes can cause serious illnesses in people, and “when a gene works in tandem with dozens of other genes to carry out some multistep process, and so a flaw in any one gene could crash the whole system.” However, it is possible that people can escape certain illnesses altogether. The first head of the Human Genome Project was that of James Watson, who according to scientists, should have contracted Cockaynebecause he carried two copies of the ercc6 gene. One of the reasons scientists have come up with is that some people just get lucky. Reportedly, scientists are looking into the sneeze reflex and PSR as a couple of approaches to make headway into the DNA of “thousands of average Joes and Josephines at once."

How to vaccinate the world’s most vulnerable? Build global partnerships.

Pfizer's partnerships strengthen their ability to deliver vaccines in developing countries.

Susan Silbermann, Global President of Pfizer Vaccines, looks on as a health care worker administers a vaccine in Rwanda. Photo: Courtesy of Pfizer.
  • Community healthcare workers face many challenges in their work, including often traveling far distances to see their clients
  • Pfizer is helping to drive the UN's sustainable development goals through partnerships.
  • Pfizer partnered with AMP and the World Health Organization to develop a training program for healthcare workers.
Keep reading Show less
Sponsored

Why does turkey make you sleepy?

Is everyone's favorite Thanksgiving centerpiece really to blame for the post-dinner doldrums?

(Photo from Flickr)
Surprising Science
  • Americans kill around 45 million turkeys every year in preparation for the Thanksgiving meal, only to blame our favorite centerpiece for the following food comas.
  • Rumor has it our after-dinner sleepiness results from the tryptophan found in turkey.
  • However, it is the meal's overall nutritional imbalance, not just the tryptophan, that make us want to leave the dishes for tomorrow. Or maybe the next day.
Keep reading Show less

How to split the USA into two countries: Red and Blue

Progressive America would be half as big, but twice as populated as its conservative twin.

Image: Dicken Schrader
Strange Maps
  • America's two political tribes have consolidated into 'red' and 'blue' nations, with seemingly irreconcilable differences.
  • Perhaps the best way to stop the infighting is to go for a divorce and give the two nations a country each
  • Based on the UN's partition plan for Israel/Palestine, this proposal provides territorial contiguity and sea access to both 'red' and 'blue' America
Keep reading Show less

Why Henry David Thoreau was drawn to yoga

The famed author headed to the pond thanks to Indian philosophy.

Image: Public Domain / Shutterstock / Big Think
Personal Growth
  • The famed author was heavily influenced by Indian literature, informing his decision to self-exile on Walden Pond.
  • He was introduced to these texts by his good friend's father, William Emerson.
  • Yoga philosophy was in America a century before any physical practices were introduced.
Keep reading Show less