STEM CELLS AND YOUR GENES

Stem cell research is always controversial until it hits home. What if Mom starts becoming symptomatic with Huntington’s Chorea and is positively diagnosed? Children have a 50% chance of inheriting this dominant autosomal genetic disorder. If our child is diagnosed with a disorder such as Tay Sachs or Cystic fibrosis, would we then consider any and all possible options? Research has opened new doors to management and treatment of genetic disorders.

The harvesting of stem cells from embryos has given way to the study of stem cells through other methods, such as adult stem cells. A Japanese scientist, Shinya Yamanaka, discovered how to turn back time on adult rat cells and convert them into the equivalent of embryonic stem cells. Stem cells are pluripotent, that is, they can be induced to become any cell in the human body. A series of TED talks on the future of stem cells is worth exploring.

     GENETICS OF HUNTINGTON’S CHOREA: Chromosome 4

2000px-Autosomal_Dominant_Pedigree_Chart2.svg

a04chr

 

GENETICS OF TAY SACHS AND CYSTIC FIBROSIS: Both parents must have the gene for the trait  (Tay Sachs, Chromosome 15; Cystic fibrosis, Chromosome 7)

6.1

a15chr a07chr

Dissecting Chromosomes with Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics is an integration of computer technology into the study of biological data, specifically with regards to genetics and genome. What traits and disorders are associated with each of our chromosomes? A great and authoritative source for bioinformatics is ncbi. The site is formidable at first glance, and I am grateful for the opportunity to attend a week-long workshop at UC Davis a few years ago. I  had a whole suite of dorm rooms to myself for the duration of the conference. And yes, the epitome of nerd-dom is enjoying five days of 8-5:00 PM computer time on a genetics database.

At the secondary level, high-school biology students can be cognizant of the new fields for undergraduate focus, such as bioinformatics and biotechnology. Additionally, genetics is a great “hook” to engage students in the application of science concepts to their real-life experiences.

The Pub-Med resource of this site is understandable to non-techies.

UC Davis Institute of Bioinformatics

IMG_0313IMG_0322

Downtown Davis

IMG_0332

IMG_0330

 

 

 

 

And….a little side excursion at  a local winery…

IMG_0375IMG_0366