It seems that lately everything in genetics, which has morphed into genomics, is big, big, big.
- Data on half a million people represented in the UK Biobank are highlighting genome regions associated with difficult-to-study traits, like sexuality and handedness.
- The All of Us initiative at the National Institutes of Health, which plans to capture info on a million or more people, is ever-expanding, from embracing Native communities to welcoming health care providers.
- A pair of articles in the latest Nature Genetics describes algorithms that shift the mindset from "the" human genome to the many variations on the theme. Capturing how we differ will speed diagnoses, ease the finding of relatives, and fill in our evolutionary trees.
Another new Nature Genetics report, "A reference genome for pea provides insight into legume genome evolution," took me back to the origins of genetics and Gregor Mendel, who deduced the two basic laws of heredity by breeding pea plants with a handful of distinctive characteristics. A way for the general public to better understand what science is and how scientists think would be to set aside the mega studies for a moment and look back at the brilliant experiments that built the field of genetics, from those of Mendel to the beginnings of molecular biology.
So here are six of my favorite experiments in genetics, from Mendel's peas to double helices, chosen for their insight and creativity. These are in addition to my DNA Science post about the 19-year-old college student who invented gene mapping, paving the way to genome sequencing and consumer DNA ancestry tests.
To continue reading, go to my DNA Science blog at Public Library of Science.