Thursday, December 20, 2012

Evolution has shaped me into this

There are many differences between humans and animals,
There are many species of reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mammals.
Humans have opposable thumbs,
But that doesn’t make animals dumb.
Humans are the only species to walk upright on two feet,
And humans are omnivores, which eat vegetables and meat.
Adult human anatomy is made up of muscular structure and 24 vertebrate,
Humans and other mammals use sexual reproduction to procreate.
Human bone structures in their hands are similar to a bat wing,
Our bones and muscles allow us to run and swing.
Whale fins are also similar to the human hand,
Humans can run an average of 15 mph on land.
Humans have 23 pairs of chromosomes in each cell,
And are the only animals to believe in heaven and hell.
Females have 2 X chromosomes, and males have an X and Y,
Humans are the only species to use technology to fly.
Humans have between 20,000 and 25,000 genes,
Genes control whether a person is fat or lean.
Adult humans have 206 bones,
DNA sequence is made up of 46 chromosomes is the Homo sapiens genome. 

What Makes Me, Me:

My name is Alexander,
I have genetic ancestors from Southern Europe and Germania.
My genetic make-up is derived from my mom and dad,
Twenty-three years ago, I made them very glad.
I have brown hair and brown eyes,
And a X and Y chromosome which makes me a guy.
My genetics have blessed me with no wisdom teeth,
My Italian heritage allows my skin to tan well in the heat.
I am 6 foot 1, and I have a size 12 foot,
My mom will always say I have good looks.
Evolution has shaped me into this,
I hope you like this poem because it is finished. 

-Alex Bruno

Sunday, December 16, 2012

There is not much that can make us different

In the whole of humanity, there is not much that can make us different, there are numerous people who have the same genes as you do or the same traits. However, there is no one who has the exact same combination as you do. My combination is what makes me unique; such as my curly brown hair, average female Anglo-Saxon build and a carrier for hemochromatosis. The shape of my body also sets me apart. I am of 100% European descent, and my skull shows it. I have narrow nasal aperatures, a pointed nasal spine, a narrow and triangular palate, a curved suture between the zygomatic and maxilla, slight overbite and lighter and relatively smaller facial bones (Naples). My teeth would specify my skull as me, because my environment affected how the enamel developed and thickened, and how the teeth came in. I have one chipped upper incisor from when I fell as a child, and forced movement in my teeth from braces. These environmental forces have made my skull change in ways to adapt to them, which separates me from the rest of the world but still connects me with what makes me human and my ability to adapt to my environment.

~Erin Langton

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My Family on the DNA Level

 By: Mikaela Reisman

I had myself sequenced with 23andMe last semester, and was so interested, I wanted to take another APG class that would go into more depth with it.  In September, my dad did his spit-test, in October, my mom volunteered, and during Thanksgiving, my dad and I convinced my paternal grandmother (who is 90!) to try it (it was no cost to her, as we paid for it, although she complained about the amount of spit that was needed).  My grandmother's results came in two days ago, and combined with my parents' and my own, things are coming together.

I already knew my maternal haplogroup (H10), and where my mother's family had been for centuries, because of my own testing and because of an extensive family tree.  My cousin has been sending me emails with old photos attached, of my great-grandparents on both of my mom's parents' sides, as well as great aunts and uncles, and even further back.  There is a daguerreotype of my great-great (etc.) grandfather Schemmel (my mom's maiden name) from the early 1800s even.  Considering all I know, the DNA results came as a slight surprise.  My mom is only 1.6% German according to 23andMe, and I am 8.6%.  This obviously means 23andMe has a way to go before their results in ancestry are close to perfect.

My dad was the most fascinating (hence why I wanted him to be tested first).  This is because I am the carrier of the disease Familial Mediterranean Fever, and he is too.  We also found out that my Grammy is as well (no surprise).  This does not prove they are my father and grandmother, but other evidence suggests it, like the fact that half of my chromosomes are the same as my dad's.  My dad has another reason for trying 23andMe, and this is to find out more about his (and my) family.  He has been told that his mother's family came over to the U.S. from Ukraine between 1915 and 1920 (my grandmother was born here in 1922).  He does not know anything about his father's side (as he never knew him), and has wanted to learn more about both sides for years.  We discovered some British/French/Basque roots (not exact, obviously), and this has brought us a few steps closer.  My dad is his mother's son (they share the K1a1b1a haplogroup), and he also discovered his (and my) paternal haplogroup (R1b1b2, which confirms the north/western European roots).  I even found out that my grandmother has some middle-eastern roots, which makes sense, as she is 100% Jewish.  I am just waiting for 23andMe to come out with new information to help with my dad's dad's side.

Wow.  I probably would need a separate post if I wanted to go into other things, but to me, ancestry was the most interesting.  I am Ashkenazi Jewish, German, Ukrainian, and possibly British (or something else).  Of course, exact nationalities have no real meaning, but the regions do help provide answers to family mysteries, as well as to help bring to life my family from years ago.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fun and Games with Variation

This class was definitely one of the more interesting ones that I have had the pleasure of taking while at URI. Genetics was something that never really held my interest, but this class had the perfect combination of case studies, articles and science tomake it understandable without being overwhelming. On a side note, I decided to include the poem from our presentation. feel free to reproduce, share or otherwise make use of it.

Your genes are a blueprint of who you will be,

Your traits being a function of heritability.

From 0 to 1 your traits are all measured,

With environment and genes which both endeavored

To explain the way that they are expressed,

However the truth is its really complex

Traits can have multiple factors and be polygenic,

The permutations can drive someone manic.

Also, your genes can be pleiotropic,

Making our understanding of genetics seem quite myopic

Genes give an outline but show only so much,

Whether African, Irish, Italian or Dutch,

You are also affected by where you call home,

Influenced by environment and where your ancestors roamed.

Nature and Nurture both working in tandem

Result in variety that may just seem random.

Diseases can spread in ways seeming systemic,

But environmental factors are what make it endemic.

Studying lifestyle and environmental effects is a must,

Since even the healthy can be hit by a bus

In short your genes don’t work in a vacuum,

A predisposition does not always mean doom.

As for what makes me me, it’s easy to see

The traits that are expressed individually.

My height and my hair and skin kind of fair

But that just describes me physically.

I also have attributes harder to chart,

My love of good books, and appreciation of art.

Genetics provide a great way to start,

But people are more than the sum of their parts.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I never really thought about what made me human before I took this class

I never really thought about what made me human before I took this class. It never really hit me how similar on a genetic level I was to not only to all the other humans in the world but also how similar we as humans are to other primates. It still blows my mind to think that the vast majority of my genetic material is the exact same as a chimpanzee. Although biological Anthropology isn’t exactly my cup of tea I learned more this semester about genetics and human biology than I did in my first 21 years of life, and it really made me think about why I am who I am and what makes humans what they are. Through 23 and me I was able to learn a lot about myself personally and what genetic differences make me unique. I found this most interesting because I’ve had the same DNA my whole life and I was unable to access all the information stored in it until now, even though I didn’t learn anything earth shattering through my genome I did find out that genetically I have a relatively lower chance of developing any of the conditions or diseases examined by 23 and Me, which I guess means I did learn something useful after all. So as long as I avoid asbestos and gamma radiation and other harmful environmental factors my odds of remaining disease free are pretty good. Overall I really enjoyed this class and I learned a lot and it’s given me a unique new perspective on human beings. Also I have to give mad props to Alison, Vanessa, Gerrick, and Owen for the Human Variation Style song they made, it’s been a week and it is still stuck in my head.

~Scott Garrold

Planning on purchasing 23andMe?

I did not need APG 350 to graduate, or even as a supporting elective towards my anthropology degree. I am not going to lie; the only reason I took this course was to get my genome genotyped. It was an opportunity to explore the chemistry that makes me, me in an organized and structured environment that lured me in. Turns out the course itself was very enjoyable and I learned a lot! (I highly recommend the book Mutants by Leroi) I wish I could say the same for 23andMe however. The awesome part is that I can access my genetic makeup by the click of a finger- but is it worth it?

Maybe my judgment is harsh because I expected to find a revelation of myself, or at least be more in tune with myself by finding out something that I cannot see, yet is the very makeup of me. I was not afraid to unlock either the breast cancer or Alzheimer’s risk values for myself because I knew neither was prevalent in my family history. However, I know my father’s father died young of cardiovascular issues, as did his parents before him. So no shocker when I read my disease risk was elevated significantly for heart related diseases but lower for cancers and Alzheimer’s. Cant take anything too heavily at the disease risk calculator though; I am diagnosed with psoriasis (and, unfortunately I am very aware I have it.) yet 23andMe tells me the locus for that gene associated with psoriasis is at decreased risk. How do I interpret this? Not that 23andMe is all just guessed work with no backbone, but rather that the loci those 23andMe looks at are based on only current research. Scientists don’t know everything yet, so these complex diseases have way more than a few loci affecting them (in class I also learned that there is rarely one gene for one trait…sorry Mendel).

As for the other sectors 23andMe offers; the drug response, ancestry finder and Neanderthal genome calculations are pretty interesting. It is also nice to know if you are a carrier for a trait that could negatively affect your offspring- but again these traits are usually diseases you know your family history has. So basically, if you were an average Joe just looking to find out what the heck makes you up genetically, I would not recommend spending $300 on getting a list of traits, disease risks, and ancestry you might (or might not) have. Just look at how much the price has gone down in the past decade! If, like I mentioned, you know your family has a certain disease that could affect your possible children, maybe you are better off getting your genome area sequenced to get to most definite answer possible. (23andMe is a genotyping mechanism, which means it has certain markers that your genome sticks to if you share the gene- it does not map out your entire genome!) 

I was lost surfing the wonders of the 23andMe web page for a good while when I first got my results back. But after being in a class that really tries to get to the roots of the nitty-gritty details making us human and who we are, I came to the conclusion that your environment tells you just as much who you are than the stuff your parents gave you. So why would you pay $300 just to see what you most likely will already know? My advice is to wait until genetics is more widespread- maybe even to the point of specialized medicine! I do have to add, however, I am glad I had the opportunity to ease my mind of curiosity; maybe you will have to too.