instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads

Human Genetics: Concepts and Applications

From the back cover:

She is a child of the not-too-distant future. One day, she’ll see the results of a personal genome scan done shortly after she was conceived and chosen. She’ll feel the effects of that information long before she can read, though, because her parents will use it to decide which sports she’ll pursue, whether she’ll take art or music lessons, and perhaps even which schools she will apply to based on predicted talents in math, science, or languages. At the same time, clues to health in her genome scan suggest the ideal diet to follow and other interventions that might lower the risk of, or actually prevent, illnesses for which she has inherited susceptibilities.

Opening to Chapter on DNA:

To a biologist, gene has a specific definition -- a sequence of DNA that tells a cell how to assemble amino acids into a particular protein. To others, "gene" has different meanings:

To folksinger Arlo Guthrie, gene means aging without signs of the Huntington disease that claimed his father, legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie.

To rare cats in New England, gene means extra toes.

To Adolph Hitler and others who have dehumanized those not like themselves, the concept of gene was abused to justify genocide.

To a smoker, a gene may mean lung cancer develops.

To a redhead in a family of brunettes, gene means an attractive variant.

To a woman whose mother and sisters had breast cancer, gene means escape from their fate -- and survivor guilt.

To a lucky few, gene means a mutation that locks HIV out of their cells.

To people with diabetes, gene means safer insulin.

To an elephant on the African savannah and one that lives in the forest, gene means that they cannot mate with each other.

To a forensic entomologist, gene means a clue to the identity of a criminal in the guts of maggots devouring a corpse.

To scientists-turned-entrepreneurs, gene means money.

Collectively, our genes mean that we are very much more alike than different from one another.

From the final chapter:

The ability to easily sequence our genomes continues a long-held curiosity about our genetic selves. Since the dawn of humanity, people have probably noted inherited traits, from height and body build, to hair and eye color, to talents, to behavioral quirks, to illnesses. Genetics provides the variety that makes life interesting.