What Your 23andMe Results Mean for Your Health

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”

How Genetic Mutations Cause — And Prevent — Disease

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 Genetics of Bliss

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”

Improving the Soybean, One Gene at a Time

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”