Science has had a complicated history with the word “race.” In the 19th century, Dr. Samuel Morton believed humans could be divided into five races following a specific hierarchy of intelligence. He assumed he could measure their intelligence based on measurements of their skull capacity, which is a line of thought now seen as the origin of scientific racism.Continue reading “There is No Biological Meaning for ‘Race’”
Conservationists. Nobel Peace Prize winners. College professors. All these roles have a distinctive honorable, humanistic atmosphere around them. When you consider this group, you probably don’t think of “racial purists.” But the truth is, many who held these titles were also supporters of the American Eugenics movement, a social and political movement that focused on advancing the human race through selective reproduction.Continue reading “The History of the American Eugenics Movement”
Walk down the health care aisles of your local Target (or Walgreens, Walmart, CVS Pharmacy, or Best Buy) and look through the shelves. You might come across a small white glossy box. It’ll have some rainbow-colored stripes at the bottom, a beckoning message written on the center, and a logo on the top corner: 23andMe.Continue reading “A Look Behind the Scenes of Your DNA Testing Kit”
Our genes control everything from our height and hair color to our chances of developing cancer, heart disease and any number of other conditions. Sometimes it can seem like our genes rule our lives, but what if we could turn the tables and edit our own genes?Continue reading “CRISPR-Cas9: How to Hack Your Genes”
Which dog breed is the strongest and healthiest of them all? Is it the Border Collie, with its elegant coat and affectionate personality? Or is it the English Bulldog with its burly frame and gentle disposition?Continue reading “The Dangers of Dog Breeding”
Last year, the genetic testing company 23andMe announced they will start testing for mutations in the BRCA genes, the ones that predict whether a woman will develop breast cancer, with surprising accuracy. A year prior, the FDA approved 23andMe genetic tests for other complex conditions such as Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and Celiac disease. Continue reading “What Your 23andMe Results Mean for Your Health”
Stephen Crohn, an artist from New York, lost a lot to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s. For more than a decade, he watched his boyfriend, Jerry Green, as well as nearly all of his friends slowly grow sicker and perish from this mysterious illness. His passion for his art dried up, and survivors’ guilt consumed him.
But the one thing he didn’t lose during this scourge was his own life. The reason he survived was not luck, however. Rather, he made it through because he carried a rare genetic mutation that made him virtually immune to HIV. Continue reading “How Genetic Mutations Cause — And Prevent — Disease”
The phrase “nature vs. nurture” calls to mind the idea that the traits that make us who we are, such as our strength, weight, and personality, result from a complex combination of genetic factors and life experiences. This combination is so, well, complicated that scientists still haven’t entirely figured out where genetics ends and environmental contributions take over in the way our traits develop. After all, our genetics and life experiences are constantly influencing one another throughout our lifetime.
Continue reading “The Genetics of Bliss”
Imagine a young family taking a stroll along a sun-speckled forest path. They take their time, admiring the scenery and taking in the fresh air. Continue reading “If You Go Down to the Woods Today: Conservation Genetics in a Nutshell”
If man with a diabetic grandfather and a woman with a family history of cancer decide that they want to have a child, but they are unsure of whether their families’ health problems may reappear in their children, where can they turn to get answers? A genetic counselor. What is genetic counseling, you ask?
Continue reading “Decoding Your Genetic History”
Illinois is the United States’ top soybean-producing state. In 2014, Illinois farmers produced about 550,000 bushels of soybeans over almost 10 million acres – a swath of land almost the size of Switzerland! But, with a global health crisis, a growing population, and a changing climate threatening our land, our state’s soybean crops are under threat. Fortunately, the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in partnership with several universities, is trying to find ways to increase the strength, nutritional value, and viability of our most valuable crops, including soybeans, so that they continue to prosper well into the future. Continue reading “Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time”