Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gene Genie #22

This is the 22nd edition of Gene Genie and the second time it has been hosted on Sandwalk. The beautiful logo was created by Ricardo at My Biotech Life.

The purpose of this carnival is to highlight the genetics of one particular species, Homo sapiens. All of the accepted submissions concern humans. Quite often this means looking at how our genes influence our behavior and many of this week's submissions certainly fit that category.

Tali Shapiro at Helium - Where Knowledge Rules asks whether biology or environment have the stronger influence on gender identity. The posting discusses an usual, and ultimately tragic, case of gender switching [Size

Is love in your genes? That's the question Christian Bachmann of Med Journal Watch asks [Love is in the genes when it comes to style].

It's not only love that's in your genes. There's more and more evidence linking all sorts of altruistic behavior to certain genes. Razib posts on the main Gene Exprsssion website. The candidate gene in this case is AVPR1a a polymorphism tied to variation in altruism.

Over on Living the Scientific Life GrrlScientist took note of the fact that a personalized genetics company published a claim that Jim Watson's genome was 1/16th African [Ebony, Meet Irony]. This result has been questioned on other blogs. For example, John Hawks of john hawks weblog wonders if it's a good idea for a private company to engage in this sort of cheap shot [Will the Watson "gotcha" moment bring down public genomics?].

Were you breastfed? Are you smart? Did you know that there might be a correlation between being breastfed as an infant and your IQ as an adult? Caroline Wright of phgfoundation discusses a recent paper on this subject [Correlation between IQ and breastfeeding moderated by genetics].

The confusion about the relative influence of genes and environment has a semantic component. Coturnix at A Blog Around the Clock asks Has the word "gene" outlived its usefulness?.

Did you know that your response to social stress might be determined by a single nucleotide change in your BDNF gene? Check out what John Fossella has to say in rs6265 (A) is my bodyguard. John runs the blog Biomarker driven mental health 2.0, which is dedicated to supporting consumer-driven personalized medicine.

Meanhwhile, the interest in personalized genetic testing prompted a CBC television show about [The DNA Genealogy Scam], which I blogged about on Sandwalk]. Later on I wondered whether science bloggers shouldn't be more cautious about promoting private testing services [23andMe - More Hype from Genetic Testing Services].

George Church is also a bit skeptical about some aspects of personalized genomics [George Church on Personal Genomics]. The posting is on Epidemix.

Bertalan Meskó weighs in with an opinion on ScienceRoll [Personalized Genetics: Back to the Personal Genome Project ].

Maybe we should all be worried since You Can Now Buy a Genetic Test at Rite-Aid.

One of the problems with personalized genetic testing is that it might reveal something you don't want to know. Matt Mealiffe of DNA and You asks Who's your daddy?.

What if you learn that you have a pre-disposition to cancer, or something worse? Does the information from one of these genetic testing companies prompt life altering changes? PredictER Blog wonders whether people really take these tests seriously [To Blog or To Jog? Genetic Tests and "Life-Changing" Decisions].

DNA direct is a genetic testing and educational services company. It has a blog called DNA Direct Talk and they've submitted an article that addresses the competition between their company and the new companies that have just started up [Opinions on 23andMe, deCODEme, Navigenics: Personal Genomics Services]. The posting was written by Lisa E. Lee, director of content at DNA Direct,

If you are interested in submitting a DNA sample to one of these companies then Hsien-Hsien Lei (Eye on DNA) has some advice for you [How to Prepare Yourself for a Genetic Test].

Gene therapy is when patients with genetic problems are cured by inserting a good copy of the defective gene. There have been several successes, but also some failures. Shelley Batts discusses one of the failures, noting that Gene Therapy Patient Wasn't Killed By the Therapy. Shelley blogs at Retrospectacle.

Speaking of gene therapy, can anything be done about hereditary blindness? Ruth has the story on The Biotech Weblog. She reports on clinical trials that are currently underway [Gene therapy for Hereditary Blindness on Phase I Clinical Trials].

Over on Gene Expression Razib brings up the OAC2 gene, once again. The question is how much do alleles of this gene contribute to eye color and skin color? [OCA2, blue eyes and skin color].

The sickle cell allele of the &beta:-globin gene is another favorite that's been discussed many times in Gene Genie submissions. The latest contribution is by Yann Klimentidis over on Yann Klimentidis' Weblog. The question is when was the sickle cell allele introduced into East Africa? [The sickle cell gene's recent introgression into East Africa]

BRCA1 is another popular gene. Mutations in this gene have been linked to many cancers but the biochemistry hasn't been worked out in most cases. A posting on Genetics & Health looks at one of the latest studies [50% BRCA 1 genes have PTEN mutations]. Elaine Warburton posted the summary.

Steve Murphy has a rather graphic description of Toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN). This disease may be associated with alleles at the HLA locus and this raises questions about the results of genetic tests [Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis and Pharmacogenomics]. The article is on Gene Sherpas, another blog devoted to personalized genetics.

How many diseases can be cured by gene therapy? In order to answer that question you have to know how many genes we have. Most of you know that the number of known genes in our genome has been dropping steadily since the first drafts of the sequence were published. But do you know how far they've dropped? Keith Robison does and he's posted an article about it on OMICS! OMICS!. You might be surprised to hear what the latest number is [The Incredible Shrinking Human Genome].

Other heath-related articles look at the influence of infection and environment on human health. For example, asks What is MRSA? Symptoms and Prevention. I hope I won't be giving too much away if I reveal that MSA is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.

Some of us are interested in human evolution and that's fair game on Gene Genie. Greg Laden at Greg Laden's Blog discusses the results in a recent PLoS Genetics paper in Origin of Native America. These latest results suggest a single migration at some indeterminate date that's likely to be more than 10,000 years ago. You can bet this isn't the end of the controversy. Read Greg's summary and comments.

A recent paper in PNAS has stimulated a lot of blogging. Greg Laden submits his view of the peper at [Study Suggests Increased Rate of Human Adaptive Evolution]. My own submissions began with questions about the study at [Are Humans Evolving Faster?] and [Accelerated Human Evolution] and continued with more questions that provoked a discussion with the primary author of the study (John Hawks, see comments) [Is Evolution Linked to Environmental Change?]

The next edition of Gene Genie will be published at ScienceRoll. You can submit articles at Blog Carnival: Gene Genie.


  1. Actually, "success" or "failure"of the gene therapy human trial is yet to be determined. If anything, the fact that the patient's death was unrelated to the therapy should be considered a success.

  2. Loved this edition of Gene Genie. Great compilation Dr Moran! :)

  3. I find it hard to understand why so many people/bloggers are obsessed with personal genomics, including all the exaggerated claims that 'gene X determines if you will get condition Y' (when in reality gene X only has a very very moderate influence on the likelihood of Y).

    BTW, not all the blogs you link to have a decent scientific standard. Titles like "50% BRCA 1 genes have PTEN mutations" should make a scientist cringe, and this impression is reinforced when reading the whole posting and learning about the P13K (!) pathway.