12th edition of my human genetics textbook


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


Genetic Linkage

A Closer Genetic Look at the Quagga, an Extinct Zebra

January 26, 2018

Tags: zebra, quagga

Like the dodo bird, heath hen, and woolly mammoth, the quagga vanished so recently that glimpsing its evolution is possible, using DNA from museum specimens and breeding modern relatives to select individuals bearing ancestral traits.

Named and described in 1788, a quagga looks like someone took an eraser to the rear end and hind legs of a zebra, brushing away the telltale stripes. Charles Darwin deemed the quagga a separate species, but today Equus quagga quagga is considered an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra. The living five subspecies roam south and eastern Africa, while the other zebra species, mountain and Grevy, live in more limited areas. When I visited Cape Town a few years ago, I was amazed to see zebras standing in ordinary backyards, like deer appear here. (more…)

Human Muscles From Stem Cells: Advance Could Aid Research Into Muscular Dystrophy, Other Diseases

January 26, 2018

Tags: stem cells

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For the first time, biomedical engineers have grown functioning skeletal muscle from human pluripotent stem cells.

Using stem cells enabled researchers from Duke University to improve upon similar efforts in 2015 that had started with more specialized cells called myoblasts, taken from muscle biopsies. Using true stem cells instead, fashioned from a person’s skin fibroblasts, avoids the painful biopsy and would theoretically up the output of mature muscle cells. The paper appears in the January 9 Nature Communications. (more…)

Battling Depression with Pharmacogenetics: Genetic Screening Could Eliminate Trial-and-Error Approach to Medications

January 23, 2018

Tags: depression, anti-depressant, Lexapro, pharmacogenetics

Finding an antidepressant that works can be an agonizing personal hell of trying one drug after another. Months, even years, may pass without relief, as they did for my father.

A study from 2016 reported that nearly two-thirds of people being treated for major depressive disorder either do not respond to the first drug tried, or suffer unacceptable side effects. Of those that move on to drug #2, three-quarters don’t respond. Each audition lasts at least 4 weeks, with sometimes extended washout periods in between to detox and switch. (more…)

How Genetic Testing Guided My Breast Cancer Journey – To Eschewing Beef

January 15, 2018

Tags: breast cancer, BRCA

Two months ago, I joined a club nobody wants to be a member of – the 1 in 8 women who develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetimes. It turned up on a routine mammogram.

I’m happy that it’s okay these days to talk about breast cancer – when my mom first had it in 1988, that wasn’t true. I haven’t thought much yet about marching and holding a sign next October for Breast Cancer Awareness month. I don’t have the strength to hold a sign right now, but I’m trying to help by explaining things on the Facebook groups of “pink sisters” I’ve joined recently. Many of their questions concern genetic testing. (more…)

“The Power” – A Dystopian Novel That Turns Misogyny On Its Head, With a Little Help from Genetics

January 7, 2018

Tags: The Power, Naomi Alderman, dystopia

I was thrilled to see Naomi Alderman’s dystopian masterpiece, The Power," top Barack Obama’s list of his favorite books of 2017. OK, the #1 is because the list is alphabetical – but still.

Tables Turned

The multi-layered tale flips misogynistic practices culled from history – from killing female newborns, to rampant rape, to the merely maddening restrictions on driving, education, and working. One example of the turnaround: “curbing,” the ritualistic burning of selected nerve endings in the penis as a boy nears puberty. (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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