Class blog for sharing and commenting on current events in biology.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Editing the Human Genome - Geiling

Abby Geiling              April 19, 2015
Biology 10H              Current Event

Wade, Nicholas. "Scientists Seek Ban on Method of Editing the Human Genome." The New York
Times. The New York Times, 19 Mar. 2015. Web. 19 Apr. 2015.

In the article I read called “Scientist Seek Ban on Method of Editing the Human Genome” by Nicholas Rade, they talked about the new discovery which allows scientist to modify human DNA. This process works when “Researchers simply prime the defence system with a guide sequence of their choice and it will destroy the DNA sequence in any genome presented to it.” There is controversy of whether this should be allowed at all or what limits they should put in order to prevent this discovery from getting out of of control. Biologist are worried that people will rush into modifying genomes because the procedure is very simple. This discovery is known as the genome editing approach it was invented by Jennifer A. Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier. Although this process allows us to enhance intelligence, beauty, and possible end genetic disorders many scientist are against it. Dr. Baltimore states, “We worry about people making changes without the knowledge of what those changes mean in terms of overall genome, I personally think we are just not smart enough - and won’t be for a very long time - to feel comfortable about the consequences of changing heredity, even in a single individual. Many scientist agree with Dr. Baltimore and think we should wait until regulations of what you can do and cannot do with genome editing are put in place.
Modifying DNA will greatly affect the society. Once limits are put in place with what can be done, people will think the idea of creating “a perfect child” is very interesting and will pay too have genome editing done are their children. The idea of being able to make a person smarter or more beautiful will draw people in and everyone will want to do it. Another huge way the genome editing will affect society is by possibly ending genetic diseases. Although the idea of creating a “perfect world” sounds entertaining it could potentially cause great damage on the human race which over time would be unstoppable once everyone is genetically modified. I agree with the scientist who want to set limits on what can be done with genome editing in order to ensure that the human race will not be ending by trying to cancel out any imperfections in a human being.

I found this article to be extremely interesting. It was very well written and the author organized his words very well. He made this discovery easy to understand for people who are not scientist and just want to learn about genome editing. I would of wanted him to talk about some of the test that had been done on the animals and for him to go into a little more detail on that topic. I felt that he said the same thing over again a few times in a different wording but other than that I did not see anything wrong with the article.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Project to Turn Corpses into Compost

Georgia Lazaroni
Current Event 1

A Project to Turn Corpses into Compost

With urban cemeteries filling up, and cremation costly to the environment due to its release of greenhouse gases, Katrina Spade has proposed a new method of dealing with dead bodies; human composting. She, and other scientists, firmly believe it is possible to make new life out of human bodies, and has already worked in the case of animal remains. With our body already rich with nutrients, it would only take heat (about 140 degrees or higher), some moisture and a little bit of nitrogen, and wood chips to completely compost the body. There would be no smell, and it would only cost $2,500 per body; much less than normal burial procedures. The process would take place in what Ms. Spade calls an Urban Death facility, centered around a three story vault called ‘the core’. Her idea is after the body is composted, loved ones can take the remains and plant a garden or a tree. In this way, the method would not only be environmentally rewarding, but spiritually as well. Spade sees it helping those in the grieving process as connecting death to the cycle of nature; or a life after death. Although this process it certainly more natural than the American popularized cremation, it still faces of a lot of critique form prohibition by state law, to the ‘sickening’ nature of it. As for now, it is just an experiment, with much consideration needed from the medical and health community before human composting can be a reality.
This article is interesting in that it highlights a more environmentally sound method to the norm; burial and cremation. It addresses the issue of urban cemeteries filling up and the downfalls of cremation, which many of us may not have been aware of. In this day and age, it is important to explore new options for common place procedures and how we can improve them for the future. Everybody dies, so if we could ‘recycle’ the body, it would certainly benefit the Earth in the long run.
Overall, I felt this article did an excellent job contrasting the pros and cons of human decomposition. I didn’t feel it was bias in anyway, and expressed why or why not this process will become popular. One thing I did not find clear was the point where they described the process of decomposition, but later said the practice bodies were a cool 50 degrees, and nothing had changed in the bodies. The way the process was described was it would require at least 140 degrees for the bodies to decompose. Besides this one connection I missed, I felt the article was thoroughly interesting and descriptive.

Einhorn, Catrin. "A Project to Turn Corpses Into Compost." The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Apr. 2015. Web. 14 Apr. 2015.

Natural Selection May Help Account for Dutch Height Advantage

Katie Canty
Bio Current Events

Natural Selection May Help Account for Dutch Height Advantage

Dr. Gert Stulp is a Dutch scientist who stands at 6’7” and studies why his fellow Dutch are so tall. The average Dutch stood at 5’5” in 1860, present day the Dutch are the tallest people in the world with the average man over 6’. Dr. Stulp is studying to find out why humans are taller than in the past and why the Dutch have grown so quickly. He thinks he may have found an answer in evolution. Dr. Stulp and his colleagues conducted a study to learn more about height and genes. What him and his colleagues found was that on average been above the average height had more children and women around the average height had more children then below or above average height women. Scientists don't feel like they have enough information to say evolution is the cause for this but they believe that evolution can explain this.
This article is relevant to biology today because it deals with evolution and DNA. In this article the author, Carl Zimmer, talks about how because of the speed the Dutch have grown in the past years, evolution can be proved. He also mentioned that being taller may be a dominant gene. This is important because it explains why the human race is getting taller. This study is very impressive because it could be a current example of evolution.
I think that this article gave a lot of interesting information and told the reader everything that they would want to know about the study. The article also connected this research to other areas, such as Massachusetts. I think the only thing I would want to know more about is if the group of scientists planned on doing another study to learn more about this topic but besides that I thought that the article was very thorough.

Zimmer, Carl. "Natural Selection May Help Account for Dutch Height Advantage." The New York Times. The New York Times, 8 Apr. 2015. Web. 9 Apr. 2015.  

Monday, April 13, 2015

Grace Stephens
In our cells, we all have something called mitochondrial DNA. In humans, mitochondrial DNA can be assessed as the smallest chromosome coding for 37 genes and containing approximately 16,600 base pairs. But researchers are starting to discover that we might contain the same mitochondrial DNA that chimpanzees do. If human nuclear variability has increased relative to that of the chimpanzee (which is the case), human mitochondrial variability should have increased (relative to the chimpanzee) at least as much, if not more. The actual observation, however, is that chimpanzees have “three to ten times” the mitochondrial variability of humans. If a female chimpanzee mated with a male that was not a chimpanzee, the hybrid offspring would have exactly the same mtDNA as the mother chimpanzee, but different, hybrid nuclear DNA derived from the father’s side of the family.
I decided to write my article about this current event because currently in bio we are studying DNA and cells. In the cell, mitochondria are responsible for taking nutrients and breaking it down into energy. It also contains DNA. I found this article really interesting to think that we have the same make up as chimpanzees.

"MtDNA: Human-chimpanzee Implications." MtDNA: Human-chimpanzee Implications. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Gene-Altered Apples and Potatoes Are Safe, F.D.A. Says

Current Event (3rd Quarter)                                                                            3/21/15

Biology/ Mrs. McClellan (C Odd)                                                                 Natascha Puri

Pollack, Andrew. "Gene-Altered Apples and Potatoes Are Safe, F.D.A.
            Says."The New York Times. The New York Times, 20 Mar. 2015. Web. 21
            Mar. 2015. <

 On Friday March 19th 2015, the Food and Drug Administration claimed that genetically modified apples and potatoes were as nutritious as their “conventional counterparts,” provided that they weren’t bruised or brown. The ‘Okanagan Specialty Fruits’ have developed the ‘Artic Apples’ that do not become bruised so easily when cut, which allows the wastage of fruits to decrease and the fruit will become more appealing to people. The ‘J. R. Simplot Company’ has developed the ‘Innate Potatoes’ which don’t become bruised, leading to less chemical alterations and decreasing the risk of cancer causing chemicals which are made when frying potatoes. The reason why the FDA has paid attention to potatoes and apples is because these foods are mostly spoken about amongst people and chefs. The FDA’s usually don’t make reviews and realizations about genetically modified crops mostly because many health scientists tend to criticize the reports, however, the FDA claims that their evaluations were extremely thorough. The FDA is now considering whether or not to clearly label to the customers that these crops have been genetically modified.

This article is definitely very important to society because genetically modified crops are becoming a very dangerous and important issue. Many people are moving to organic foods because of the different health issues genetically modified crops are causing to humans. This article is extremely interesting because it is very rare to hear that two genetically modified foods are actually safe and nutritious.

The author did a very good job in describing this new discovery, however, I did think that the author should have provided some more statistics to enforce the idea of the two foods are safe to eat. Some sort of scientific experiment should’ve been included. Also, the author should have added some comments from food scientists to get their opinion and their ideas about this discovery, which would give the reader other information about this discovery. Overall, I think that this article was very interesting and informative.

Bio Current Event- Cone Snaisl

Grayson Elder
Bio Current Event

Tripp, Emily. "Cone Snails Develope Different Venom for Different Prey." Marinescienetoday.
N.p., 30 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.    
"Predatory Snails Evolved Diverse Venoms to Subdue a Wide Range of Prey Species | University
of Michigan News." Predatory Snails Evolved Diverse Venoms to Subdue a Wide Range
of Prey Species | University of Michigan News. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

In the article the cone snail and its venom is described. Cone snails are one of the most deadly animals in the ocean. They use their “harpoon like teeth” to inject venom into their prey. Allowing this venom to target specific prey is the genes that are very fast evolving. “The fasting evolving genes in the animal kingdom.” A researcher found that in cone snail venom, the variety of neurotoxins, varies by location. Where there is more prey for the cone snail, the more “diverse” the venom is. The diverse amount of venom allows the cone snails to attack a wider range of species.
The discovery, all though not having much impact on our world as humans, has a big impact on the animal world. Scientists are also gaining from this discovery, allowing them to learn more about these animals and what they are capable of. For example, scientists have learned that, “prey diversity affects the evolution of predation genes.” It has an impact on the animal world as well. For example, this article explains just how dangerous cone snails are to their pray. Being able to diversitize their venom, according to where they are, and how many types of prey there are. Although the impact is so little on us, it is a big find for marine biologists.
    I felt that in this article, they could have explained more on how they came across the fact that cone snails venom can be diverse according to where they are. The article also lacked some much needed evidence and facts. But, at the end of the article was another article that extended to this, which was very information, and well written. I used that article with this article to further my knowledge on this new finding.