Saturday, November 29, 2008

The DNA Network

The DNA Network

rs1815739 T/T kids dropped from sports programs everywhere - no chance for Olympic glory [Biomarker-driven mental health 2.0]

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 08:23 PM CST

nothing like hot coffee to wash down a bite of...

Image by sean dreilinger via Flickr

I was irked to see, in today’s New York Times, a picture of a young child having his cheek swabbed so that his parents could ascertain his status at the rs1815739 C/T variant .  T-alleles at this site give rise to a premature stop codon in the alpha 3 actinin (ACTN3) gene while the C-allele encodes a full-length version that contributes to the fast twitching of muscle fibers.  Not surprisingly, it was found [PubMed Central ID: PMC118068] that folks who have achieved status as Olympic caliber sprinters are more likely to carry the C-allele than ethnically matched controls. The company, Atlas Sports Genetics is now marketing the test, for $149 as a means to “predict a child's natural athletic strengths”.  Holy Crap !

Its sad to think of the myriad of ways in which genetic information can be misused and misrepresented - sadder still to think of using genetic tests to deny kids the simple joy of playing with each other.  Parents may be intersted to know that among europeans and asians, the C-allele is present at about 50%, making about 75% of the population either a C/C or a C/T … which, taken alone, explains very little of why a handful of individuals achieve athletic success. Parents considering paying the $149 might also wish to read a recent article by Dr. Jerome Kagan, a well-regarded developmental psychologist on recent trends in overparenting.

My 23andMe profile shows a middling C/T which is on par with my middling soccer skills.  Nevertheless, I had a great experience learning and building relationships with my pals on the soccer field, many who remain friends even still.

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Cyberchondria and Health 2.0 News [ScienceRoll]

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 02:51 PM CST

I should study psychiatry for my next exam, but I must share a few articles with you first:

One year ago, I discovered that I had contracted Type 1 Diabetes. I was 36 at that point and it’s relatively rare for someone of my age to suddenly get Type 1 Diabetes - indeed they used to call this form of diabetes “juvenile diabetes”, because it mostly occurs in children. So it was quite a shock to discover that I had it! Immediately I looked to the Web to find out all I could about this condition. I discovered a thriving community of ‘health 2.0′ apps and social networks, which I then wrote about in this blog.


But in the world beyond the television screen, many physicians have come to recognize the value of their patients' use of the Internet.

And, if you are like most people, you turn to the Internet for health. Eighty-four percent of adult Internet users in the U.S. go online for medical information, according to a 2007 Harris poll. Some of them, like Diana C., believe the Internet saved their life.


MyGeneticist: I want to know about my DNA [ScienceRoll]

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 02:30 PM CST

Steve Murphy, our gene sherpa, informed us about a new site, which

…is a service that empowers you to understand the information stored in your DNA, so you can use this knowledge to make healthy life choices. Founded and operated by scientists, myGeneticist’s mission is to complement existing healthcare systems and to make a positive impact on society by helping people make informed decisions. myGeneticist will be launching soon.


We need such services… I can’t wait to see how it actually works.


Genome Island in Second Life [ScienceRoll]

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 02:12 PM CST

Dangerous chemistry: explosive experiments with junk food [Discovering Biology in a Digital World]

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 01:21 PM CST

It's a long, long, weekend; perfect for going outside and doing a few loud, messy experiments. Cooking-intensive holidays always remind me how much fun it is to do a bit of chemistry, especially when it comes to food.

If you watched the video that I posted on Thanksgiving, you've probably been itching to try one of these experiments yourself.

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Parliamentary politics. [Genomicron]

Posted: 29 Nov 2008 08:19 AM CST

Ok, so Canada elected a conservative government again, meaning that the Conservative Party of Canada (a merger of the former right-centre Progressive Conservative Party and far-right Canadian Alliance) won more seats than the other parties. However, they did not win more than all other parties combined, which means that they have a minority government. In such a parliamentary system, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party who won the most seats, although his party may still be a minority in parliament.

There is now talk of a coalition government between the left-centre Liberal Party and the left New Democratic Party. Together, these two parties still would not have more seats than the Conservative Party, but with the support of the Quebec-only Bloc Québécois, they could be given the chance to govern.

There is some talk on the news and on forums that such a move would be undemocratic since the Conservative Party was elected and has a clear mandate from the people. What do Canadians want? Here are the data from the recent election (via Wikipedia).

Party Orientation Seats Votes Popular %
Conservative Party of Canada Right 143 5,208,796 37.65%
Liberal Party of Canada Left-centre 77 3,633,185 26.26%
Bloc Québécois Left-centre 49 1,379,991 9.98%
New Democratic Party Left 37 2,515,561 18.18%
Green Party Far left 0 937,613 6.78%

Conservative Right 143 5,208,796 37.65%
Liberal + NDP + Green Left 114 7,086,359 51.22%

Plants that make crystals that look like plants [Discovering Biology in a Digital World]

Posted: 28 Nov 2008 09:29 PM CST

A crystalline botanical fashion show.

Awhile back Chemical & Engineering News published a fascinating article called "The Secret Life of Plant Crystals" with some wonderful photos of calcium oxalate crystals. Special cells (called "idioblasts") produce these crystals, with shapes that are unique to each type of plant.

Reposted for the holiday.

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