There is a lot of genetics in the news. This site focuses on those stories that also have ethical, social, legal or political implications, or that we consider to be major new breakthroughs.
This site is maintained by Professor Lee Bardwell at the University of California at Irvine. He updates it when he has time. He welcomes suggestions. Any opinions expressed on this site are his personal opinions.
I also post some news to the “Quick Post” page.
See also here
Gene therapy and gene editing treatments for sickle cell disease have started, with some initial success
This is BIG NEWS. Also see
- Genetically Modified People are Walking Among Us,
- Why Are Scientists So Upset About the First CRISPR Babies?
Scientists used gene editing to attempt to put flavor back into commercial tomatoes.
His lawsuit raises complicated questions about how race is defined.
This article in Vox does a great job of explaining how the prize-winning techniques of directed evolution and phage display work. This work was very much about genetics: Recombinant DNA, mutation/mutagenesis, selection, and evolution. See also: New York Times article; Official Announcement on Nobel Prize website.
Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are used to understand traits (such as height and weight) and diseases (such as diabetes and schizophrenia) that are controlled by many many different genes. For instance, There are hundreds of locations in the genome that influence the risk of diabetes. (In genetics jargon, traits controlled by many different genes are called ‘polygenic traits’, and those that are also controlled by environmental factors are called ‘multifactorial traits’.)
If you are younger than 27, ask your doctor for the HPV vaccine.
Are gene edited ingredients already in your food? Scientists at a French pharmaceutical firm have developed a new strain of soybean by using CRISPR to turn off the genes responsible for the trans fats in soybean oil.
Ancestry, 23andMe and others say they will follow these rules when giving DNA data to businesses or police
Under the new guidelines, the companies said they would obtain consumers’ “separate express consent” before turning over their individual genetic information to businesses, insurers, etc. However, the companies’ adherence to these guidelines in voluntary.
More than a thousand genetic variants were found to contribute to how long people stayed in school, but the effect of each gene was weak. Environmental influences, which may include family wealth or parental education, together play a bigger role. See also here.
It could revolutionize everything from medicine to agriculture (and lead to designer babies). Better read up now.
Gene drives are engineered to pass a desired trait to all of a mouse’s (or a person’s) kids.
40 years ago, Louise Brown, the world’s first ‘test-tube baby’, was born. Since then, in vitro fertilization has enabled the birth of 6 million babies.
They said that changing the DNA of a human embryo could be “morally permissible” if it was in the future child’s interests and did not add to the kinds of inequalities that already divide society.
Genetic genealogy: The technology that found the Golden State Killer is being used to crack other cold cases
The unlikely crime-fighter cracking decades-old murders? A genealogist.
A new book explores the history and future of what we know—and think we know—about heredity
Unfortunately, there are many science deniers out there. Some don’t believe in global warming. Some don’t believe in Darwinian evolution. Some don’t believe that U.S. astronauts landed on the moon. Some even think the earth is flat!
DNA data collected by consumer genealogy companies (ancestry.com, 23andme, etc) has also become a weapon for police. But customers may not realize that they may be giving police keys to linking their relatives to evidence that could convict them.
Iceland’s attempt to eradicate Down Syndrome by prenatal screening is causing controversy.
23andMe will now tell you whether you have certain disease-causing variants of BRCA1 or BRCA2. But it does not test for all disease-causing variants (variants = alleles). In this opinion piece, the writer worries that consumers may misinterpret a negative result.
Although she believes that we must continue GMO research if we are to feed 20 billion people by 2050, she’s exhausted by the overwhelming negative response the topic evokes in so many people.
How discredited experts and fields of forensics (bite marks, etc.) keep sneaking into courtrooms. (By comparison, DNA testing is MUCH more reliable, although it too has its issues.)
As climate change threatens California’s giant redwoods, the key to their salvation might be in their complex genetic code.
Selected News 2017 and before
This article from 2016 tells the story of how gross incompetence at a DNA testing lab got an innocent young man sentenced to 25 years in prison, and how a UCI Law Professor helped get him freed.
This 2016 article is an amusing look at misconceptions about GM crops.
Some of the anticipated benefits (higher yields, fewer pesticides) may not be occurring (from 2016)
This article describes a 2015 paper from UCI’s Tony James, in collaboration with Ethan Bier and Valentino Gantz at UCSD. But gene drives are a bit scary: they are designed to rapidly spread through wild populations. See also “Mosquitoes engineered to pass down genes that would wipe out their species“.
From 2011, this article covers potential problems with DNA evidence, from ‘drop in’ and ‘drop out’ of bands to biased technicians.
The story of a future war hero who was sterilized at age 16 under Virginia’s horrific eugenics program, which sterilized 7,400 people accused of epilepsy, alcoholism, immorality, etc. between 1924 and 1979. The future hero’s “crime”: repeatedly running away from home to avoid beatings by his father. In all, more than 60,000 Americans were forcibly sterilized under laws passed in 30 U.S. states, including California.
This article from 2001 still tells a great story: the origin of the GM crop revolution in a Monsanto laboratory.
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Another website that you may find of interest.