Genetics

Mike the Mad Biologist

Category archives for Genetics

And by hot, I mean employable. I’ll get to that in a bit, but I first want to relate some history. Back when I was a wee lil’ Mad Biologist, and molecular population genetics was in its infancy, there was a brief period where people had to be convinced that this stuff was useful (it…

One of the mysteries of genome-wide association studies (“GWAS”) is the problem of ‘missing heritability’: quantitative genetics indicates that a trait (e.g., height, heart disease) has a significant genetic component, but the genetic variation we can link to that trait only explains a small amount of the suggested heritability. Christophe Lambert describes why he thinks…

…or maybe they’re just really unlucky. By way of ScienceBlogling Josh, we come across this Research 2000 poll of attitudes about astronomy. People were asked: Most astronomers believe the universe formed about 13.7 billion years ago in a massive event called the Big Bang. Do you think that’s about right or do think the universe…

I came across this excellent article by Jerry Coyne, which is part book review, part defense of natural selection. I recommend it highly. But, in reading the article, I wondered why people are so threatened by natural selection. Because that’s not the philosophically challenging part. Unless you’re a biblical ‘literalist’, the idea of a creator…

Cryptic Escherichia Lurk Among Us!

When I’m not fighting the forces of evil or calling idiots who desperately need my help fucking morons, I’m doing various genomics-related things. One of the things I’m involved with is a project to sequence a bunch of commensal (not associated with disease) E. coli. When most people think of the genus Escherichia, they think…

A while ago, I described how previous decisions allowing the patenting of human genes–and thereby making cheap, affordable diagnostics impossible–flew in the face of the goal of federally-funded research. There’s no reason to patent something and charge thousands of dollars for something a high school student could do (PCR and sequencing). From The NY Times…

As someone who is Jewish, and thus at an elevated risk for Tay-Sachs disease, a degenerative disease that inevitably kills small children, and does so miserably, I appreciate the need for genetic screening. So, while it’s not perfect, I think companies like Counsyl that are selling screening for harmful genetic diseases are providing a useful…

What Is the Heritability of Being an A–hole?

I’ve finished reading Richard Nisbett’s Intelligence and How to Get It: Why Schools and Cultures Count, which is a wonderful counterargument to Charles Murray’s (and others’) genetic conservatism (my phrase, not Nisbett’s): intelligence, typically ascertain using IQ, is highly heritable, so there’s little point in spending excessively (whatever that means) on educating most people, since…

Heritability: I do not think it means what you think it means. There’s been a spate of posts about obesity, started by a post by Megan McArdle. In these posts, a high heritability for obesity is bandied about (0.9!!! ZOMG!! TEH GENEZ R MAKIN U FAT!). But this demonstrates a lack of understanding of what…

Salmonella, Shigella, and Lactose, Oh My!

It’s never made much sense to me why the pathogenic bacteria Salmonella and Shigella (which is really E. coli) have lost the ability to use lactose (milk sugar). In Shigella, we know that when we restore some lost functions through genetic manipulation (e.g., cadaverine production), they actually prevent these altered Shigella from causing disease. But…