Meeting January 11, 2016

Genes and Society in the News:

  • A paper has come out that looks at the genetics of relegiosity and drug use in different ethnic groups. Rachel E. Dew & Harold G. Koenig. Religious Involvement, the Serotonin Transporter Promoter Polymorphism, and Drug Use in Young Adults. International Journal of Social Science Studies Vol. 2, No. 1; January 2014
  • Michael Specter. Rewriting the Code of Life. The New Yorker Jan. 2, 2017 pp.34-43
  •  Kevin Esvelt of MIT was interviewed recently and expresses that thinking through gene drives, etc. is important.
  • A new particle published this year claims to have found 17 DNA variants that are associated with major depression, but the methodology is under question. Jonathan Flint, a critic of GWAS studies, has been critical of this. J.Abbasi. 23andMe, Big Data and the Genetics of depressionJAMA. 2017;317(1):14-16. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.14136
  • A news article reports on a JAMA Oncology article claiming that results of commercially available next-generation sequencing tests can vary widely.  Tumor gene test results can differ in same patients. News article reporting on Dec. 15, 2016 JAMA Oncology article.
  • Alterations in the organized structure of chromosomes with interacting loops of chromatin can affect the expression of genes.  This adds a big complexity to attempts to make predictions e.g  illness from sequencing DNA alone. N. Angier. A Family’s Shared Defect Sheds Light on the Human Genome. NY Times: Science Times Section 1/10/2017 pp.D1,D3.
  • Another article in the New York Times is on genetically modified foods, modified using CRISPR. Kenneth Chang. Dinner is being tweaked. NY Times: Science Times section 1/10/2017 p. D1, D5.

Readings for Discussion:

Discussion Reading 1:

  • Not much time to discuss this reading.
  • In summary, white supremacist groups are really getting into genetics to support their racist positions.

Discussion Reading 2:

  • Brian collaborated with schools to evaluate whether the way genetics is being taught in schools can actually increase the belief of students in races and that races differ innately in certain characteristics.
  • Separate groups of students are exposed to different presentations of genetics. Part of the task is finding ways to present the idea of variation in a simple fashion.
  • We discussed whether the use of the word race could be a problem itself. Ultimately, this led to the discussion yet again as to whether mendelian genetics should  be taught because it could make it seem like all traits are readily explained by one gene, one protein, etc. and with a deterministic/essentialistic flavor.


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