12th edition of my human genetics textbook


Glenn Nichols, surrounded by his hospice team. The author is in yellow.


Genetic Linkage

Why I Yanked "Morlock Nation"

November 13, 2016

Tags: Donald Trump and the New Morlock Nation

On Thursday, November 10, I briefly posted a blog called “Donald Trump and the New Morlock Nation” on my usual website (not this one). I took the post down after threatening comments were posted and the tone was escalating.

I regret having given up my first amendment rights to bullies. I would rather have had a conversation. The commenters did not understand my point – that our differences taken to extremes and under some pretty unlikely circumstances (plus a very long time) could theoretically lead to a speciation event.

The post dealt with the contribution of heredity to intelligence. I used many disclaimers and never used a judgmental term such as “subspecies,” although I was accused of having done so.

My scenario based on theoretical population genetics had appropriate links to back up my hypothesis – for that is all it was. I meant no harm.

If anyone wishes to contact me through this website, I can send a word document by email, with or without links, of the post. This offer is to promote education.

“Rare Is Everywhere” – Support a New Children’s Book

November 6, 2016

We treasure rare genetic variants in our pets – from multi-toed cats to white rabbits to short-legged hounds. But genetic variants that cause disease – in people and pets – can be not only devastating, but isolating when no one has heard of them. That's particularly so for children.

Deborah Katz, a professor of nursing as well as a medical writer and editor and an artist, decided to do something to help children dealing with rare genetic diseases. She’s written a marvelous book, “Rare is Everywhere,” that taps into genetic quirks in beloved animals. A kickstarter campaign to fund the first print run is underway now, ending November 22. All proceeds will go to the Rare Disease Foundation a non-profit that funds research and programs for children with rare diseases.

Ms. Katz explains how she got the idea to write “Rare is Everywhere”:

“I’ve met so many kids in the last two decades-- personally and professionally - who feel like they are the only ones that are different. Even though I would tell them “you aren't the only one, there are so many others like you, and your difference can be a strength,” I felt like just saying it didn't really have an impact.

I've always had a passion for children's literature and its power to shape and inspire, and had written numerous stories for my own children over the years that I would tell to them at bedtime. So I started thinking about writing a children's book that showed kids that differences are common. One day, one of my children asked me what it means if something is rare. In trying to answer in a meaningful, scientific sort of way, I started to explain what a gene is and how we differ from one another in a way that my child could grasp.

I then had a Eureka! moment-- I could write a book that explains what rare is by showcasing animals with genetic changes that distinguish them from other members of their species, and that also shows kids how common differences are when you take a birds-eye view of the entire animal kingdom.”

Sometimes it is better to be different. The book points out when rare variants are actually beneficial. The white spirit bear is superior at catching fish, the black penguin mother stands out to her babies, while the black jaguar fades into the backdrop of a dark forest floor. My favorite is the white alligator:

I put twigs on my head and leaves by the bunch
When birds land on me, I eat them for lunch!

Ms. Katz avoids negative terms like “mutant” and “abnormal,” but doesn’t deny that being visibly different is to stand out – such as the brown panda, blue lobster, and pink grasshopper. “Children learn that differences are everywhere - and something to celebrate!”

Please support RARE IS EVERYWHERE by purchasing a book or making any donation. Thank you!

A version of this post appeared 10/31/16 at Rare Disease Reports

Prenatal Genetic Testing of Pap Smears

November 2, 2016

Tags: prenatal diagnosis

Anthony Weiner and Woody Allen have the same favorite organ; mine is the placenta.

The amazing placenta literally links generations, and if findings reported in the new Science Translational Medicine are validated, prenatal genetic screening and testing may become possible using Pap smears – as early as 5 weeks after conception. (more…)

Project to engage students in helping families with rare genetic diseases
Book Club Reader's Guide
Many challenging questions to stimulate thought and discussion.
Instructor's Guide
38 discussion questions to get students thinking and talking about gene therapy, including the science, ethical issues, and the drug approval process.
Narrative science
The Forever Fix is the uplifting true story of 8-year-old Corey Haas, who was cured of hereditary blindness just 4 days after gene therapy.
College Textbooks
A spectacularly-illustrated, clearly written human anatomy and physiology textbook, used in pre-health profession programs throughout the U.S.
A highly engaging, clearly written, beautifully illustrated introduction to the science of human genetics for the non-scientist. Now in its 11th edition, 12th to be published in September 2018.
An ideal starting point for anyone who wants to know more about genes, DNA, genomes, and the genetic ties that bind us all.

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