Tales from the front lines: the creative essay as a tool for teaching genetics.
In contrast to the more typical mock grant proposals or literature reviews, we describe the use of the creative essay as a novel tool for teaching human genetics at the college level. This method has worked well for both nonmajor and advanced courses for biology majors. The 10- to 15-page essay is written in storylike form and represents a student's response to the choice of 6-8 scenarios describing human beings coping with various genetic dilemmas. We have found this tool to be invaluable both in developing students' ability to express genetic concepts in lay terms and in promoting student awareness of genetic issues outside of the classroom. Examples from student essays are presented to illustrate these points, and guidelines are suggested regarding instructor expectations of student creativity and scientific accuracy. Methods of grading this assignment are also discussed. (+info)
Complete genome sequences are providing a framework to allow the investigation of biological processes by the use of comprehensive approaches. Genome analysis also is having a dramatic impact on medicine through its identification of genes and mutations involved in disease and the elucidation of entire microbial gene sets. Studies of the sequences of model organisms, such as that of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans, are providing extraordinary insights into development and differentiation that aid the study of these processes in humans. The field of functional genomics seeks to devise and apply technologies that take advantage of the growing body of sequence information to analyze the full complement of genes and proteins encoded by an organism. (+info)
Genes to remember.
It has been known for several decades that the formation of long-term memory requires gene expression. In recent years, the use of genetic and molecular approaches has led to the identification and characterization of genes and molecules that play a fundamental role in the biological mechanisms underlying learning and memory. From these studies, it appears that molecules and molecular mechanisms essential for the process of memory have been conserved throughout evolution. The cyclic AMP (cAMP)-dependent activation pathway and a cAMP-dependent cascade of gene expression have been shown to be essential for memory formation in Aplysia californica, Drosophila melanogaster and rodents. Moreover, members of the transcription factor family cAMP response element binding proteins (CREBs) seem to represent key molecules for transforming incoming information into long-term memory. Here, we review the studies showing that conserved molecules and biological mechanisms are engaged in simple and complex forms of memory. (+info)
Some ethical issues at the population level raised by 'soft' eugenics, euphenics, and isogenics.
It is argued that at the population level there are three central genetic developments raising ethical issues. The first is the emergence of 'soft' eugenics, due primarily to the increasing ability to detect carriers of genetic diseases, to monitor their pregnancies, and to provide the option to abort a fetus predisposed to major genetic disease. The second development is the recognition of the extent to which many serious diseases of adult life are due to a disturbance of ancient genetic homeostatic mechanisms due to changing life style, raising the question of whether a society that increasingly pays the medical bills should attempt to impose healthier standards of living on its members. Such an attempt at 'euphenics' may be thought of as the antithesis to eugenics. The third development relates to recognition of the need to regulate the size of the earth's population to numbers that can be indefinitely sustained; this regulation in a fashion (isogenic) that will preserve existing genetic diversity. (+info)
A genetic algorithm to select variables in logistic regression: example in the domain of myocardial infarction.
Actual use of regression models in clinical practice depends on model simplicity. Reducing the number of variables in a model contributes to this goal. The quality of a particular selection of variables for a logistic regression model can be defined in terms of the number of variables selected and the model's discriminatory performance, as measured by the area under the ROC curve. A genetic algorithm was applied to search for the best variable combinations for modeling presence of myocardial infarction in a data set of patients with chest pain. Using an external validation set, the resulting model was compared with models constructed with standard backward, forward and stepwise methods of variable selection. The improvement in discriminatory ability yielded by the genetic algorithm variable selection method was statistically significant (p < 0.02). (+info)
Mechanisms underlying Children's susceptibility to environmental toxicants.
An important public health challenge has been the need to protect children's health. To accomplish this goal, the scientific community needs scientifically based child-specific risk assessment methods. Critical to their development is the need to understand mechanisms underlying children's sensitivity to environmental toxicants. Risk is defined as the probability of adverse outcome and when applied to environmental risk assessment is usually defined as a function of both toxicity and exposure. To adequately evaluate the potential for enhanced health risks during development, both child-specific factors affecting toxicity and exposure need to be considered. In the first section of this article, example mechanisms of susceptibility relevant for toxicity assessment are identified and discussed. In the second section, examples of exposure factors that help define children's susceptibility are presented. Examples of pesticide research from the newly funded Child Health Center at the University of Washington will be given for illustration. The final section discusses the importance of putting these considerations of children's susceptibility into an overall framework for ascertaining relevancy for human risk assessment. (+info)
Anatomic genomics: systems of genes supporting the biology of systems.
This essay lays the groundwork for the concept that "anatomy" in the new millennium will be a subject that is increasingly based on understanding the parallel relationships between systems of genes on chromosomes and the structures defined by these genes. The concept of Anatomic Genomics is introduced in terms of systems of genes on chromosomes, which actually mirror the biology of anatomically defined systems. A case is made for the possibility that genomes may be structured in ways that make local but not necessarily global sense. In the new millennium, systems biologists have the opportunity to be the creators and purveyors of this new anatomy. (+info)
Cats as an aid to teaching genetics.
I have used an exercise involving domestic cats in the General Genetics course at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln for the past 5 years. Using a coherent set of traits in an organism familiar to the students makes it easy to illustrate principles of transmission and population genetics. The one-semester course consists primarily of sophomores and juniors who have either taken a one-semester introductory biology course, a one-semester cell biology course, or have a strong high school biology background. The students are given a handout and asked to determine the genotype at seven unlinked loci of at least one cat. To fill out the form, the students have to grasp such concepts as dominance, incomplete dominance, temperature-sensitive mutations, epistatic interactions, sex linkage, and variable expressivity. Completing the form reinforces these concepts as they observe the cat's phenotype and fill in the genotype. I then analyze the collected data and use it in my lectures on population genetics to illustrate the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, calculate allele frequencies, and use statistics. This allows the students to look at population genetics in a very positive light and provides concrete examples of some often misunderstood principles. (+info)