Oldest Homo sapiens a “nothingburger”? Plus US health care policy approaches The End

0000-0002-8715-2896 Oldest Homo sapiens a “nothingburger”? Plus top journos blast secrecy on health care law   Posted June 16, 2017 by Tabitha M. Powledge in Uncategorized post-info AddThis Sharing Buttons above OLDEST HOMO SAPIENS? It’s

Six things we learned from that massive new study of intelligence genes

0000-0002-8715-2896 Six things we learned from that massive new study of intelligence genes   Posted May 26, 2017 by Tabitha M. Powledge in Uncategorized post-info AddThis Sharing Buttons above Genes help shape intelligence, period. That’s

Toward designer babies and creating (human?) genomes

0000-0002-8715-2896 Toward designer babies and creating (human?) genomes   Posted May 19, 2017 by Tabitha M. Powledge in Uncategorized post-info AddThis Sharing Buttons above NO SEX, NO PAIN: TOWARD LAB-GROWN DESIGNER BABIES It gives new

News about ancient humanity: Humans in California 130,000 years ago? Homo naledi find is much younger than expected

0000-0002-8715-2896 News about ancient humanity: Humans in California 130,000 years ago? Homo naledi find is much younger than expected   Posted May 5, 2017 by Tabitha M. Powledge in Uncategorized post-info AddThis Sharing Buttons above

Impossible

xkcd by Randall Munroe (CC BY-NC 2.5)

xkcd by Randall Munroe (CC BY-NC 2.5)

Turns out biology is hard because biology is hard.


Filed under: Curiosities of Nature Tagged: Biology, dna, evolution, Linkonomicon, randall munroe, xkcd

From 1988 to 2015 – how Jennifer Doudna shaped my career (and now science and society)

Well, yesterday was really fun.

In college, I switched from being an East Asian Studies major to being a Biology major in my sophomore year but had no idea what aspect of biology I might focus on.

Then I took a course that changed my life. The course was taught by a PhD student at Harvard and it was a kind of supervised reading class. The course was a full year class with weekly meetings to discuss various papers and news stories and such.  The topic was "The Origin of Life: Catalysis in Evolution" and it covered things like chemical evolution, catalytic RNA, the RNA world, introns, Lamarck vs. Darwin, and more.   The course syllabus is posted below:


 
This course changed my life in multiple ways.

First, in the course I learned how to critically read scientific papers. A very important skill. And also I got introduced to the world of catalytic RNA and also the world of "Cairnsian Mutation" which became the topic of my grad. school applications, my NSF predoctoral fellowship application, and the first two years of my PhD work. And I also got introduced to the work of Norm Pace.

This led me to seek out ways to combine my interest in ecology and evolution with molecular biology, which in turn led me to joining the lab of Colleen Cavanaugh and starting work on culture independent DNA studies of microbes.

Anyway, I could go on and on. But this course was transformative. Over the years I had heard about the student who had taught the course and her work, but had not actually seen her in person until yesterday.

The course instructor was Jennifer Doudna. And yesterday I got to see her talk about her work on CRIPSR and CAS9 systems. She has already won a large number of prizes for her work on this, and likely more to come. I cannot say I am surprised. Though I had many teachers at Harvard who were famous, and some of whom were also great teachers and researchers, I can say without a doubt that the one who impressed me most was Doudna. Her passion for science, for biology, for teaching, for being critical while reading articles, and for just wild things that organisms do, was contagious. So cool to see what she is doing now.

Anyway - I made a Storify of the Tweets (mostly mine) from her talk. Check them out below:

UPDATE - found my term paper from the class . posting it here.

Obamacare lives and Kennewick Man is a Native American

WHEW! The Affordable Care Act (aka ACA, aka Obamacare) subsidies to help people buy health insurance got saved by the US Supreme Court after all, with the somewhat unexpected help (unexpected by me, anyway) of Chief Justice John Roberts. Here’s … Continue reading »

The post Obamacare lives and Kennewick Man is a Native American appeared first on PLOS Blogs Network.

Why Do Healthy People Have Harmful Mutations?

“NIH researchers pilot predictive medicine by studying healthy people’s DNA,” read the headline of a news release yesterday. The news release, about intriguing new findings from the ClinSeq program at the National Human Genome Research Institute, states that researchers “sequenced the … Continue reading »

The post Why Do Healthy People Have Harmful Mutations? appeared first on PLOS Blogs Network.

Read: 23andMe or the Fallacy of ‘More Is Better’

A few months ago, a fellow skeptic told me he was considering personalized genetic testing and wondered what my opinion was on the service. The idea is that any consumer who desires can send a DNA sample to a company, like 23andMe, and get a report back on various genetic risk factors. Sounds like a good idea, but it is based on the fallacy that “more information is better for you” and, more specifically, that knowing about risks will alter your behaviour.

In a way, this direct-to-consumer service is trotting out that old American obsession with freedom: these are my genes, so I get to know. You can’t come between me and my biology.

The problems with personalized genetic testing are many: the communication of risk factors to a population that is statistically illiterate; the lack of subscription to quality control and assurance standards; and the revelation of risks that may not be clinically actionable and will only cause anxiety. Oh and, as mentioned before, the fact that knowing what you have to do rarely translates to action.

If you don’t believe me, go read Dr. Christopher Labos’ piece in the Gazette: it’s short, sweet, and well argued.

And then listen to us bicker as we tackle common medical misconceptions on The Body of Evidence.