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

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Connor Barrett
AP Bio
Current Event

Davenport, Coral. "Trump Signs Executive Order Unwinding Obama Climate Policies." The New York Times. The New York Times, 28 Mar. 2017. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

President Trump recently signed an executive order that rolled back Obama’s climate change legacy. He hopes to restore energy independence and gain back lost coal jobs. Experts claim that if the Trump order is carried through it will be almost impossible for the country to meet the requirements it agreed to under the 2015 Paris Agreement. The goal is to decrease dependence on foreign oil and bring back coal jobs. The issue is that many of the mines that are reopening are going to be highly mechanized and not all of the original jobs will return. Trump has ordered a recalculation of the social cost of carbon in an effort to increase the amount of carbon dioxide that can be released and still be economically beneficial for the country. Trump’s executive order is going to worsen climate change and affect the course of the world and the country.
This paragraph is extremely relevant as climate change affects everyone and the decision to combat it is an important one. By choosing to reverse Obama’s progress in fighting climate change Trump has endangered the future of the world and the country. It is important that scientific research regarding climate change is continued and the important facts about what needs to be done in order to prevent climate disasters are expressed to the right people.

The article did a good job of explaining the provisions of Trump’s executive order and how it affects the changes Obama made to American climate policy. The article could have been written in a way that was a little less dry and more interesting however. Overall it was interesting and informative and explained some very important information.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Connor Barrett
AP Bio
Current Event

Harmon, Amy. "Human Gene Editing Receives Science Panel's Support." The New York Times.
The New York Times, 14 Feb. 2017. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.

The National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine recently approved support for modifications to human embryos to create genetic traits that can be passed down to future generations. This area of research has previously been thought of as an ethical disaster because it opens the door for genetic variations that could increase intelligence or allow for specialization of some humans. The group said that they support alterations if it prevents serious disease and disability and if there is no other treatment options. This could allow for people to have biological children without the fear of passing on diseases such as Huntington’s, Tay-Sachs, etc. The change in opinion has come from developments in the techniques and tools scientists have in examining and decoding the human genome in the last few years. This still raises many ethical questions and many assume that if any form of genetic alteration is allowed, eventually anything will be fair game.
The information that this article explains is critical for the future of medicine and science as the public, scientists, and lawmakers will have to debate what should be done about this topic sooner than later. If genetic alterations are allowed then society may be changed dramatically because it is more than likely that alterations will be expensive. This means that alterations that give people significant genetic advantages may only be accessible to the super rich. I believe that any genetic alterations should be made illegal immediately as to prevent future ethical complications.
Amy Harmon did a very good job of explaining this topic. She used just the right amount of detail and scientific jargon so that the information could be conveyed properly and understood easily. I would have like it if she had spent more time discussing the exact technological advancements that this field has seen in the past few years.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Connor Barrett
AP Bio
Current Event

Angier, Natalie. "A Family’s Shared Defect Sheds Light on the Human Genome." New
York Times. Web.

I decided to read Natalie Angier’s "A Family’s Shared Defect Sheds Light on the Human Genome." which was published in the New York Times. The article describes the interesting insight into genetics that a family history of syndactyly provided to doctors and scientists. Syndactyly is a congenital deformity in which the thumb and forefinger are fused together on either one or both hands. The deformity has been extremely prevalent in one family, which the article is based on, with ten members of the extended family all having the defect. The family has agreed to be part of a study, under the promise of anonymity, to look into the cause and possible prevention methods of limb malformations. These types of mutations affect a newly discovered feature of DNA called topologically associated domains, or TADs. Scientists have discovered that the human genome is divvied up into regions, these TADs, and when the TAD divisions are broken the genome becomes confused and mistakes like syndactyly occur. By dividing chromatin, labeling it, and then allowing it to reassemble, researchers have discovered that there are over 2,000 of these TADs and they serve as the folding boundaries for DNA. The TADs also keep genes and regulatory proteins focused in their own neighborhood and separate from others. The TAD boundaries appear to be made up of Nucleic sequences that attract circular proteins called cohesin and CTCF. Scientist’s understanding of TADs are just one more step towards complete understanding of the human genome, a far away goal but one that is coming closer and closer.
The research that this article discusses is extremely relevant to everyone, because it pertains to the human genome. Research into DNA and the way it operates can be very beneficial to people who suffer from genetic diseases. The discovery of TADs and the understanding of the way the work bring us closer to understanding all of the causes of health issues like cancer and congenital diseases. The more we understand about the way TADs work the better doctors and scientists can treat issues that arise with them. Treating ailments at the genetic level is the next step of medicine and small steps like the discovery of TADs contribute greatly.

I found the article to be very well written. The use of the family’s genetic issues as an example as well as the description of many studies and biological phenomenon were helpful and informative. The language was extremely descriptive but not difficult to understand and the many metaphors and similes worked well to clarify exactly what the author and scientists were saying. One thing I wished the author had done is tie the story of the family back in to the end of the article to better wrap up the article. Overall it was well written and I learned something very interesting and helpful.