2012 National DNA Day Online Chatroom Transcript

National Human Genome Research Institute

National Institutes of Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


2012 National DNA Day Online Chatroom Transcript

The 2012 National DNA Day Moderated Chat was held on Friday, April 20th, 2012 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern. NHGRI Director Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D. and genomics experts from across the institute and around the nation took questions from students, teachers and the general public on topics ranging from basic genomic research, to the genetic basis of disease, to ethical questions about genetic privacy.

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Information - Moderator Happy National DNA Day! The chatroom is open and genomic experts await your questions. Bring'em on!


2
Is the exact number of genes in the human genome known?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Pretty much. About 10 years ago we thought there would be about 100,000 because there were so many different proteins known. Now after we have analyzed the human genome sequence, we know that there are about 21,000 genes. Many of these 21,00 genes can make multiple protein each. Now we are discovering "non-coding RNA genes. There are thousands of these and it looks like these non coding RNAs help regulate the protein coding genes. The real answer will be more than 21,000 depending on how you define a gene, in other words do you count the non-coding regulatory "genes"
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade teacher)
3
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
4
Is DNA different in any way between identical twins?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. This is a really great and complicated question. Initially, at the time of conception the DNA is identical. However, once they split the DNA is affected by the whatever affects the individual. For example, a random, spontaneous mutation may occur in one twin that doesn't happen in the other. If that happens at a very early stage in development then that DNA sequence change may be carried on throughout further development. Also, remember that the expression of DNA may be changed by factors other than sequence including factors called "epigenetic" effects. This may include methylation which changes the way DNA is expressed. So the simple answer is that we are all different and although very close even identical twins have a different genetic blueprint. Thank you for the interesting question.
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
5
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
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Is it possible for twins to be telopathic with each other from such similar DNA
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. Twins can have identical DNA and have similarities in looks, personality etc... I believe they do have a special bond based on studies where twins are raised together and separate but I am not sure they are exactly telopathic.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
7
what color is dna
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. Interesting question! When we isolate DNA from cells its actually a cloudy clear/white color. When we sequence DNA to read it, we actually label all of the bases with different colors so we can read it more easily.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
8
What is the current state of cryogenically preserving human tissue or human beings?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Cryogenically preserving human tissue (such as blood , skin, etc.) has been used for a long time by doctors and medical researchers to store human tissue and other human cells. For example, DNA can be 'cryogenically' frozen in the laboratory using liquid nitrogen (which gets VERY cold) in-order to store and preserve the DNA for a very long time (years, decades, and even longer). As far as cryogenically perserving an entire human being, this is not something that occurs often but some companies do offer this service to people after they have died but so far no one has been "brought back" after being frozen. And no, this is not covered by health insurance :)
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
9
What are some characteristics of DNA when exposed to zero gravity or the environment of outer space? What is the closest compound we have discovered to DNA in our solar system?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. From a chemical or physical standpoint, there is nothing that would alter the structure or function of DNA in a weightless environment. Biologically, we have a lot of data from the participants in the space program that there is no evidence that weightlessness causes ant problems. As you probably know the big risk to DNA in space is the exposure to solar radiation which can damage DNA. In our solar system, it looks like there may have been some living organisms on Mars. As these data are studied, I bet that there will either be DNA in these organisms, or something very much like it.
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
10
How much DNA is in our body?
     Jennifer Walsh: I am currently a genetic counseling student at the Boston University Master's Program in Genetic Counseling. My clinical experience includes preconception, prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling. I also have experience working in a molecular diagnostic laboratory. Humans have 46 chromosomes that contain all of the genetic information, and there are over 25,000 genes in the human genome. Genes are composed of DNA, and it is predicted that there are over 3 billion basepairs in the human genome. Humans have approximately 10 trillion cells, so if you were to line all of the DNA found in every cell of a human body it would stretch from the earth to the sun 100 times!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
11
Do mummies contain intact DNA? How long is DNA stable in a body after death?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. The sure do! Recently scientists in Egypt took DNA samples from King Tut and other mummies found in that area. They were able to find out which mummies were Tuts parents and grandparents as well as establishing that Tuts wife and he had two children. The DNA from fossils has been obtained and this was used to sequence the Neanderthal genome. When a body dies, DNA begins to degrade, but if you are mummified or buried in a dry environment (fossil) enough good DNA can be preserved for probably millions of years.
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
12
How old were you when you first started to get interested in DNA?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. I graduated from college in 1977 and took a course my Senior year on lambda phage. This class discussed very early work on understanding genetics and manipulating DNA. This is a bit off the mark for children growing up today. There are great ways to explain genetics and DNA to even very young children. Not only will it help them to understand themselves but also, hopefully, it will get them excited about science. We need more children thrilled with science....there is still so much to learn.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
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McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
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McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
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McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
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McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
17
How do you isolate a specific gene for genetic enhancement?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Do you mean isolate or select, there can be different answers. If you select a gene, you are selecting for that trait, for example milk production in cows. You can breed cows with this trait to pass the gene or genes that are associated with milk production. You do not need to know what the gene is to do this. If you want to isolate this gene, you would find that part of the genome where the gene maps and there are a variety of techniques that we use to clone that fragment so the sequence can be studied.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
18
What sparked your interest with genetics?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. I am a pediatrician and geneticist. I became interested in children with genetic disorders when I was in high school as I began to meet individuals with special needs and wanted to understand why they were different from me. As I continued on in my education, I found that the field of genetics had both a great history of science but was also advancing at lightening speed. My interest in children with developmental differences and the field of genetics came together during my pediatric training and I have continued to learn throughout the years.
Remmy in NE ()
19
How do the proteins produced by DNA/RNA eventually create our specific and diverse traits, such as how my eyes are hazel or my facial structure?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. Hello! Proteins make up all kinds of tissues. Different proteins come together in different ways to produce different structures or to perform different functions. DNA determines which amino acids some together to make the proteins, so in that way DNA determines the final traits.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
20
Could a human be cloned?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. I think the technical answer is YES [but I have never tried :) so I may be wrong!] It would be very complicated to clone a human. Many people would be ethically opposed to cloning a human.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
21
How many mutations do there have to be in a gene or a cell for it to become cancer?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Sometimes only a single mutation in one gene can greatly increase a person's risk of cancer - for example, a single mutation in the BRCA1 gene can increase a woman's risk of getting breast cancer within her life to 80% (which is VERY high)! While only a single mutation may be needed to increase a person's RISK of cancer, usually several mutations (in several different genes) are needed before cancer actually occurs.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
22
What kind of religious resistance is there to advances in genetics?
     Jessica Hartman: I am currently working as a pediatric genetic counselor at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. I help families navigate the complexities surrounding genetic testing for their children with complex medical histories. I also provide families with support, information, and resources when their child is diagnosed with a genetic condition. It depends on which religion you want to focus on. Currently, there are several groups, most specifically the Ashkenazi Jewish, that support the use of carrier screening and genetic testing to help reduce the incidence of devastating genetic conditions. This is an interesting question and I encourage you to look up this information when thinking about a specific religion and ask members of that religion what their personal beliefs and thoughts are!
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
23
Are there any experiments involving DNA that you think we should NOT do?
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. We have some regulations on what is considered unethical or unlawful DNA testing, which aim to keep experiments on DNA from being harmful. I believe that if we continue to aim DNA experiments to help treat, ameliorate or cure diseases/syndromes or to help families learn more about familial diseases, then the science behind it is useful.
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
24
Referring to the question about mummies and DNA, if we wanted to, would it be possible to use the DNA found in these preseved historical figures to clone them and bring them back to life at this time?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Not at this time. The cells the DNA come from are dead, and there is no way to bring them back. Also the DNA is almost certainly not intact, so it does not seem possible that we could get it to function properly. What we CAN do is learn about what these people were like. We can learn about whether they could digest milk products and whether they were are risk for heart disease and things like that. As we go along we probably will be able to learn about their language skills and personality traits.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
25
what color is a double helix? invisible?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. Good morning! Thank you for your question. A double helix, as you know, is the shape of DNA. Although in biology textbooks DNA may be colored in different ways, in real life they are so tiny that we cannot see them with the naked eye, and they have no color. I wouldn't call it "invisible," but uncolored. I hope this answers your question!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
26
Can blonde parents produce a brunette child?
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. Typically two blonde parents will have blonde children. Blonde hair color is thought to be recessive and so both parents would have only the blonde gene to pass on to their children. However, two brunette parents could have a blonde child.
Loke Li Voon (student)
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McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
28
What will happen if two different animals are bred scientifically, i.e. human and monkey?
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. What an imaginative question! Although ethically this would not be encouraged, biologically it would not be possible either. The human DNA, though similar in many ways to other animals, like monkey, is too different from those of other animals to inbreed, so it would not work. However, I can only imagine that is were possible (ethics and biology aside), we would all look pretty cool with a furry tail!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
29
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
30
Have you ever been uncomfortable doing a certain experiment?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Yes, I think we all have had those moments. For me it was working with animals. While I have raised animals for food, I really like them, and I had a moment when I had to decide if I wanted to do experiments that might harm an animal. I discovered that I was MORE CURIOUS about the answers coming from the experiments, than I was uncomfortable doing them. But making sure that I learn the most from the fewest number of animals is always prominent in my mind. I do not think I could do experiments on humans, but I DO think that these can be VERY important experiments to do.
Remmy in NE ()
31
Can we recreate nerve or brain cells for transplanting into humans?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. This is a great question because there are many clinicians and scientists who are working on understanding this possibility right now. Let's go back a bit, for about 20 years doctors and scientists have been doing bone marrow transplants, this transplant would allow people who need new blood cells to be given early developing (precursor) cells that then live, grow and function inside that person. There are many people today who have had successful bone marrow transplants. Nerve and brain cells ( many of which are nerve cells) are more complicated cells, grow very differently than bone marrow cells and also work best in a network of all nerve cells, rather than individually, like bone marrow cells. The way that scientists and physicians have approached this problem is to work with pleuripotent stem cells, which are cells that have the potential to become many different kinds of cells, muscle cells or even nerve cells. Scientists first worked out how to stimulate stem cells to become nerve-like cells in petri dishes and are now are working on how to get them into the right part of the body (the brain or muscle where they act) and keep them healthy and functioning while they are there. This is a very neat field and there is so much to learn.
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
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McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
33
Suppose there was one nitrogenous base difference between one individual and another..how different would they look or act?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. Hello. It depends on where in the genome the difference is located. Many differences, also called variants, are located in regions that don't affect anything. However, if the difference is located in a gene, it might change the protein that is produced.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
34
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
35
If Aqua Man, The Flash and Superman were real, would a muation in he DNA be the reason for their powers?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. My brothers, Aqua Man, The Flash and Superman all have multiple changes in their DNA that give them super powers. Aqua can live under water, which means he has genes for gills. These are different from his genes that allow him to call sea creatures. The Flash has a HUGE amount of fast twitch muscles, more that even Ursain Bolt. And Supe, well he has fast twitch muscles to jump buildings, eye genes for X-Ray vision, and another set of genes for gravity defying. i have some of each, but I cannot reveal my secret identity.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
36
How likely are gene to skip generations, for example, from yur grandparents, skipped your parent, then the same gene goes to you?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Very likely if the genes encode recessive traits. Examining the interetence of a trait in families is how geneticists decide if a trait is inherited as a dominant or a recessive trait.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
37
Why is it so technically difficult to clone a human?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. There are many steps in the cloning process that need to work in order for cloning to work. There is a very high failure rate in animal cloning. It only works less than 10% of the time. It might not work because the egg and new nucleus are not compatible, because the embryo does not divide, because the embryo does not implant, or because the pregnancy does not continue. Even if the pregnancy continues, there is a risk for the offspring to be born with birth defects or "large offspring syndrome." Even if a healthy offspring is born, the gene expression pattern would probably be different than the original human. So although they may be genetically identical, they would not be totally identical in every way.
Loke Li Voon (student)
38
Do you believe in cloning? Do you believe you are tampering with something that is not yours? From a religious standpoint, God created everything and shouldn't be altered.
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. I believe that cloning of tissues, such as heart cells or liver cells, may one day save millions of lives. This is because developing cloning technology that allows us to clone specific cells of a person and grow new organs may one day be a way for people who need organ transplants to get the organs they need. As of now, hundreds of thousands of people are on waiting lists for organ transplants because there is a shortage and many of them may die before they ever receive a new organ (such as a heart or a lung or a liver). Cloning of an entire person, however, is much different and you are correct, there are many ethical and religious issues that arise when discussing this. I do, however, believe those issues primarily exist only when discussing cloning an entire person so it is important to understand that "cloning" may be used in many different ways and does not always mean cloning of an entire person. And as an update, so far a human being has NOT been cloned. (That I know of.)
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
39
Why is it so technically difficult to clone a human?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. There are many steps in the cloning process that need to work in order for cloning to work. There is a very high failure rate in animal cloning. It works less than 10% of the time. It might not work because the egg and new nucleus are not compatible, because the embryo does not divide, because the embryo does not implant, or because the pregnancy does not continue. Even if the pregnancy continues, there is a risk for the offspring to be born with birth defects or "large offspring syndrome." Even if a healthy offspring is born, the gene expression pattern would likely be different than the original human. So although they may be genetically identical, they would not be identical in every way.
Loke Li Voon (student)
40
Do the effects of substance abuse get passed along to your children?
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. There is currently no any evidence that substance abuse changes the DNA of a child. However, there is evidence that substance abuse can have negative effects on a developing baby (fetus) during pregnancy. For example, there has been substantial research on the effects of alcohol exposure. This depends on the type of substance abuse, length of exposure and time of the exposure during development (earlier on in the pregnancy or later).
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
41
How do you feel about cloning? For what reasons should it be put to use? Or does it raise too many ethical issues that scratch the surface?
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. Cloning is an interesting topic, and it does raise many ethical questions. I had always imagined cloning to have a use in creating more food to help starving nations, or creating much needed organs for those in need of transplants. Problem lies in setting limits to cloning---if we say it is ok to clone a heart, then why not a pet or fetus?--- and this brings ethical and sometime legal challenges. So, there are too many ethical issues involved with cloning. I hope that in the future we can find a way to do more good than harm with cloning, if possible.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
42
What kind of DNA Mutation is the most serious?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. The seriousness of the mutation depends on (1) how it affects the gene it changes and (2) how important that gene is. For example, a nonsense mutation will completely stop the protein from being formed. If this protein was important in forming muscles (for instance, like in Duchenne muscular dystrophy), muscles will not be formed properly and a person with this mutation can have a very shortened life (because muscles are also in the heart and lungs). On the other hand, if there was a mutation in a gene that is important for tasting a certain type of flavor, a person with that mutation may not taste the same way as people without the mutation, but it would not otherwise affect his or her health. Another kind of serious mutation is when huge pieces of DNA are missing or added. This can even be an entire chromosome that is missing or added. A chromosome may have thousands of genes on it, so these types of mutations can really affect someone's health! An example of a condition with an extra chromosome is Down syndrome.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
43
How do the 4 nitrogenous bases (Cytosine, Guanine, Adenine and Thymine), being nothing more than chemicals, end up giving orders to make all of the organisms of our world so complex and diverse? Do they have a special property that exists only in DNA?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. The Genetic Code! The bases are strung together and they are "read" as a blueprint for proteins. Billions of bases are reguired to make an organism. Alone the 4 bases are just chemicals. Strung together in the proper order you have the plans for an organism as simple as a bacterium or as complex as a human being.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
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McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
45
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
46
Explain transposons. Are there other ways for DNA to proliferate other than transposons or viruses?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Transposons are known as "jumping genes" because they have the ability to move to a new location from generation to generation. They are able to do this similar to the way the "Copy & Paste" function works on your computer - a transposon can "Copy" itself and then "Paste" itself in another part of the genome, sometimes very far from where the transposon was originally. Transposons can also cause changes in the cell - for example, sometimes transposons in corn can change the color of the corn kernel. Transposons can be found in many different species, from plants (such as corn), to bacteria, and even in humans. Transposons were discovered by Dr. Barbara McClintock almost 30 years ago - Dr. McClintock is a famous geneticist who won the Nobel prize for her discovery.
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
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Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
48
If DNA is injected into a growing or living organism, how fast or how much time before a change is seen?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. It depends on what happens to the DNA injected. Sometimes the effect can be quite rapid. But remember that often the gene will be replicated and transcribed best if it is integrated into the whole genomic DNA of the cell. The insertion of injected DNA is typically into a random spot, and if that random insertion site isn't replicated often then it will not be transcribed easily and will not have much effect. Also, the gene may have a function that takes a long time to show, so the gene may be working but we can't see it. Another important thing to think about is that much of the injected DNA never gets transcribed at all, it just gets degraded. Currently, there are scientists working on getting injected DNA to the right place in an efficient manner to cause the appropriate change. Lots to learn.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
49
happy DNA day(: Do you believe that DNA has caused a positive change in the criminal court system?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. Happy DNA to you, too! This is a great question. DNA has really changed the criminal court system and improved the certainty with which we can prove someone guilty or innocent. However, we always have to remember that there is still a chance for error, such as identifying the wrong DNA sample (or the sample became contaminated with another person's DNA!), and that we always have to double-check our answers. Still, I think that overall, DNA-based evidence has really improved the criminal justice system!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
50
How are some people born with male and female genetalia? If they have XX or XY then why do they have both?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. There are lots of reasons. Sometimes they have extra X chromosomes that go with a "Y". Sometimes there are mutations in the male determining "Y" chromosome genes. There can be mutations in an X chromosome gene that prevents male development. When a physician encounters a person with both male and female genetalia they begin with a very careful genetic work up before they offer a reason for the cause.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
51
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
52
About how many strands of DNA do we approximately have in our cells?
     Jessica Hartman: I am currently working as a pediatric genetic counselor at the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. I help families navigate the complexities surrounding genetic testing for their children with complex medical histories. I also provide families with support, information, and resources when their child is diagnosed with a genetic condition. At this time, we can't quantify DNA by the number of strands. We do all have 46 chromosomes in each of our cells, which contain DNA strands that are tightly packaged and organized into the chromosome structure. It's currently believed that we have approximately 20,000 genes in each of our cells!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
53
What is your favorite thing about your job?
     Jennifer Walsh: I am currently a genetic counseling student at the Boston University Master's Program in Genetic Counseling. My clinical experience includes preconception, prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling. I also have experience working in a molecular diagnostic laboratory. My favorite part about genetic counseling is providing support to families and helping them understand the genetics and natural history of a new diagnosis and how it will impact their lives. It is the perfect combination of science and medicine with patient interaction.
Remmy in NE ()
54
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
55
Why is DNA in the shape of a helix?
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. DNA is actually in the shape of a DOUBLE helix, actually. This shape accommodates the structure of hydrogen bonds between the nitrogen bases and allows for the base pairs of each strand to stack on one other. The "twisting" of the double helix is also important for the stability of the structure.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
56
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
57
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
58
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
59
I can wiggle my nose and my ears, i have full control of my face. why cant anyone else in my class?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. You may have certain genes that affect the way your facial muscles work that let you wiggle things most people can't. It's also possible that other people in your class actually have the same genes and should be able to wiggle, but haven't learned how like you have!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
60
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
61
My whole family has brown eyes or green eyes and I have blue eyes. How often does this happen?
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. Eye and hair color are tricky. I don't know the exact percentage of how often this happens but it does happen. There are multiple genes that go into eye color and so the percentages are not exact. If you have blue eyes the there are the brown, green and blue eye color genes in your family!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
62
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
63
How do I know how tall I will be?
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. How tall you will be depends on genetic and environmental factors, so its hard to predict EXACTLY how tall you might be. However, as you might expect, you can look at your parents to get an idea of how tall you might become. Mid-parental height is a calculation that doctors use to get this estimate.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
64
How close are we to designing athletes? Do you think we should design traits in humans at all?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. Your question has two great parts -- where the technology is, and the ethics of using that technology. Right now, we still have a lot to learn about what all the genes in our body do. We know a bit about the genes that controls how big our muscles are and the genes that control testosterone levels, but there are still many things needed to put all this together. We don't know a lot about how all those genes interact, and we are still learning a lot about how our environment affects how those genes are expressed! In terms of ethics, it is my belief that because medical technology is expensive (choosing which embryos to implant is a very costly procedure), it should be limited to people who need it for medical reasons, such as infertility and a family history of a deadly disease. But who knows; just a few years down the line, things may change!
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
65
What causes color blindness?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. The ability to see color includes function in the retina of the eye and the pathways to the part of the brain that help us to interpret what we see. Most color blindness is caused by a change in a gene on the X chromosome. Color blindness is actually quite common in males with about 8% of males being color blind. Remember that males only have one X chromosome, so that if there is a change in the gene on the X chromosome it will result in color blindness because they don't have another X chromosome, like females, to cover the function.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
66
Mike in NC (8th grade student)
67
When you are born a midget, what happens to the genes to make you be so short?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. People have dwarfism (we use this term rather than midget) because of changes in one of several genes that affect how the bones grow. There are a lot of different types of dwarfism and a lot of different genes that affect bone growth. The gene change can sometimes be just one different base pair.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
68
Can genes change over time?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. In a single human, your DNA is constantly being exposed to DNA damage. Most of this is repaired, but it is clear that some times it is not repaired, so they change over time. If the change occurs in the cells that make sperm and eggs, the change can be passed onto a future generation. If it helps, like making a giraffe's neck longer, it will be passed on.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
69
In our own individual bodies, are all of the nitrogenous base pairs in our DNA the same thorughout the body, or are they different?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. Hi Weiyu. DNA is the same throughout the body in all cells, with only a few exceptions. Some exceptions are: eggs and sperm have half the DNA, red blood cells have lost their nuclei, so don't have DNA, and in rare instances, a cell might have experienced a mutation. Even though nearly all cells have the exact same DNA, they use that DNA in different ways.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
70
What happens in the DNA to make dwarf people?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Most people who have dwarfism have a variation (mutation) in a gene that contributes to growth. The gene cannot make the healthy protein for normal growth. Dwarfs have normal intelligence and generally have high quality of life. The largest challenge is often the teasing that kids with dwarfism endure. Helping kids learn that its merely a difference and not a reason to treat kids with dwarfism poorly is something you can do to help!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
71
How can somebody's hair color change over time?
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. Yes, hair color can change over time. As we get older different things effect our hair color and bodies. Hormone levels and different genes are expressed at different times in our lives and can effect hair color. Environment can also effect hair color, i.e. sun exposure. Again there are many things that affect hair color.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
72
Why do really tall people die early?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. I don't know if I can generalize to all tall people - but I can say that some tall people have a genetic condition that makes them tall and might affect other parts of the body as well. As an example, people with Marfan syndrome are usually tall and they might have problems with their heart which causes them to die early.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
73
If my parents and grandparents all have either brown or red hair, then how did i end up with Blonde?
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. Hi Peru High School 9th graders! Im certainly no expert in hair genes, but hair color is interesting because there is not one gene that is responsible for color, it's a combination of genes, some recessive, some dominant and some co-dominant. So there may be some recessive hair color genes that were passed on for many generations in your family and caused blonde hair in you!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
74
David Bodine, Ph.D., what are pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells? And how are they connected to bone marrow transplantation?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. The pluripotent hematopoietic stem cell is the only cell in the bone marrow that can either divide and differentiate (that means divide and mature) into red cells and all the different white blood cells you have. PHSC can also divide without differentiating making two stem cells and there by increasing the number. This is what makes a bone marrow transplant work. A small number of transplanted stem cells expand and then begin to produce blood cells in the recipient's body.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
75
Is asthma aquired through genetics?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. Asthma is considered a complex genetic disorder. This means that there are changes in genes that lead to a risk of asthma but there are also likely environmental and other genetic differences that result in someone having asthma. One thing to think about is why do some people have very severe asthma while others only have asthma when they exercise? Some people only have asthma when they are children while others have asthma only when they adults. When you think about these differences in presentation of asthma it is easy to see how genetics and many other factors play a role in asthma. There is alot of learn.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
76
Do you think more people would be scientists if they made more money?
     Emily Hardisty: I work as a reproductive genetic counselor. I meet with couples to review their chance of having a child with a health problem and to discuss the testing options available to provide them with more information about the health of their pregnancy. I attempt to help them make decisions consistent with their values and beliefs. Thank you for the question. I think that there are many factors that could lead to more people being scientists. Certainly financial income affects career choice, but many people follow their passions into careers more than money. Early exposure to developing new fields and enthusiastic professionals would also lead to more scientists. Entrepreneurial spirit and innovation could potentially make ANY career lucrative.
J. Coringrato Jr. in WV (12th grade student)
77
Will there EVER be a cure for being blind?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. There are many different causes of blindness - some of these are genetic, some are not. There is research underway seeking to overcome some of the genetic causes of blindness, though it is difficult to predict when this might be effective. Other causes of blindness may in some cases be possible to treat in the future, and in other cases may be difficult to treat.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
78
What exactly is computational biology? And how does the field contribute to the study of genetics and the future, at large?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. Computational Biology is the use of computers and math to study biology. For genetics, computational biology is a powerful tool in analyzing the vast amount of data being generated and in modeling how genetic networks function. For the future, computational biology is essential, because the amount of data is going to continue to increase.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
79
How will you know if you're done growing?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Most kids stop growing by the end of high school but of course it is different for everyone. Some kids continue to grow for a couple of years after. Clues about whether you're still growing include needing to buy bigger shoes and jeans before they wear out. If you are at all concerned (sometimes people grow more slowly or stop growing early because they are missing hormones that help with growth), you should ask your doctor.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
80
If I have a double helix DNA and I mate a girl with a double helix DNA, will our kids have quadruple helix DNA. Is it exponential?
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. No it is not exponential. Actually our DNA will multiply (mitosis) and divide (meiosis) before it is passed on to our children. You receive half of your DNA from your mother and half from your father. So the egg and sperm each have half the double helix so that when they combine the child will have a full double helix.
Jacque Lot in PA (8th grade student)
81
what animal has the most DNA?
     Jennifer Walsh: I am currently a genetic counseling student at the Boston University Master's Program in Genetic Counseling. My clinical experience includes preconception, prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling. I also have experience working in a molecular diagnostic laboratory. The marbled lungfish (Protopterus aethiopicus) has the most DNA of any animal. It has approximately 133 billion base pairs (compared the human who has about 3 billion base pairs!)
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
82
Why do I have my dad's humor but my brother is a 'stick-in-the-mud?'
     Emily Hardisty: I work as a reproductive genetic counselor. I meet with couples to review their chance of having a child with a health problem and to discuss the testing options available to provide them with more information about the health of their pregnancy. I attempt to help them make decisions consistent with their values and beliefs. Hah! What a fun question! I'm not sure that we've discovered the genetics behind sense of humor, but it certainly sounds as though you've gotten some of your father's personality traits and your brother may have gotten personality traits from a different branch of the family. Of course, maybe he'll grow into a sense of humor over time!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
83
Can genes affect if your fingernail shape is round or boxed?
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. Yes... there are genes involved in fingernail shape but again it is not just one gene but many.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
84
Are Hemophilia and other diseases more common in boys than girls? How are women just carriers?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. Some forms of hemophilia (a disorder in which blood clotting is impaired) are due to mutations in genes on the X chromosome. Since males have only a single X chromosome, they will have the condition if they inherit an X with a hemophilia mutation. Females have two X chromosomes, and will not have the condition if only one of the two carry a hemophilia mutation. These females are referred to as "carriers." In rare instances, a female may have two X chromosomes with a hemophilia mutation. There are many different forms of hemophilia; only some of these are due to X-linked genes; others are due to genes on non-sex chromosomes and affect males and females equally.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
85
What makes today DNA day?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. DNA Day celebrates the anniversary of the Human Genome Project being completed on April 25th, 2003. This date is when researchers at the National Institutes of Health (the NIH, where I am writing to you) finished sequencing all the letters in our human DNA! Every year we celebrate DNA day on the Friday before April 25th, so students at school (like you!) can ask questions to us.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
86
My parents are huge Packers fans and they always say how great Brett Favre's genes are. Is skill at a particular sport - football in this example - genetic, or do you suspect they just like how he looks in Wranglers?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. If your folks are real Packer fans, they could not care less about how he looks in jeans, they should only care about how many Super Bowls he wins for the team. Farve obviously has an exceptional set of genes that allowed him to throw a football and run pretty well. But there is more to it than that. He was a tremendous competitor. We have not discovered any genes for competitiveness. Some personality traits are determined by environment. I know Farve's father coached him to be a competitor, and I suspect he had other role models help him with this as well.
Randy Banerjee in WI (9th grade student)
87
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
88
can you find the genetic code for a pterodactyl just from their fossils?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Yes, but it has to be a special type of fossil in-wich the DNA from the pterodactyl can be found (because once we have pterodactyl DNA then we can discover it's genetic code). For example, if the fossil has been frozen in ice or permafrost (soil in the ground that is below the freezing point) then DNA from that dinosaur may still exist and be able to be extracted and decoded, thereby giving scientists the pterodactyl's genetic code. Another way to get the genetic code would be to find a blood sample of the dinosaur, such as from a mosquito that bit the dinasaur and fed on it's blood and then soon after that landed on a tree and became trapped in amber (just like in the movie "Jurassic Park.") When trapped in amber or anything else that protects the DNA from the air, it could cause the DNA to exist for millions of years and this means DNA from a pterodactyl may still exist today. However, finding a pterodactyl fossil that has been frozen in ice or permafrost for millions of years or finding a mosquito that bit a pterodactyl and then has been trapped in amber for millions of years may be very, very, very difficult. Most of the time dinosaur fossils are not found in ice or permafrost and therefore most of the time DNA and the dinosaur's genetic code can not be determined from fossils. It therefore takes a very special type of fossil!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
89
Why do people from other cultures and countries have different appearances?
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. Great question! Human differences are due to variations in DNA. If a particular group all had dark hair and dark skin, and they did not migrate or marry with other cultures very much, then they maintain their similar appearance in that particular country/culture-- which would be different from another country/culture where everyone was blonde and blue-eyed.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
90
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
91
Why are some people albino?
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. Albinism is a genetic condition caused by a mutation, or gene change, in one of several genes. These genes are the instructions for making proteins involved in producing melanin. Melanin is made by melanocytes, or pigment cells that give skin, hair and eyes color. There are a few types of albinism, but most of the time a person needs to have mutations in both of their genes to have Albinism.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
92
Do you all sit in one room with laptops, answering questions? Or are you all at your own offices?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. Good morning! We are all in one room with laptops, answering questions. How did you know??
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
93
How can somebody have both body parts as a male and female?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Body parts grow based on information from two sources: chromosomes and hormones. So, a child may have chromosomes that tell the body to develop as a boy but a variation in a gene for a hormone that over rides the genes on the Y chromosome and tells the body to develop as a girl. Because there are messages telling the body to do both, some children are born with both types of parts. The most common are girls who have testes in their abdomen-they are generally removed surgically and the girls live healthy and productive lives.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
94
Every year my hair gets a darker shade of brown. When I was younger I had red hair. Why and how does hair color change?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Hair color can change for a number of reasons. Most is that there are lots of genes that control hair color and in people whose color changes what you are seeing is just the natural program that that combination of genes describes.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
95
is being annoying a personality trait or genetic?
     Emily Hardisty: I work as a reproductive genetic counselor. I meet with couples to review their chance of having a child with a health problem and to discuss the testing options available to provide them with more information about the health of their pregnancy. I attempt to help them make decisions consistent with their values and beliefs. I would say that being annoying is probably more of a situational personality trait, than a genetic trait. Someone might be annoying to one person but not in a different situation.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
96
HAPPY DNA DAY!!!!!!!! Why are prople born with a certian color of hair, and over time it changes? (like from blonde to brown)
     Jennifer Walsh: I am currently a genetic counseling student at the Boston University Master's Program in Genetic Counseling. My clinical experience includes preconception, prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling. I also have experience working in a molecular diagnostic laboratory. Happy DNA Day to you too! The genetics of hair color is still being explored, but as of now it is thought that there are two genes associated with hair color, and these genes code for proteins that produce melanin. Melanin is what gives hair, eyes, and skin color. Transcription factors determine how much melanin is produced and as we age the transcription factors increase the amount of melanin that is produced, which is why blonde hair often darkens over time.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
97
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
98
Morgan Rucksack in SD (12th grade student)
99
Why does this world have so many diseases present today?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. I think it is because we are MUCH better at detecting and treating them. In the past, many people died and we had no idea why. With modern techniques, now we can discover the cause of a disorder, and thus, we have a new disease. Hopefully our knowledge will let us treat them too.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
100
Why do people have different eye shapes and face shapes? As in, why and how did that variation occur?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Facial characteristics are determined by a cascade of many genes inherited from both parents. We each have a small number of unique genetic variations and the way that genes are inherited includes spontaneous rearrangement that leads to a mix-up of our parents genes. The result is that we resemble our relatives but also have a unique appearance.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
101
Can there be physical mutation from radiation?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. Radiation can cause damage to DNA. If an adult is exposed to radiation, that DNA damage can result in things like cancer. If the damage causes changes in the DNA in that person's egg or sperm cells, those changes can be passed on to their children who then might have physical changes. For instance, we know that there is a higher chance for babies to have small head sizes if their mothers are exposed to high levels of radiation during their pregnancy.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
102
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
103
is it possible to shrink a giraffe to the size of a house hold pet
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. Oh, what a fun idea! I believe the answer is NO, but not sure anyone has tried or is trying to do that. The closest similar idea I can think of is when breeders of animals make miniature versions of a particular dogs by breeding the standard version of a dog with a smaller dog (example: the creation of a miniature poodle from a standard poodle)...but a giraffe, that would be much harder, I imagine...but who knows what the future will bring!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
104
Is there a limit to how many genetic defects a single person can have?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. This is a very interesting question and one that many people are thinking about these days. So it turns out that we each of us have many, many differences in our DNA sequence when compared to each other. Fortunately, many of these differences in DNA sequence have no effect on us. Yet, we each carry changes in 8-10 genes inherited in a recessive manner. Typically, they also have no effect, however, if an individual has a child with someone carrying one of the same 8-10 changes they have a 1 in 4 chance of having a child with a genetic problem, this is recessive inheritance. The the bottom line is, it is possible for someone to have changes in more than one gene that will cause clinical problems, but also the many differences between each of us are the result of the differences in each of our DNA sequences.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
105
If my great great grandma was a twin, what are the chances that I will have twins?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. If someone in your family was a twin then that does increase the chances that you will have twins. However, the exact percentage chance that you will have a twin since your great great grandma was a twin cannot be accurately determined. All we know is that it appears that an increased chance of having a twin can be inherited, or past down in the genetic makeup of a person, and therefore if one person in your family was a twin then it is more likely that other people in your family may also have twins. The genetics of this (the genes that cause this) are still being worked out by geneticists and a lot more research is needed.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
106
Could it be considered a genetic mutation if you're whole family is really tall or really short and you're the exact opposite?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Height is highly heritable due to a combination of many genes. The most likely explanation is that the person in the family who is remarkably tall or short got a different "sort" of the parents' genes. So it is not due to a single mutation in a gene but rather a combination of the family genes.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
107
Is it possible to breed a human and and animal?
     Emily Hardisty: I work as a reproductive genetic counselor. I meet with couples to review their chance of having a child with a health problem and to discuss the testing options available to provide them with more information about the health of their pregnancy. I attempt to help them make decisions consistent with their values and beliefs. It is not. Some animals that are different species but very closely related, such as a donkey and a horse, can be bred. However, even in this situation the offspring is unable to have children of it's own. There are no animals with a close enough genetic relationship to humans to be bred with a human.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
108
How can one sex be in danger of a disorder or disease that the other can't be affected by?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. Good morning. This is a great question. There are some genetic disorders called "sex chromosome disorders" that mainly affect one gender and not the other. The reason lies in our chromosomes. Females have two X chromosomes (XX) and males have an X and a Y chromosomes (XY). Sometimes there are gene changes that affect one of our X chromosomes but not the other. Let's call that gene change X' because it makes one of our X chromosomes different. Now you can see how a female with XX' still has one normal X chromosomes as a back-up, while a male with X'Y doesn't have that back-up and may end up with the disorder.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
109
What causes me to have a receding hairline?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. Male pattern baldness is a trait in which there is a genetic predisposition to hair loss in response to a hormone that is found in males but not in significant amounts in females. To my knowledge the specific genes involved have not been identified as yet.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
110
How do people get diseases if it isn't inherited?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. You can get diseases from infectious agents, like viruses and bacteria, and toxic agents, like asbestos and tobacco. These are probably the two most likely causes of diseases outside of genetic changes in our DNA.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
111
Is it possible for someone to be born with pink hair?
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. No I am not aware of any gene or syndrome that is associated with pink hair. Lots of genes go into hair color so the genetics is tricky.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
112
Me and my brother look almost exactly alike. We are 7 years apart how can this be?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. You have the same parents! Each of you inherited 50% of your genes from your Mom, and 50% from your father. So you should have 25% the exact same genes. I suspect that the 25% that you share are the ones that determine how you look.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
113
In addition to screeing patients for genetic disorders, what are some other responsibilities/ roles of a genetic counselor?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Genetic counselors help people decide whether to undergo genetic testing, help to support families who have affected children, help them make decisions about how to minimize increased risk for cancer and heart disease... It is an intersection of human genetics and psychology and a very rewarding profession. I am a genetic counselor who has been practicing for nearly 35 years. Thanks for your question!
Jeannette in NY (teacher)
114
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
115
How do you know what genes you will get from either parent?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Well, it is possible to track the gene to a parent if it is associated with a dominant trait. For instance, the ability to taste PTC is a dominant genetic trait. if PTC tastes bitter to you, and to your dad, but not to your mom, then you know that you got the trait form your dad. Sometimes to find out requires a molecular test. And sometimes you just will never know.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
116
Why is it that some kids grow really tall while their parents and grandparents are short?
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. Your height depends on both genetic and environmental factors. The genetic part is based on multiple genes, not just one. We still have not identified all of the genes responsible for adult height! Although we use the height of a person's parents to get an estimate, there are environmental influences which can explain why some kids can outgrow their parents and grandparents.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
117
Barney Stinson in NY (student)
118
Why can a genetic defect appear in generation but skip the next generation and then reappear in a diffrent generation?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. A genetic trait or disorder can appear to 'skip' a generation, only to reappear in a future generation, for many different reasons. One reason is that the gene that determines this trait or disorder may appear on the 'X-chromosome'. Since men only have one X-chromosome, if there is a genetic mutation on the X-chromosome in a man then he may have a specific trait or disorder. Then if that man has a daughter, she will have two X-chromosomes (since females have two X-chromosomes) - one she inherited from her father, that will have the mutation, and one she inherited from her mother, who does NOT have the mutation. The X-chromosome that does not have the mutation may then cause the daughter to not have the trait or disorder. If that daughter then grows up and has a son, that son has a 50% chance of inheriting the X-chromosome without the mutation and a 50% chance of inherited the X-chromosome with the mutation, which means that son will have a 50% chance of having the trait or disorder, just like his grandfather did. Thus, it would appear that the trait or disorder "skipped" a generation and went from grandfather to grandson.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
119
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
120
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
121
Are bad habits, such as biting your nails, a genetic thing or is just something some people do?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Most habits are a way to manage a bit of anxiety or to distract you when you are thinking about other things. They are self-determined and with a bit of work, can be changed. So they are most often not genetic. Body tics (muscle jerks) can be genetic and almost impossible for people to control or change.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
122
If you are albino,does it mean that you dont produce pigment, or just that you have pigment but it is not being used? Where does this extra pigment go?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. There are many different forms of albinism. The most common form is due to a deficiency in an enzyme required to produce melanin, the major skin and hair pigment. When this enzyme is absent, melanin cannot be produced; the substrate of the enzyme is the amino acid tyrosine, which is metabolized in other ways.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
123
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
124
I once saw a TV show about a guy that can recite pi to the 90,000th digit. Is this skill hereditary or is he one of those "autistic savants"?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. I'm not aware of a genetic trait that behaves in that way; to my knowledge such extraordinary feats of memory or ability to calculate are not well understood.
Geoff Toyz in WI (10th grade student)
125
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
126
Where do cowlicks come from?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. This is pretty interesting. So geneticists and embryologists (scientists that study the development of humans before they are born) think that the direction that the hair shaft grows is influenced by how the brain grows. For example, take at look at the whirl in the hair of someone nearby. Most people have a symmetric whirl in the top back of their head. Some people have 2 whirls, some have whirls in the front of their hair or on the side. I suspect a cowlick may be either because of this phenomenon or perhaps the structure of the hair is different and it stands differently making it hard to comb down. Either reason just reflects our differences, which should be celebrated.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
127
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
128
I wrote a DNA haiku for everyone: "Rosalind Franklin Had her work stolen by men Double helices."
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. Pretty cool. Now you have gone public!!!!
Ricky Waivers in NY (7th grade student)
129
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
130
Peru High School in IN (10th grade student)
131
What changes in DNA cause a person to grow to over 7 feet tall? Is it true that death is a possibility if someone is too tall?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. A mutation in a gene responsible for growth may be the cause. But this generally does not increase the chances for sudden death. Significant height can also be due to a mutation in the gene Fibrillin that leads to a connective tissue disorder called Marfan Syndrome. If a tall person has Marfan syndrome, he or she also has an increased risk for dilation of the aorta and sudden death. Those who are diagnosed take medication to reduce the risk and can have surgery to prevent a life threatening event. You can read more about Marfan syndrome at the website of the National Marfan Syndrome Foundation.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
132
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
133
William Madison in TX (9th grade student)
134
Why do people have hair that is different textures?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. While genes are likely to be involved in determining hair texture, not much is known yet about the actual ones involved. a simply inherited "hair curl" gene that completely determines hair texture has not been found and likely does not exist. Instead, variations in several genes affecting different aspects of hair development probably combine together to determine the shape of your 'do.
Central in ID (11th grade student)
135
Why does the hair on my legs grow faster than the hair on my head?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. The hair on different parts of our body is different, so it will grow differently. But, for men that shave their head, they have to do it every day or two, just like women do with legs. So the hair on your head may be growing just as quickly, but since it is longer, you may not notice.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
136
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
137
My great grandpa came to America straight from Ireland but the Irish genes mainly show up in my cousins. Why is this?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Actually all the decendents of your great grandpa in your generation share the same number of genes in common with him. So, you have just as many Irish genes as your cousins. You may mean that they look more Irish than you do and that is due to the way that genes sort themselves when passed on from parents. It is normal variation.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
138
Why don't people use all of their brain power?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. I think the reason is that the brain has to have the capacity to do a lot of things and it cannot commit everything to one or a few tasks. But that is no reason to not try to develop your capabilities to their fullest. If a normal person uses 2% of their brain and a genius uses 3%, it would seem that there is not too much difference to me.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
139
I have bad seasonal allergies. Is there any hope for me in the future without taking antihistamines?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. There is a lot of research going on to better understand and treat allergies. Hopefully treatments will improve in your lifetime. You can read about allergies on the website of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
140
Does diabeties run in families?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. There are two major forms of diabetes, designated type 1 and type 2. Both forms tend to cluster in families, so there is an increased risk to close relatives if a family member is affected. There appear to be many genes involved, and there are also important environmental effects. There are rare instances in which mutations in specific genes do cause diabetes, due to inherited defects in the production of response to insulin, but these are a rare cause of the condition.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
141
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
142
Are the use of drugs inherited.
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. Drug use is not inherited in a straight forward way. Often people who abuse and use drugs because of an underlying mental illness (like depression or bipolar disorder). We know that these conditions are partially inherited and can run in families. So a person might inherit a higher chance or "predisposition" to mental illness if it runs in their family. This could lead to drug use. Environment is also a huge part of drug use and people who inherit any higher predisposition can live happily drug free!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
143
Why do people look different from each other?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. What a great question. The answer lies mostly in our genes -- we have over 99% of the same DNA from you to me, but that 1% is what causes us to look different from each other! The 1% of those genes are the instructions for eye color, hair color, head shape and face shape, height and weight, fingernail shape and ear shape. Of course, what we eat and what we do throughout our lives can affect this, too.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
144
I forget what this disease is called, but I know its when you shout out random words uncontrolably. Does this have something to do with genes or DNA?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. I think you are probably referring to Tourette syndrome, where both verbal and motor (abnormal movements) tics can occur. There is good evidence that genetic factors contribute to Tourette syndrome, but probably there are many genes that are involved, and probably non-genetic factors as well.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
145
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
146
My mom has dark red hair. But my brother has bright red hair. How does that happen?
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. The genetics of hair color are not very well established, but hair color can change over time depending on the amount of melanin in it. If more melanin is present, the darker the color. The combination of hair color genes and the environment (exposure to lots of sunlight, for instance can make hair lighter!) plays a role in subtle hair color differences in one family.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
147
What is the reason people have birthmarks and freckles?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. Birthmark's are simply an overgrowth of a specific type of cell - for example, they may occur because blood vessels are overgrown in that area of the skin or they may occur because a cell that causes the skin to have a dark color (called a 'melanocyte') is overgrown in that area. Some birthmarks can be inherited while others are not. Freckles, however, are a bit different - they arise not because of an increase in NUMBER of pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) but instead they exist because of an increase AMOUNT of dark pigment (called melanin) in that small area of the skin. Interestingly, freckles are usually caused by a gene known as 'MC1R.' This gene has many functions, one of which is determining skin pigmentation!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
148
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
149
Is it possible for a human to be born cold-blooded?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. There are many genes involved in the process of human thermoregulation. A change in one of the genes would likely not be enough to completely alter the way we regulate our body temperature. So it is unlikely that a person would be born cold-blooded. If, due to environmental pressures, it was beneficial for humans to become cold-blooded, we may evolve over many, many generations to become cold-blooded animals.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
150
If you get a serious disease (measles or mumps) while pregnant, can it affect you're baby?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. This is an important health issue, thank you for bringing it up. Yes, there are several viruses that can affect the way a baby develops if the mother is infected during pregnancy. The most notable ones are Rubella (a type of measles), cytomegalovirus, toxoplasmosis (carried by some infected cats) and HIV. It is an important reason why everyone should be vaccinated against viruses that have effective vaccines and be careful to stay healthy during pregnancy. The mumps virus is known to cause infertility in men in some cases but I do not think it is a known teratogen, an agent that affects the fetus if a mom is infected during pregnancy.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
151
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
152
Is melanin produced to shield our cells from UV rays? Does the production of melanin, in any way, affect the absorption of vitamin D?
     Emily Hardisty: I work as a reproductive genetic counselor. I meet with couples to review their chance of having a child with a health problem and to discuss the testing options available to provide them with more information about the health of their pregnancy. I attempt to help them make decisions consistent with their values and beliefs. Yes. Melanin is a photoprotectant. It helps to shield the cells from UV radiation and reduce the risk of indirect DNA damage (and skin cancer). Melanin does not affect the absorption of vitamin D from food. However, vitamin D is made by the skin in response to sunlight. People with more melanin will produce less vitamin D in response to sunlight.
Loke Li Voon (student)
153
WHAT MAKES TODAY DNA DAY?
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. DNA day is today because we want to commemorate the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2013! Happy DNA Day!
McDowell Intermediate High School (10th grade student)
154
What causes a person to be blind?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. There are many causes of blindness. Many are genetic. When a person is born blind it is generally because the eyes did not form properly during development. Some genetic causes loss of sight in childhood or adulthood. An example is Retinitis Pigmentosa that causes progressive central vision loss. Adults can get macular degeneration. Both have genetic causes and are under study at the National Eye Institute.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
155
When my mother was pregnant, I was one of two twins. Sometime during the third trimester, I resorbed my brother, or at least that is what doctors suspect as I was born at 13 lbs, 5 oz. I have always suspected that this gave me the strength of a grown man as a little baby. Can my unusually high level of strength be attributed to this resorption or is it simply superior genetics?
     Gretchen Skurla: I work as a Cancer Genetic Counselor for Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center in Mishawaka, IN. Strength again is what we call multifactorial. Many things both environmental and genes go into being strong. It most likely is not attributed to the reabsorption.
Dwight K. Schrute in PA (Higher Education student)
156
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
157
What is your job environment like ?
     Ilana Beth Solomon: I am currently a 2nd year genetic counseling student at the NHGRI. I am doing my thesis research on a Hereditary Colon Cancer, called Lynch Syndrome. I am a graduate student in genetic counseling, so being a student is currently my "job". This means part time I'm taking classes in genetics, biology, public health and psychology. Part time I'm working on my own research, and the rest of the time I spend in a clinic or hospital, to practice working with patients. The environment always changes for me, so its great!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
158
Is the way your eyebrows are shaped inherited?
     Jennifer Walsh: I am currently a genetic counseling student at the Boston University Master's Program in Genetic Counseling. My clinical experience includes preconception, prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling. I also have experience working in a molecular diagnostic laboratory. Eyebrow shape is one of many facial features that are inherited traits, meaning you inherit them from one of your parents. It is likely that many genes are associated with eyebrow shape
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
159
Is there a way that a human can be injected with fish cells to make them a mermaid or butterfly cells to make them a fairy?
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. Oh, what a wonderful imagination! The simple answer is no...it's very technically difficult to inject cells from another species and acquire the characteristics of that species. Not to mention there are ethical issues with it, too! But, I love your creativity!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
160
What are the chances of having fraternal triplets?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. Fraternal triplets means that three different eggs were fertilized by three different sperm, from the millions of sperm present during fertilization. Typically, a woman only ovulates one egg per month so that would make the chances of having fraternal triplets very, very low. However, some woman may ovulate 2 or even more eggs at a time, either naturally or because they are taking a medicine that helps them ovulate. If each of these eggs are fertilized by a different sperm then the child produced will be a genetically different from their womb-mate.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
161
Why does eyesight get weaker and weaker as you get older?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. There are many causes for loss of vision in the elderly. A number of factors can affect our eyesight as we age, and not all of them are genetic. For instance cataracts (cloudy eye lenses), can be due to environmental aggravation, such as radiation or UV-light induced damage. Macular degeneration (the physical breakdown of the central portion of the retina) appears to be hereditary in some cases. It depends!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
162
What can't be cloned?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Some organisms like plants can be easily cloned. Single cell organisms like bacteria and yeast are essentially clones too. On the other hand higher animals like vertebrates are VERY hard to clone. Frogs and salamanders were cloned a long time ago, but only a few animals were generated from thousands of experiments. More recently there have been clones of mammals, but it takes a great deal of effort and these clones are not normal. We have a lot of learn about the whole process. I guess most things CAN be cloned if you are willing to accept imperfect copies and you have unlimited resources.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
163
WHat do you do when you're a genetic counselor? Like, day to day job description?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. You meet with couples making reproductive decisions, deciding whether to use genetic tests, looking for resources for affected children, deciding whether to participate in clinical research, and trying to adapt to a child's genetic condition. We also often teach and do our own research as well. It is a very rewarding profession. I have been doing it for nearly 35 years!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
164
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
165
How does a mutation in DNA occur?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. There are many different ways in which mutations can arise. Some occur as a consequence of chemical changes in the structure of the bases in DNA or by changes due to radiation exposure. Others seem to be random events that occur when DNA is being replicated, in which the incorrect base in incorporated into the growing DNA strand. Mutation is a natural process, and it is the driving force of evolution, though sometimes it can result in a genetic disorder or cancer. Most mutations are repaired by enzyme systems in the cell, but some persist in spite of this repair system.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
166
How does the environment make clones not identical?
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. This is a wonderful question! The answer is in the phenomena of epigenetics: our environment can actually change our DNA. Things we get exposed to (whether it be any type of food, or stress, or poisons, or anything else) can turn on or turn off our genes. Therefore, clones or identical twins who grow up in even slightly different environments may have these small changes in their DNA!
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
167
How do steroids make one stronger? I see how it makes them bigger, but how does it stimulate strength?
     Brandon Colby: I am the author of the book "Outsmart Your Genes", which discusses genetic testing and the personal genomics revolution. I am also the CEO & Medical Director of Existence Genetics, a company that provides comprehensive genetic testing services to healthcare professionals. I practice Predictive Medicine in Los Angeles, California. There are many different types of steroids and the type you are referring to are known as "anabolic steroids." These steroids mimic the effect of testosterone, a naturally occurring steroid that is found in everyone's body. Testosterone sends signals to muscles to grow. When anabolic steroids are taken by athletes they artificially increase the amount of testosterone in their body and this additional testosterone causes more of a signal to the person's muscles to grow (so that the muscles grow larger than they normally would) - when a muscle is able to grow larger than it normally would have, the person then is stronger (because they have more muscle mass). For example, having more muscle mass in the arms means that person may be able to lift heavier objects and having more muscle mass in the legs may mean the person can run faster. Testosterone also has many other effects on the body - for example, it changes the vocal cords, causes changes in body hair, and also effects the size of the testicles. Because of this, when athletes inject anabolic steroids into their body to try to get larger muscles, they are also causing many other changes such as changes to their voice, and potentially hair loss on their head (going bald prematurely) and a shrinking of the size of their testicles. Steroids can also cause cancer to grow, so people who take anabolic steroids are also at greater risk of getting cancer. When athletes take anabolic steroids, it is known as "doping." Form the perspective of a doctor, taking anabolic steroids is very harmful to a person's health and can have permanent and very serious (and even life-threatening) consequences.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
168
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
169
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
170
Is the job of a computational biologist interesting? or tedious if you're wading through lots and lots of data?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. I do think that the job of a computational biologist is interesting. The key is to build computer software (i.e. program) that goes through data looking for patterns that tell us something about the genetics. Lots and lots of data is a good thing. The more data you have the stronger your results can be.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
171
Have you been asked a question you cannot answer? If yes, what do you do?
     Jennifer Walsh: I am currently a genetic counseling student at the Boston University Master's Program in Genetic Counseling. My clinical experience includes preconception, prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling. I also have experience working in a molecular diagnostic laboratory. Today, I was asked a question that I could not answer. Luckily, there are a number of experts here that have more experience with that particular topic who were able to answer it. In general, if I am asked a question I do not have the answer to, I do research using a number of resources including scientific text books, medical literature searches, or contact a colleague who may be able to help me find the answer.
Loke Li Voon (student)
172
When someone is born with extra fingers or toes can it affect their body function or the way they act?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. No, most often people just have extra fingers or toes. This is fairly common. Occasionally extra fingers or toes are one part of a syndrome. A syndrome means a collection of features occurring together with a common cause. If they are due to a syndrome, other body functions many be involved.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
173
What race has the best DNA?
     Vence Bonham, J.D.: I am Chief of NHGRI's Education and Community Involvement Branch and an Associate Investigator in NHGRI's Social Behavioral Research Branch. I research the ethical, legal, social and policy implications of genomic discoveries, particularly health professionals' and lay persons' understanding of race, ethnicity and genetics. Race is a social construct (race is socially created identification) that correlates with genetic variation. Racial groups are not discrete biological groups. Our genes do not differ by racial groups.
Beau Kakie in PA (12th grade student)
174
Thank you very much for answering my students questions. As you can see, I have a real "corker" of a class (ex.: the Why my teacher thinks she knows everything") question. Anyway -- thanks for giving your time and energy to this. Although our class time is over, we will be looking at the transcript on Monday and see how many more questions you were able to answer for them. Peace to you and yours.
     Weiyi Mu: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I became interested in genetics when I was in middle school and have been studying science ever since! As a genetic counseling student, I see patients with all different kinds of genetic or genetics-influenced conditions from Down syndrome to breast cancer. I learn about how genes affect their conditions and also learn to how to help them understand and live with their conditions. Thank YOU for your class! We had such a wonderful time answering all of their thoughtful and creative questions. It is always the most enjoyable for us when we have such enthusiastic students to respond to. By the way, one of our experts here, Jeff Witherly, lived in Peru, Indiana (Circus City) and wanted to say "Hello" from the NIH!
Peru High School in IN (teacher)
175
If you get gene therapy for a genetic condition would a child get the condition or the modified gene?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. Gene therapies that have been the subject of current research have been targeted at somatic (body) cells and not at germ cells. Therefore, if an individual undergoes gene therapy, his or her sperm or egg cells are not changed, and therefore there remains a risk of passing on the mutated gene to an offspring.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
176
If someone has ADD or ADHD then if they take an energy pill or drink, will it make them more hyper or more calm?
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. How someone with ADD or ADHD reacts to the stimulants in energy drinks depends on how their bodies use these chemicals and metabolize them as well. I suspect most people react to the caffeine in some energy drinks by being more active and stimulated. Others less so. Your question brings to mind a curious thing that happens in small children with benadryl, a drug that helps with allergic reactions. Some children take benedryl and it puts them to sleep that is how most adults react as well. However, some children get very, very hyperactive when they take benadryl. This is probably because of the way they use and metabolize the drug in their body.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
177
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
178
In a person that has both, can allergies conflict with asthma?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Asthma and allergic diseases are complex conditions caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Do allergies cause asthma? The answer to this question is: yes and no. People who have certain kinds of allergies are more likely to have asthma.But not everyone who has allergies develops asthma. And not all cases of asthma are related to allergies. If you have asthma, it's a good idea to look at whether allergies may be triggering your symptoms.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
179
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
180
Gregor Mendel spent a lot of time experimenting with peas, which contributed greatly to our understanding of inheritance. However I feel that he must have wasted a ton of food, unless he served peas with every single meal. I bet all the other monks must have been so sick of peas! Is there a genetic link to not liking peas? If there is I believe I am descended from Mendel's monks!
     Janette Lawrence: I am a genetic counselor at Massachusetts General Hospital's Cancer Center. My job is to identify families who are at risk for having a cancer predisposition gene syndrome and offer them counseling regarding their decision to have genetic testing. If families are found to have a gene mutation predisposing them to cancer(s), I help them cope with the diagnosis, set up appointments for their cancer screening, and help identify other family members who may be at risk. Ha! I bet there were a lot of peas that went to waste (I had never thought about it until now). Hopefully, they were more resourceful back in the day and ate some. Is there a genetic link to not liking peas? There is definetly a genetic link to taste, but an environmental one as well. Your dislike for peas may change over time, so don't be surprised if one day you say, more peas please! Give them a try later in life and see for yourself! Our tastebuds change over time-- perhaps from both genetic and/or environmental changes.
Mogg High School in SC (11th grade student)
181
Is advanced nanomedicine possible today?
     Emily Hardisty: I work as a reproductive genetic counselor. I meet with couples to review their chance of having a child with a health problem and to discuss the testing options available to provide them with more information about the health of their pregnancy. I attempt to help them make decisions consistent with their values and beliefs. Nanomedicine is not in practice today, but there is focus on research in this area. The main areas of research right now are in cancer treatment and to deliver medications to specific areas of the body.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
182
Charles DuMarr in DE (8th grade student)
183
How come some people have brown eyes but their child's eyes are a different color?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Eye color is caused by many genes that are inherited from both parents. Some colors are more dominant than others so eye color can vary a lot in the same family.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
184
Once a person dies, would it be possible to recreate that person by immediatley extracting thier DNA and cloning it?
     David Bodine, Ph.D.: I am the Chief & Senior Investigator of NHGRI's Genetics and Molecular Biology Branch and Head of the Hematopoiesis Section. I investigate the genetics of pluripotent hematopoietic stem cells (PHSCs) to improve the effectiveness of bone marrow transplantation and to find better ways to use these unique cells for gene replacement therapy. I also study diseases that interfere with the ability of the stem cells to differentiate into red blood cells. Theoretically. It has been done in other mammals like pets and cattle. However, these clones are not always normal, they seem to be prematurely aged, for example. Right now this is done with living cells, not DNA, but I see the field moving in that direction in the future.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
185
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
186
I'm a first year medical student and I was wondering what opportunities are out there regarding researching the genetic aspects of autism and autistic spectrum disorders?
     Patricia Devers: I am a reproductive genetic counselor with over twelve years of experience in this field. My focus is clinical, particularly working with families who are pregnant or contemplating pregnancy who have an increased risk or a known birth defect or genetic condition in their pregnancy. Autism and autistic spectrum disorders are not well-understood and affect so many families, that many people are interested in learning more about them. There is a lot of work researching the genetic aspects of the conditions, both in the clinical setting and the laboratory setting. As one resource, you can go to clinicaltrials.gov. ClinicalTrials.gov is a registry and results database of federally and privately supported clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world. There are 315 results when you search 'autism.' The first thing you are doing right is choosing a great school (I say that as a Michigan State alum)!!
Michigan State University College of Human Medicine in MI (Higher Education student)
187
So there isn't a genetic basis for our personalities? I suppose our character is mostly molded by, what people termed, "the social forces" of our environment-- the blank slate argument.
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. There most definitely is some genetic influence on personality but much of it is determined by the environment. For instance, babies deprived of love and nurturing early in life have life long problems attaching to others in relationships. Even if they are genetically normal. However, there are genes that contribute to risk-taking behavior and that might be considered a personality trait. So, there are both genetic and societal factors at play. But we do have control over aspects of our personalities.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
188
Is type I diabetes hereditary? We have heard conflicting reports.
     Donna Krasnewich, M.D., Ph.D.: I am a Program Director at the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS). I am knowledgeable in diseases resulting from inborn errors of metabolism. Type I diabetes is considered a complex genetic disorder. This means that there are many different genes that may cause someone to be unable to use their glucose correctly. Some people with type 1 diabetes may have several genes that are different that work together to cause type one diabetes. To see a list of genes that have been implicated in causing type 1 diabetes you may want to look at this link in the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/omim. OMIM is an expertly curated resource to find genes that have different effects.
Somersworth High School and Career Technical Center in NH (11th grade teacher)
189
Do you think there's a deficit in funding for science today? If so, is the DNA community facing the same problem?
     Vence Bonham, J.D.: I am Chief of NHGRI's Education and Community Involvement Branch and an Associate Investigator in NHGRI's Social Behavioral Research Branch. I research the ethical, legal, social and policy implications of genomic discoveries, particularly health professionals' and lay persons' understanding of race, ethnicity and genetics. This is an exciting time in genomics and biomedical research. We are making advances in the translation of new knowledge to improve health and reduce the burden of disease. Additional funding can be put to good use.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
190
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
191
Can you have a mutation where one leg or arm is longer than the other?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Limb length discrepancy (one longer than the other) on one side of the body is due to a disruption in development in that limb in the womb. The cells that grow into the limb are interrupted. It's not usually not due to a single mutation.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
192
Is it possible for a dog to give birth to a cat?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Not by natural means because dogs and cats are different species. By definition, two different species are not capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. I suspect that if you try to implant a developing cat embryo in a dog female, the pregnancy will end in miscarriage, possibly due to an immune response mounted against the embryo.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
193
Can a person have cancer resistant genes, and can those genes be extracted to cure or prevent cancer in someone else?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. Some people probably do have genes that protect them for cancer and they could be considered to have cancer resistant genes. Right now the only area that is well studied are the genes that predispose us to have a higher risk of cancer. It is unlikely that we would be able to extract any genes that offer us protection in order to cure or prevent cancer. What we can do is identify those people who have a higher risk to develop cancer (due to genes that they inherit) in order to detect the cancer at an earlier stage or in order to try and prevent the cancer.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
194
Suzie Fooze in NJ (8th grade student)
195
Is it possible to fix a mutation after it happens?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. This is one of the major goals of gene therapy, which is a very active area. One approach is to introduce a replacement gene by gene therapy using viral vectors. This does not repair the gene, but does provide a "good copy" of the gene. This can help fix a genetic disease if the disease is recessive (for example, if it is caused by loss of a gene or gene product) and there are current trials to do this in certain diseases. More cutting edge techniques to repair genes (using site-specific nucleases) are under intensive development in the lab, but are only at the early stages of research. Having said that, there are many DNA repair mechanisms in cells that repair mutations as they occur, protecting organisms against deleterious effects of most mutations that occur.
WHS 2nd Hr Honors Bio in IL (9th grade student)
196
Is flexibility affected by heredity?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. Flexibility is a complex trait that is probably affected by both our genes (heredity) and our environment. If someone has the genetic background to be more flexible but doesn't practice activities that involved being flexible then they would not benefit from anything they might have inherited.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
197
Do you believe DNA is key in curing cancer?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. I think it is extremely important. Cancer is a genetic disease in that it is caused by genetic changes causing normal cells to become cancerous. But there are many, many different types of cancer. So, understanding the different DNA changes and how the affect the cells will allow us to discover, design and apply the "right" treatments to different types of cancer.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
198
I know that if you clone an animal it can have premature problems or death, but what if you make a clone of a clone, would it have the genetic age of the original animal or the first clone?
     Amy Gaviglio: I am a genetic counselor working for the Minnesota Department of Health. My particular focus is in newborn screening and ethical/legal issues with genetics and genetic testing. Whew! That is a great question! I would think that the clone of a clone would have the genetic age of the first clone. Even with cloning, there are likely to be different gene expression patterns and the lengths of the telomeres would likely come into play in determining how long the animal will live. When scientists have looked a cloned animals, some of them have longer telomeres than a naturally conceived animal, and some shorter... a lot more research needs to be done in this area!
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
199
If intelligent life was discovered on another world, how similar do you think their DNA would be to ours?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. That would depend on whether that intelligent life evolved from the same chemicals that humans did. If so, it might be similar. That assumes that all intelligent life is determined by DNA.
Markus Finch in ID (11th grade student)
200
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
201
If my parents both have brown hair, how did i get red hair?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. Your parents probably each had a gene for brown hair and a gene for red hair. Since the brown hair gene is domininant to the red hair gene this is the gene that gave your parents brown hair. This also means that when your parents have a child, they have about a 25% chance of having a child with red hair (recessive inheritance).
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
202
How long does DNA last after an organism dies?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. DNA can last for a very long time (although it may be degraded into smaller pieces, it is still available for analyses). That is the basis for for the DNA analyses of Neanderthals (about 30,000 years old) and the woolly mammoth.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
203
In school I learned about sequencing on the amino acid level, making pairwise alignments with them to analyzing Markov models. Why in the clinical setting is DNA sequenced and analyzed not the RNA? Isn't there a concern a mutation is occuring in the RNA that causes a disease, such as wobble bases, something you don't have in the DNA.
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. There are parallel efforts to study RNA and proteins. Similar to the study of genomics, this field is called proteomics. Each of these efforts uncovers a different source of influence on the coding and expression of DNA and how it results in a functional protein or not.
Laura in IL (Higher Education )
204
Can or will science be able to breed out certain bad traits in people?
     Barbara Biesecker, Ph.D.: I am an Associate Investigator and Genetic Counselor in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Research Branch. I direct the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program and have been doing genetic counseling for thirty years. My primary interests are in achieving quality of life for those affected with a genetic condition or at risk. Breeding out traits assumes that we control child-bearing. This would mean dictating who can have biological children. Our country values reproductive freedom and individual choice about having children. So, no, we do not breed in or out traits as is done in animal farming for example. However, there are ways to do gene therapy in some diseases to replace those that are not functioning properly. There are also new treatments that work directly on the genetic defect. These are ways we can improve "bad traits" that cause illness. But much more research still needs to be done in this area.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
205
As cells age their DNA gets mutated and the cell will die. Is there any way of "refreshing " the DNA so it will stay young so you will live longer and look younger?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. Interesting idea. I don't know of a procedure to do that. There would be a lot of cells that you would have to refresh. Would you want to? Can you think of any issues with an increasingly young and longer-lived population?
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
206
Can handwriting (its thickness, neatness, etc.) be passed down?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. Handwriting, like many characteristics, is probably a complex phenotype that has contributions from many genetic and non-genetic influences. For example, which hand you write with and how your hand is shaped have clear genetic contributions and will influence your writing. However, practice, models and other environmental influences will also contribute (ie just dont give up)!
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
207
WHS 2nd Hr Honors Bio in IL (9th grade student)
208
Could you combine the DNA of two different species (ie: humans and gorillas) and get a extreme strong man ?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. I don't know of a way that could be accomplished technically, and I think there would also be ethical concerns about that kind of experiment. In some cases, it is possible to insert a specific gene from one species into another for research purposes - this is done with many experimental systems, but not in humans.
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
209
I would like to know why do some people learn quicker than others? Can it be the way a person's brain is structured?
     Kelle Steenblock: I am a genetic counselor with experience in the areas of cancer, neurogenetics and reproductive genetics leading a telephone based genetic counseling company (InformedDNA). I spent 5 years in the Mayo Clinic Molecular Genetics Lab where I was involved in clinical process development, colon cancer research, and the development of the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) program. I also work with several non-profit organizations that advocate for breast cancer support and research. Many genes play a role in how our brains are structured and wired to send and receive information. Learning style is likely to have both genetic and environmental factors to it. Meaning our genetics provides the basis and foundation, but our environment also plays a huge role.
R.Love in OH (Higher Education student)
210
Is SKY (spectral karyotyping) done by a computer and, if so, can it recognise chromosomal abnormality?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. SKY (spectral Karyotyping) is done by analyses of the chromosomes by microscopy and can recognize certain chromosomal abnormalities and translocations (when one part of a chromosome is "translocated" to a different chromosome). The analyses are done by computer, but are also evaluated by human researchers.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
211
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
212
What is the difference between plant and human genetics?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. I have a lot of respect for plant geneticists. Most (not all) animal models are diploid, meaning they have two sets of chromosomes ? one set inherited from each parent. However, 30?80% of living plant species are polyploid, with multiple pairs of chromosomes. For instance, plants can be triploid (3 sets of chromosomes, seedless watermelons), hexaploid (6 sets, wheat), decaploid (10 sets, strawberries) or even more! In addition, repetitive elements occupy as high as 80% of some plant genomes like wheat. That is a really complicated genomic puzzle to solve in the lab.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
213
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
214
Can the inhalation of the smoke from marijuana effect your genes?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Marijuana smoke contains a number of different chemicals that can effect our bodies in a number of ways, some of which we understand and some of which we're still learning about. Marijuana smoke, like cigarette smoke, can cause mutations in your DNA that could lead to cancer. Some newer lines of research are looking into whether marijuana might cause epigenetic changes, which modify the way that genes are expressed in the body. Stay tuned!!
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
215
Are there many uses for gene silencing?
     Surabhi Mulchandani: I am a genetic counselor working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I interpret complex genetic test results and see patients for diagnosis and counseling of genetic disorders. If you are talking about naturally occuring gene silencing, it is very important. Specially on X chromosome. Females have two X chromosomes and males have only one X chromosome. To make sure that females don't have double the dosage of genes on chromosome X, most of the genes on one of the X chromosome get silenced in the female. Gene silencing also occurs on some chromosome to stamp which parent they are coming from.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
216
Can we genetically alter humans to have animal traits, such as regenerating limbs?
     Surabhi Mulchandani: I am a genetic counselor working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I interpret complex genetic test results and see patients for diagnosis and counseling of genetic disorders. Theoretically, yes we could. Practically, there are many ethical and technological concerns that exist. In an existing human, it is very difficult to change the genetic make-up in every cell. Ethically, many people feel very strongly against changing human traits as it has a tremendous potential to harm the human society.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
217
Is there a down side to genetically altered food?
     Kimberly Barr: I am a genetic counselor who has worked with families with all types of genetic disorders. In 2008, I stopped seeing clients to focus on developing educational resources for members and providers at our health care organization. Genetically modified foods were initially developed in an effort to protect crops and improve either the taste or shelf-life of the product. Although science hasn't shown evidence of harm to humans from these food products, there are concerns that putting new genes into the food could pose a risk to the environment. One main concern is the possibility of having the modified crops mix with other crops or wild plants. The could lead to a loss of genetic diversity, meaning plants wouldn't be less able to adapt to environmental changes.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
218
I've heard that mushrooms are more related to humans than plants. Is that true?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. A mushrooms genome is actually more sophisticated and streamlined than a human genome. The human genome is about 3 billion base pairs while the mushroom genome is only about 65 million base pairs. The human genome has a great deal of what is called junk DNA that is not as productive as its coding DNA. A person could consider the mushroom genome to have a closer relationship to the human genome versus the plant genome due to how well the genome is actually used (i.e. the sophistication of the genome).
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
219
I pcr'ed 100ng of my entire genome and my tube exploded. I ran it for 36 cycles with ample reagents. What is this nonsense-ation?
     Kelle Steenblock: I am a genetic counselor with experience in the areas of cancer, neurogenetics and reproductive genetics leading a telephone based genetic counseling company (InformedDNA). I spent 5 years in the Mayo Clinic Molecular Genetics Lab where I was involved in clinical process development, colon cancer research, and the development of the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) program. I also work with several non-profit organizations that advocate for breast cancer support and research. While it has been over 15 years since I did my last PCR reaction myself, I worked in a molecular lab for 5 years watching skilled lab techs handle this delicate process every day. I can sympathize that it takes some finesse and practice to obtain accurate and successful results.
Ron Duhl in OK (Higher Education teacher)
220
Is the way your finger nails are shaped a trait from your parents?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. It can be both genetic and influenced by the environment. For example, certain diseases, dietary deficiencies or infections can influence fingernails (forming ridges, etc).
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
221
Follow up to Amy: So a clone, in a literal sense, is not exactly a clone then if it doesn't, ideally, come out as planned? What other differences--even behavior-- have resulted from experimental cloning?
     Amy Gaviglio: I am a genetic counselor working for the Minnesota Department of Health. My particular focus is in newborn screening and ethical/legal issues with genetics and genetic testing. You are correct, especially when it comes to complex organisms like vertebrates. Other differences can include: larger birth size than natural animals, larger organs, weakened immune system, and I would suspect behavior as well (though I'm not sure this has been well characterized.)
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
222
Is type 2 diabetes inherited?
     Surabhi Mulchandani: I am a genetic counselor working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I interpret complex genetic test results and see patients for diagnosis and counseling of genetic disorders. Type 2 diabetes is a complex trait. What that means is, multiple factors like environment, life style and genetic make of an individual all factor in. So to put it in simpler words, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes is heritable but not the condition itself.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
223
How many growth spurts do you go through before you're done growing?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Growth spurts are periods of time in which growth speeds up. Infants have growth spurts every few weeks, and then they become less frequent as you get older until you reach your final adult hight. Several different genetic and environmental factors determine an individual's final adult height.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
224
There was a questions about having a mutation where one arm is longer than the other, and the answer given was that this would be due to something that happened in the womb. There are in fact genetic overgrowth syndromes that result in hemihypertrophy that can be traced to a genetic cause.
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. This is correct- Thank you for your comment. There are different genetic and environmental factors that can lead to someone having one arm that is longer than the other.
Christy Collins in NY ()
225
Is it common to sequence gene for a patient?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. I would say that it is not common---yet. It will be soon. Currently, patients often get genetic tests, which don't use sequencing, but another method called genotyping. In the future some of those genotyping test will switch to sequencing. And more significantly, many new sequencing gene tests and even sequencing a person's whole genome will be more common. The cost of sequencing is coming down such that it will be affordable in routine medical care.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
226
What would happen if you injected plant genes into a human? Or is it even possible?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. I am not aware of any gene transfers from plants to humans. However, there is a sea slug named Elysia chlorotica that naturally steels genes from the algae it eats. Young E. chlorotica fed with algae for two weeks, can survive for the rest of their year-long lives without eating! When the experts looked closely at the slug genome, they found out a variety of functional algal genes get transferred into the slug genome. A 'solar-powered' animal, how cool is this?
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
227
How do knockout mice work?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. Knockout mice are generated by disrupting a gene in mouse embryonic stem cells, which are cells from very early mouse embryos. This is done by introducing a piece of DNA (carrying a mutation) and then detecting the rare event where it disrupts the desired gene. The cells are then injected into very early embryos of the mouse and then re-implanted into a special type of foster mom to develop to birth. If all goes well, the embryonic stem cells carrying the mutation will contribute to the newborn mouse, which can then transmit the mutation to its progeny (babies). The mice then carry this mutation and it is passed on like any other genetic trait.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
228
Do you think that one day cloning will be a common practice on animals or even humans?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. Right now, cloning is possible in many mammals, from sheep to mice, but it is a technically challenging problem. As with many scientific discoveries, as technology advances, it gets easier to perform specific tasks. So yes, it will get easier to clone in the future and will probably get more routine. That said, the idea of cloning humans is surrounded with more issues than whether it is possible, there are moral considerations as well and the answers for if or when human cloning will happen is difficult to answer.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
229
I saw a mouse with a genetically modified ear grown to its back. Will mice now start to hear all the bad things we say about them?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. I am not certain what you saw! But if there was a graft (genetically modified or not) on the back, it would be equivalent to a skin graft. Hearing requires the activation of the inner ear and neural transmission. But its a good lesson not to talk behind someone's back! :)
Frank Keyack in DC (7th grade student)
230
How are some people born with two seperate eye colors?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Heterochromia of the eyes (difference in coloration between eyes) at birth is usually inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. Although infrequently seen in humans, complete heterochromia is more frequently observed in other species, such as cats, dogs and cattle, where it almost always involves one blue eye.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
231
Are scientists still finding important things out about genomes or have most discoveries been made?
     Amy Gaviglio: I am a genetic counselor working for the Minnesota Department of Health. My particular focus is in newborn screening and ethical/legal issues with genetics and genetic testing. Oh no - there is still A LOT to be learned from genomic research! In fact, there is a whole scientific journal, "Genome Research" dedicated to this area. While we may have completed sequencing the genome, there is still a lot left to learn about how to translate those findings into clinical utility.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
232
How do you know that someone has diabetes, could symptoms be a coincidence?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. There are medical tests for diabetes, testing blood sugar, as well as glycosylated hemoglobin, which will better reflects whether your blood sugar has been elevated over time. These are not genetic tests, but tests of blood metabolites and proteins and can be ordered by your physician. Diabetes is influenced by many genetic and environmental influences.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
233
In the movie "Benjamin Button" Brad Pitt lives his life in reverse.. is that possible to be born old and die as a baby?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. This seems very unlikely. We have "markers" on our chromosomes called telomeres that track how many times the cell divides. The telomeres are repeated sequences that get shorter after each cell division (except in our germ line cells which do not get shorter). This is one of the mechanisms where cells start to naturally track how old they are and when they should start to die (a natural function in all living things). It is hard to imagine how the cells could do this process in reverse. A more likely possibility is an animal or plant who doesn't get shorter telomeres and maybe never ages...
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
234
Why do more younger people have asthma, rather than older or middle-aged people?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Very young children have smaller airways than adults, making them more susceptible to develop asthma-like symptoms (difficulty breathing) when their airways are inflamed. Some people, as they get older and their lungs become more developed, experience fewer asthma-like symptoms. We are still working to understand the complicated genetic and environmental reason for this.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
235
Is the use of knockout mice a humane practice?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Thank you for your question. Excellent science depends on excellent care of research animals. A comprehensive system of government oversight is in place regulating the use of animals in the laboratory. I encourage you to browse http://www.nabranimallaw.org/Research_Animal_Protection/Animal_Welfare_Act/ to learn more about the primary federal law governing the use of animals in research, or Animal Welfare Act (AWA).
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
236
I have VHL,and I recently discovered that my mutation is nt 407 C/G 65 Ser?Trp S65W missense. My questions are: 1. Based on the mutation should I be focused on certain screenings more than others? In other words should I follow the same protocol as others with VHL but with different mutations? 2. Does this mutation define how the disease will progress?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. In some cases, a person's specific mutation for a disease can provide information which could guide treatment or help understand future risks, however there are also mutations that haven't been seen often enough in people to allow us to make these types of generalizations. We're not able to offer specific medical advice, but this would be a great question to take to your family physician or for a genetic counselor!
Shawn in PA ()
237
I'm a breast cancer survivor, and I have a son who died of a rare brain tumor. I've seen a number of mothers who have or have had breast cancer and also have or have had children with the same rare brain tumor. How would a scientist approach this type of situation in order to look for possible links between the disease of these children and their mothers?
     Bruce Korf: I am a medical geneticist and serve as chair of the Department of Genetics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. I see patients, conduct clinical research, and am involved in genetics education. There are some genetic conditions in which various types of cancer can occur together in different members of a family, although the possibility of coincidence also has to be considered, particularly when one of the cancers is relatively common, as is the case for breast cancer. Geneticists tend to search for families where cancer seems to occur in multiple family members; signs of a genetic predisposition also include cancers occurring at a young age or at multiple sites in an individual. When such families are identified, affected individuals can be studied to search for a gene mutation that might be involved. If you are concerned about a possible genetic contribution to cancer in your family, you might benefit from speaking with a medical geneticist or genetic counselor with experience in cancer genetics.
Sandy in MI ()
238
If you have parents who have pale complections could they have a child with dark skin color?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. Skin color can be influenced by many genetic loci and it certainly is possible that lighter skin parents might have somewhat darker skin children. But it really depends on many things and is hard to know, depending on the skin colors.
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
239
When I was younger I looked like my dad. Now I look exactly like my mom. How did this happen?
     Surabhi Mulchandani: I am a genetic counselor working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I interpret complex genetic test results and see patients for diagnosis and counseling of genetic disorders. Our appearance is a combination of our parents genes and the environment. The expression of these genes changes with time in the development. Some genes are more active in the childhood and some in adolescence. With the other changes in the body like height, health and hormones, our appearance changes too. For some people the change is very visible as it sounds like is the case with you in others it is more subtle.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
240
What effect does marijuana smoking have on DNA?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. There is some recent evidence that smoking marijuana causes similar damage DNA in the lungs as is seen with cigarette smoking. The studies are relatively new compared to cigarette smoke so there isn't the same depth and breadth as there is in tobacco research, but the evidence seems consistent with any kind of smoking causing DNA damage.
Sue Brezin in OH (Higher Education student)
241
How quickly can you diagnose cancer?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Most cancers are diagnosed by biopsy. Depending on the location of the tumor, the biopsy may be a simple procedure or a serious operation. Once the biopsy is performed and submitted to the pathology lab, the cancer could be diagnosed in a matter of a couple of days.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
242
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
243
Is there any research into the causes of mosaic mutations?
     Laura Panos: I am a genetic counselor that evaluates cancer patients and those with a family history of cancer. I counsel patients with any type of hereditary cancer syndrome. Mosaicism is when one person has a two or more types of cells with different genetic makeups (usually some cells with a certain mutation, and other cells without). We believe the cause of masaicism is an error in the way cells divide. It is still largely unknown 'why' these cells have division errors - hopefully research will be able to tell us this soon!
Christy Collins in NY ()
244
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
245
How can genotyping technology (23AndMe-style) be less complicated (and cheaper) than full sequencing? If I need to look for a well-known pattern in a long string at a well-known position, I would expect it to be easier if the full string is represented as a file on a computer rather than as a long molecule inside a sequencer... Of course, I'm assuming some misunderstanding on my side...
     Kimberly Barr: I am a genetic counselor who has worked with families with all types of genetic disorders. In 2008, I stopped seeing clients to focus on developing educational resources for members and providers at our health care organization. The genotyping used for direct-to-consumer genetic testing typically has a pre-set panel of known DNA markers. It doesn't actually sequence the DNA, instead it just reports which of the pre-set markers "matched" in the person who had testing. Full sequencing is much more complicated because it requires reading each letter of the DNA code and then trying to interpret the meaning of the entire code. Even with computers, this is a daunting task.
Moshe Buhnik (Higher Education student)
246
Geoff Toyz in WI (10th grade student)
247
Is it possible to pass down benign tumors to your kids even after you have had them and the tumor formed after they were born? Can it form in the same place and same size?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. Sometimes people can inherit a predisposition to develop cancer, where the cancer can occur later in life. If you inherit such a mutation or version of a gene, for example one that can predispose to colon tumors, you may not get the tumors until you are older.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
248
In sports like track some kids can run forever with not much training and others train a lot but don't make it anywhere why is that?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. The answer is genetics. The differences in human DNA between one person and another is relatively small (we are all 99.9% identical at the DNA level), but those small differences are responsible for all the differences we see between different human beings, from height to skin color, to how fast someone can run. Think of all the different kinds of dogs, they are all "dogs" but by breeding them in a certain way, different characteristics like speed or size were exaggerated creating different dog breeds. The same principles apply to humans (without the selective breeding part).
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
249
Why do we celebrate DNA day?
     Kris Wetterstrand, M.S.: I work in the NHGRI Office of the Director as the Scientific Liaison to the Director for Extramural Activities. I have over ten years experience managing the NHGRI grant portfolio, having participated in the Large-scale Sequencing Program, which managed the Human Genome Project, and the Human Microbiome Project, an effort to sequence the DNA of microbes (e.g. bacteria) that live in and on humans and the ENCODE Project, an effort to identify functional DNA elements in the human genome. My background is in population genetics and molecular evolution. National DNA Day, begun in April 2003, celebrates the successful completion of the Human Genome Project and the 50th anniversary of the discovery of DNA's double helix in 1953. Every year, National DNA Day offers an opportunity for students to connect with genetic professionals to learn more about genetic research and career options in the field.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
250
When you workout, how do you get stronger? I understand how your muscles get larger, but what makes them gain strength?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Working out puts extra pressure on your muscles and actually causes them to break down. They are repaired in such a way that they actually get bigger, and have more "myofibrils", which are the the rod like units of a muscle. Each myofibril can generate force when it contracts, so having more myofibrils generates more force (stronger muscles!)
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
251
Is it possible to make genetic diseases, like Hemoglobin, into a weapon?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Please note that hemoglobin is not a disease - it is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen. We could say that nuclear weapons may cause genetic disease. Studies of groups such as the survivors of the atomic blasts in Japan indicate that exposure to high radiation levels correlates with higher than normal levels of cancers such as leukemias and thyroid cancers.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
252
Are overlapping genes common in our genome? and can they extend to the antisense strands coding for proteins, 5'-3' fashion ?
     Kelle Steenblock: I am a genetic counselor with experience in the areas of cancer, neurogenetics and reproductive genetics leading a telephone based genetic counseling company (InformedDNA). I spent 5 years in the Mayo Clinic Molecular Genetics Lab where I was involved in clinical process development, colon cancer research, and the development of the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) program. I also work with several non-profit organizations that advocate for breast cancer support and research. Overlapping genes (sharing at least one nucleotide) do exist in the human genome. Both "same strand" (the two genes are transcribed from the same strand) and "different strand" (the two genes are transcribed from different strands) overlaps do occur.
Harry Wasity (Higher Education student)
253
Why do people have different eye shapes and face shapes?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. Both eye shape and face shape can be influenced by multiple genetic factors (ie genes) that are inherited from your parents. However, since there are multiple genes influencing these traits, you may not have the face shape exactly like your parent. However, sometimes, facial shape can also be influenced by environmental factors during development.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
254
How is all the genomic sequencing leading to drugs for peoples diseases?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. This is a fairly new area of research with a lot of potential, but we have not seen the full fruition yet for this approach. Eventually, the idea is that we will be able to "personalize" medicine. Currently a disease is treated the same way in all patients, but some patients respond really well and others respond negatively or not at all. The reason for that is the differences in their DNA. In the future, by knowing someone's genomic sequence, we will be able to tell which patients will respond to a specific treatment and which ones will not. A current example is there is a known DNA sequence that when a patient has it, causes him or her to lose hearing when treated with antibiotics, but if they have a different sequence they are perfectly safe.
Royal West Academy in KY (9th grade student)
255
How do the machines for the human genome project work?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. There are many different kinds of machines with many different functions for working with human genomes. Some tasks involve robots that do complicated but repetitive behaviors, there are sequencing machines that identify the order of nucleotides on a DNA strand, others amplify DNA from a tiny original sample a million times. These machines represent some of the most exciting technical achievements in biomedical research.
WHS 2nd Hr Honors Bio in IL (9th grade student)
256
In what areas has DNA testing been commonly used so far?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Great question! Researchers are constantly finding new uses for DNA testing. DNA testing has been used clinically to diagnose genetic diseases, to predict risk for disease and to help guide treatment for disease. DNA testing is also used in forensics, to provide evidence which may help solve crimes. We are also learning more and more about human ancestry and relationships using DNA testing.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
257
What would you say is the biggest computational challenge in leveraging genetic knowledge for the benefit of healthcare? Is it developing efficient pattern-match algorithms? Is it maintaining vast amounts of data? Is it applying networking infrastructure for sharing information between repositories? Or is it something else?
     Kelle Steenblock: I am a genetic counselor with experience in the areas of cancer, neurogenetics and reproductive genetics leading a telephone based genetic counseling company (InformedDNA). I spent 5 years in the Mayo Clinic Molecular Genetics Lab where I was involved in clinical process development, colon cancer research, and the development of the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) program. I also work with several non-profit organizations that advocate for breast cancer support and research. Currently I think the biggest challenge we have is being able to translate the knowledge we have about our genome into actionable healthcare decision making. We have the ability to sequence the entire genome and find the variations that may increase a persons risk or help protect them from certain disease or conditions, but applying that to current medical management is complicated for a variety of reasons. We still need a lot more research in how all the variations interact with one another and how they interact with environmental factors and triggers. Developing an algorithm to determine a useful risk figure is critical, but we will also need to be able to apply that risk figure to very specific and actionable health care decisions. It is an exciting time to be a part of this field as we watch where the technology takes us and how we adapt in the application of the knowledge.
Moshe Buhnik (Higher Education student)
258
George Mason University in VA (Higher Education student)
259
When the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003, I heard that they found that a fruit fly contained 60% of the same genes as a human. They tested Parkinsons disease on it, and it showed simliar symptoms to a human. Did they test any other diseases on fruit flies? Did the fruit flies show similar signs again?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. The human genetic disorders that might be studied in fruit flies are into essentially every major category, including neurological, immunological, cardiovascular, auditory, visual, developmental and metabolic disorders, as well as many forms of cancer. Plus they are inexpensive to rear and they have a very short generation time, making them great model organisms.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
260
Most people have a disease history. In my case, all of my family have a history with their liver. I wonder, is there a way to prevent liver cancer?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. That's a great question! Liver cancer can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Known environmental risk factors for liver cancer include drinking alcohol, being overweight, having a chronic hepatitis B or hepatitis C infection and having diabetes. It's great that you are aware of your family history. This is powerful information which can help your doctor guide you on the best ways to lower your risk for liver cancer.
Suh (Higher Education )
261
In molecular genetics, especially sequencing, how do we know when we are dealing with sense and not anti-sense strands of DNA. Also, is true that there are 3 billions bases that only exists as complementary but do not code for anything?
     Pam Schwartzberg, M.D., Ph.D.: I am Senior Investigator in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I study mouse models of primary immunodeficiencies (genetic diseases that impair the ability of the immune system to fight infections) and how specific disorders affect responses to infectious diseases. One is always sequencing DNA in one direction, but you sequence both complementary strands. Sequencing involves alot of computer analyses to assemble sequences based on all the sequences obtained. As for your second question, I am not exactly certain what you are asking, but even on the non-coding strand for a gene or inbetween genes or in introns, there can be other genes, or important "non-coding" DNA. Less than 2 percent of our complete set of DNA, or genome, codes for proteins. In the past, the remaining DNA often was referred to as "junk DNA". However, it has become clear that some of this non-coding DNA also plays important functions, such as helping to organize DNA within the cell's nucleus and acting to turn protein-coding genes on and off. So, it appears there really may be no such thing as junk DNA!
Harry Wasity (Higher Education student)
262
Frank Keyack in DC (7th grade student)
263
Why is our DNA closer to a monkey than a mouse?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. The reason our DNA sequence is more similar to a monkey than to a mouse has to do with our evolutionary relationships. When you relate the genomic sequences of different species, we rely on the concept of "last common ancestor," i.e. how many millions of years ago were our ancestors the same. The last common ancestor from humans to chimps is around 5 million years ago, humans to mice, 75 million years ago. So human DNA has had 75 million years to "diverge" from mice, but only 5 million years to change from chimps. Naturally fewer changes are going to happen in the shorter time frame.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)

Information - Moderator Dr. Eric D. Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, is now online and waiting for your questions.


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Jackie Lott in KY (8th grade student)
266
What test would you reccomend for a child that presents 95% of Williams Syndrome characteristic? Their FISH and CGH test were negative. Some of the symptoms include SVAS, hypercalcemia, larygomalecia (sp?)and anxiety. However, the child has an IQ of 114.
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. While we can't make a diagnosis via the chat room, we can provide some encouragement that over time we're getting better at diagnosing diseases, both through genetic and other types of tests. It is important to check back in from time to time with doctors to find out of there are new tests which may help identify the cause of these symptoms.
Central Wyoming College in WY (Higher Education student)
267
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
268
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
269
Can you gain powers from mutations?
     Surabhi Mulchandani: I am a genetic counselor working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I interpret complex genetic test results and see patients for diagnosis and counseling of genetic disorders. I guess it is possible. Some mutations give individuals a bigger body size. Some mutations that are associated with with a blood disease also give the carrier immunity from malaria. In general we think of mutations as disease causing.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
270
What is the manager of the cell? Is it DNA or it is protein or something beyond?
     Kimberly Barr: I am a genetic counselor who has worked with families with all types of genetic disorders. In 2008, I stopped seeing clients to focus on developing educational resources for members and providers at our health care organization. The DNA found inside each cell nucleus codes for the proteins that drive all the actions of the cell, including cell division, cell maintenance, and eventually cell death. However, it's much more complicated to figure out what triggers a protein to be made from the DNA code in the first place.
marzie (10th grade student)
271
When will we be able to genetically modify our bodies to fight disease?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. We probably will not be able to genetically modify our bodies to fight diseases anytime in the near future since this is a very complicated process. Our experiments with targeted genetic modification have not given us the hoped for results to date. What we can do currently is to use targeted medications based on our genetic background to fight diseases such as cancer.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
272
Why is the thymine changed to uracil in RNA?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. The real question is: Why is uracil changed to thymine in DNA? Thymine is uracil modified by an additional methyl group before it is incorporated into DNA. This methyl group adds a very important feature, uracil prefers to bind to adenosine (A), but it will also pair with guanine or cytosine, but thymine, has a much more specific pairing with adenosine. This is much more important in the double stranded structure of DNA than in the single stranded RNA.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
273
is it true that dolly was able to sexually reproduce before she died
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. Dolly proved to be a healthy and fertile sheep. She had a whirlwind romance with a Welsh mountain ram, and nature took its course. After mating the old-fashioned way, Dolly gave birth to a lamb named Bonnie in April 1998. In March 1999, she gave birth again, this time to three healthy lambs?two males and one female (no names were given to those).
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
274
How do you regulate a gene?
     Laura Panos: I am a genetic counselor that evaluates cancer patients and those with a family history of cancer. I counsel patients with any type of hereditary cancer syndrome. There are many ways a gene can be regulated to determine its expression. Transcription regulates how genes code for RNA, and translation regulates how RNA codes for proteins. There are many molecules that help us throughout the process, and many other ways our genes are regulated.
1941 in CA (7th grade student)
275
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
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Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
277
Jarjar Binks in OH (10th grade student)
278
My dad has 3 children, my older sister, me and my younger sister. Me and my older sister were born normal. My younger sister was born with spina bifida so my question is, Is spina bifida genetic or is it caused by something going wrong during pregnancy?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Good question! Spina Bifida is caused by a complex mixture of genetic and environmental factors. Scientists are working to better understand these factors. Genetic counselors can help families understand the chances that other babies in the family could be born with Spina Bifida.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
279
Can we genetically alter animals with human traits?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. The answer is a conditional "yes." There is an area of research where research animals genes are "humanized." For example a mouse gene can be altered to have the same sequence of a known human heard disease mutation. That mouse will then have a "human" heart disease and can be used as a model to understand the human condition.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
280
The science of genetics and genomics becomes more complex literally every day. This chat is a great initiative, but what other things is the NIH doing to promote understanding of science among non-scientists?
     Vence Bonham, J.D.: I am Chief of NHGRI's Education and Community Involvement Branch and an Associate Investigator in NHGRI's Social Behavioral Research Branch. I research the ethical, legal, social and policy implications of genomic discoveries, particularly health professionals' and lay persons' understanding of race, ethnicity and genetics. NIH is involved in many initiatives and programs to promote, the public's understanding of science including support of U.S. science education. Check out these websites: http://www.genome.gov/Education/ http://science.education.nih.gov/home2.nsf/feature/index.htm http://www.ncrrsepa.org/
GM in PA (Higher Education )
281
What is the P53 protein made of?
     Laura Panos: I am a genetic counselor that evaluates cancer patients and those with a family history of cancer. I counsel patients with any type of hereditary cancer syndrome. The p53 protein has a very important role as a tumor suppressor. It has 393 amino acids that code for its function. It is made by a gene called TP53, and its job is to regulate the cell cycle and prevent cancer.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
282
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
283
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
284
How does a gene disappear from the genome?
     Laura Panos: I am a genetic counselor that evaluates cancer patients and those with a family history of cancer. I counsel patients with any type of hereditary cancer syndrome. I'm not really sure that genes do disappear from the genome. Mutations and other types of variation that cause our genes to be different happen all of the time. As we evolve, different mutations may become less and less common until they are no longer present at all.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
285
What is the most common organ that you treat with stem cells?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. The most common organ treated with stem cells is the blood. Bone marrow transplants were the first stem cell treatment invented and to this day is the most common medical treatment.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
286
What can I do to prevent cancer?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Don't smoke! While we don't yet know how to completely prevent cancer, we know that there are a number of risk factors you can avoid to significantly reduce the likelihood of developing cancer. Things you can do include not smoking, not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, maintaining a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and getting regular exercise.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
287
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
288
If you clone a human will they live for a long time?
     Kelle Steenblock: I am a genetic counselor with experience in the areas of cancer, neurogenetics and reproductive genetics leading a telephone based genetic counseling company (InformedDNA). I spent 5 years in the Mayo Clinic Molecular Genetics Lab where I was involved in clinical process development, colon cancer research, and the development of the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) program. I also work with several non-profit organizations that advocate for breast cancer support and research. Human cloning at this point still remains fictional, while certain animals have been successfully cloned (sheep, cats, mice etc). One result we have seen from animal clones is differences in their chromosomes. As chromosomes go through their normal divisions their telomeres (ends of the chromosomes) will shorten over time. Cloned animals have been shown to be born with shorter telomeres likely because they were cloned from an animal that was already an adult (had shorter telomeres). Cloned animals have been shown to have a shorter lifespan than expected, likely due to this and possibly other contributing factors.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
289
How long does it usually take to become a genetic researcher?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. There are different levels of training depending on what kind of position you are interested in. The longest training line is for a academic or industry lab head (principle investigator). The typical track would be 4 year college, 6-8 years in a PhD program and 5 years in postdoctoral training.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
290
How does DNA know when to transcribe itself in order to produce a protein?
     Laura Panos: I am a genetic counselor that evaluates cancer patients and those with a family history of cancer. I counsel patients with any type of hereditary cancer syndrome. Our enzymes help! Polymerases are specially important in telling our DNA how to transcribe and when.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
291
Do you, in the future, think it will be possible to make a race immune to all diseases?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. This would be an amazing goal to accomplish. In reality this type of goal would be extermely difficult to attain. If we were to accomplish this, it could possibly harm the human race in the long term. Diseases can serve some positive purposes such as helping us develop traits that make us stroger.
1941 in CA (7th grade student)
292
My daughter was born with an autosomal recessive disorder, SWCAH. Could genetic testing of myself, her father, and her to determine the actual genes affected help in receiving better care? Or does it even matter? (Some day I hope to bring her to NIH for testing)
     Surabhi Mulchandani: I am a genetic counselor working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I interpret complex genetic test results and see patients for diagnosis and counseling of genetic disorders. Most forms of congenital adrenal hyperplasia are due to changes in the 21-hydroxylase gene. There are some correlations between the kind of changes seen in the gene and the features seen in affected individuals. In other words knowing these genetic changes can predict the severity of the condition in a newly diagnosed individual. These correlations are not known to be perfect. Knowing the exact change may give other family members the option to determine their risk for having a child with the similar condition. But in your case if your daughter is receiving the care for salt wasting type CAH, testing might not add much value for her future care.
Rebecca in MS ()
293
Moshe Buhnik (Higher Education student)
294
i want to become a genetic engineer. what should i study?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. Through high school, it is important to get a very broad and solid education in all the sciences. In college is the time to test a variety of disciplines in biology and see which ones interest you the most. If genetic engineering is still your interests, deep training in genetics and molecular biology will suit you fine.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
295
If monks can't talk, how was Darwin able to tell everyone of his discovery? Was email even invented then?
     Laura Rodriguez, Ph.D.: I am the Director for the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. I work to develop and implement policy for research initiatives at the NHGRI, design communication and outreach strategies to engage the public in genomic science, and prepare health care professionals for the integration of genomic medicine into clinical care.?I am particularly interested in the policy and ethics questions related to the inclusion of human research participants in genomics and genetics research and sharing human genomic data through broadly used research resources (e.g., databases). Indeed email was not around at the time that Charles Darwin (who was very religious, but not a monk), or Gregor Mendel (who was a monk) were doing their amazing work. Hard to imagine life without email isn't it? And, while Mendel did live in a monastery, I do not believe that it was a monastery where all the members took vows of silence.
Kristin Lafoman-Zimmermon in OH (5th grade student)
296
What would be the future of genetics in 2050?
     Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D.: I am the Director of NHGRI, a position I've held since late 2009. NHGRI is the largest organization in the world solely dedicated to genomics research.? Previously, I was the NHGRI Scientific Director, Chief of the NHGRI Genome Technology Branch, and Director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center.? Since the early 1990s, I have been extensively involved in efforts to map, sequence, and understand eukaryotic genomes. My work included significant, start-to-finish involvement in the Human Genome Project, and more recently focused on utilizing large-scale DNA sequencing to address important problems in genomics, genetics, and biomedicine. Genetics and genomics are fields of science that are changing very rapidly-- new technologies, new knowledge, and new strategies. It is difficult to predict what these fields will be like in 2020, let alone 2050. That said, I believe that genetics will be even more relevant to human biology, health, and disease in 2050 than it is now. The reason-- by 2050, we will know far more about how the human genome works and how differences in our genomes contribute to health and disease.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
297
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
298
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
299
Why does body hair, such as armpit hair or leg hair, stop growing at a certain point? I mean, the hair on your head grows non-stop. Why can't armpit hair grow to be around 8-10 inches long? If it could, you could use a hair brush for your armpits. :)
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. Actually, the hair on your head does not grow non-stop. If you stop cutting your hair, each hair will grow to a specific length, then stop (actually it falls out and a new one starts). Amazingly the length differs between different people depending on their genetics. It is certainly possible that armpit hair lengths also vary. I would check your friends and see who needs an armpit brush.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
300
Does cancerous/unhealthy DNA look different from healthy DNA? How can you tell if the DNA is unhealthy?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. Yes, DNA that predisposes us to cancer or other diseases is generally caused by DNA that has errors in it. This means that the sequences of DNA look different than the expected sequences. We can tell if the DNA has problems/errors with different molecular DNA studies such as DNA sequencing or DNA deletion/duplication studies.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
301
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
302
Can you build a new organism with just the fertilized egg of a lab mouse? Do you need a surogate mother?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. Right now, it is not possible to raise a mammal "in vitro," i.e. you need a surrogate mother. Many manipulations can be made before placing the egg in a mother, but the mother is necessary.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
303
I know more and more laboratories are doing the whole exome sequencing. My question is, is there a benefit to sequencing the whole exome? Knowing that you might get a lot of variants of unknown significance. How do you report to the patient in that case? Sorry, we found something that we have no clue what it is though you still have to pay thousands of dollars?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. This is a fantastic question. Whole exome sequencing is new technology with great promise. We are still learning a lot about how to best use the information gained from exome sequencing to improve medical care. Many of the early patient exome sequences have been generated in hopes of identifying the genetic cause of a specific disease, to better guide treatment. Within these sequences, we are also finding variants which are already known to have important implications for other medical conditions in the patients and, potentially, in their family members. Over time, we expect to be better able to predict the significance of different variants, and have fewer "variants of uncertain significance."
Syracuse University in NY (Higher Education student)
304
Can you revive dead red blood cells?
     Laura Panos: I am a genetic counselor that evaluates cancer patients and those with a family history of cancer. I counsel patients with any type of hereditary cancer syndrome. I do not believe so. Mature red blood cells do not have nuclei, DNA, or organelles in order to provide more space for hemoglobin to transport oxygen. After about 100 days they are broken down. However, I do think it is possible to create artificial blood cells in the lab.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
305
Is it easy to detect mutatations or diseases when you look at DNA?
     Belen Hurle, Ph.D.: I am a Research Fellow in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch and a Program Director in NHGRI's Intramural Training Office. I study primate genomes as a means to enhance our understanding of human evolutionary biology. We can detect difference in DNA when you have one sequence and compare it to another. There are subsequent steps to determine if the difference is a mutation that is significant. And then there are even more research steps to determine if a mutation is associated with a disease.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
306
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
307
Is there a gene or portion of our DNA responsible for human consciousness? If so, could we activate that gene or genes in other animals and have meaningful conversations with them? All my dog says is "woof."
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. Consciousness is more complicated than a single gene. Even sub-categories of consciousness like intelligence are very complicated genetic phenomena, so having a philosophical conversation with your dog is going to be pretty one-sided for many years to come.
Ebbinghaus Middle School in CT (8th grade student)
308
Moshe Buhnik (Higher Education student)
309
What do genetic engineers study?
     Nisha Isaac: I currently provide cancer genetic counseling services to adults. On occasion I also provide adult genetic counseling (Huntington's disease, adult polycystic kideny disease, thrombophilia/hemochromatosis, Klinefelter syndrome etc.). Part of my role involves giving presentations (in person, or via webinars) about topics related to genetics. Genetic engineers study an organism's genome in order to try and determine ways to change the genome based on current DNA technology. One example of this are the genetically modified fruits and vegetables that are currently available.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
310
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
311
Do you think they will be able to repair the damage from fetal alcohol syndrome?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. While it is unlikely that we will be able to repair the damage done by fetal alcohol syndrome, which is caused by in utero exposure to high levels of alcohol, we may over time find better ways to treat and care for individuals who have fetal alcohol syndrome.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
312
DCB, Kariyavattom, India (student)
313
What made you decide that you wanted to work in the field of genetics?
     Laura Rodriguez, Ph.D.: I am the Director for the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. I work to develop and implement policy for research initiatives at the NHGRI, design communication and outreach strategies to engage the public in genomic science, and prepare health care professionals for the integration of genomic medicine into clinical care.?I am particularly interested in the policy and ethics questions related to the inclusion of human research participants in genomics and genetics research and sharing human genomic data through broadly used research resources (e.g., databases). When I was in high school I took biology in 10th grade. It was pretty boring. But, then for a short time we had a substitute and he was amazing! He was such a good teacher and made the subject so exciting. One of the lessons we did while he was our teacher was genetics, so it is one of the few things that I remembered from the whole year. Later when I was in college, I took a molecular genetics course and that is where I really found something that I loved! I thought it was just fascinating and cool how complicated, yet logical, the processes of DNA and RNA were. I liked the idea of taking them apart and moving them around as your tools like pieces of a puzzle to study different scientific questions. But, it really wasn't until later when I started thinking more about how our individual genomes (the whole collection of our DNA information) would be important to our health decisions (and my mom's and my future children's health decisions) that I decided to make it my career. Now I spend my time thinking about how to learn more about what our DNA can tell us (and help us to do) about our health and how we can be respectful and responsible with all of the personal information about themselves that the volunteers in health research share with scientists just to help other people.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
314
What are some of the new technological advances in the field of genetics?
     Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D.: I am the Director of NHGRI, a position I've held since late 2009. NHGRI is the largest organization in the world solely dedicated to genomics research.? Previously, I was the NHGRI Scientific Director, Chief of the NHGRI Genome Technology Branch, and Director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center.? Since the early 1990s, I have been extensively involved in efforts to map, sequence, and understand eukaryotic genomes. My work included significant, start-to-finish involvement in the Human Genome Project, and more recently focused on utilizing large-scale DNA sequencing to address important problems in genomics, genetics, and biomedicine. The most profound and impressive recent technological advances in genetics/genomics research are in the area of DNA sequencing. In fact, our ability to sequence DNA has improved incredibly over the last decade. When we sequenced the first human genome, it cost upwards of $1 billion and took upwards of a decade. Today, sequencing a human genome costs less than $10,000 and can be done in a few days.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
315
Is there any benefit to having a microarray done on a child who has already been diagnosed with Williams Syndrome by way of a FISH test?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Sometimes new technologies can provide insight for people who already have a diagnosis and sometimes they would only give us information we already know. Your doctor or a genetic counselor could look at this specific case to help clarify whether further testing might be of benefit.
Paula Segraves in GA ()
316
Wow do some certain genes turn off or on?
     Sarah Robart: I received my undergraduate in Biology from Queen's University (Canada), where my thesis specialized in cell cycle genetics in the fission yeast, S. pombe. I am currently completing my Master of Science in Genetic Counseling in Boston, MA, where I counsel individuals on their risks to develop or pass on hereditary conditions, and help coordinate medical care for individuals who have genetic conditions. Yes, they do! Certain genes are turned off or on depending on what tissue or cell they are in, what developmental period the organism is in, and the environment that that cell is exposed to at the time. (For example, an eye cell doesn't necessarily need to be expressing genes that would be critical to the function of a heart cell)
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)

Information - Moderator

ASHG DNA Day 2012

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) has just announced the winners of its annual National DNA Day Essay Contest. This year, high school students had to answer a question about gene regulation.

Question

Genes exert their influence on organisms by being turned on and off in precise ways and at precise times. Disease can result when problems arise during this process of “gene regulation.” The first processes of gene regulation to be discovered involved molecular ‘switches’ that regulate transcription at gene promoters. In the last 20 years, genomic research has uncovered many new types of gene regulation that earlier researchers would have never imagined. Genes can be regulated by repressors, activators, enhancers, epigenetic changes to chromatin, RNA interference, the environment, and other processes. Choose one of the gene regulation processes listed above and, using references to support your argument, explain why/how that regulatory process is critically important to ONE of the following:

  • early development
  • normal cell function
  • causation of disease or cell malfunction

The 2012 DNA Day Essay Contest winners are:

  Student Grade School City / State Teacher
1st Place Nathan Swetlitz 11 Chicagoland Jewish High School Deerfield, IL Robert Taylor
2nd Place Kevin Zhang 12 Hatboro-Horsham High School Horsham, PA Maria Simon
3rd Place Girishkumar Chandrasekar 10 Naperville Central High School Naperville, IL Nicholas DiGiovanni
Honorable Mention: Jason Lam, Stuyvesant High School, NY (Teacher: Maria Nedwidek); Monica Woolley, Punahou School, HI (Teacher: Marguerite Ashford); Lindsay Leigler, Tesoro High School, CA (Teacher: Megan Gray); Emily Kragel, Junius H. Rose High School, NC (Teacher: Jedediah Smith); Brian Lue, The John Cooper School, TX (Teacher: Holly Barlaam); Kristen Datta, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, MN (Teacher: Tina Barsky); Vivienne Chen, Montgomery Blair High School, MD (Teacher: Angelique Bosse); Tejas Sundaresan, North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, NC (Teacher: Myra Halpin); Lucy Li, St. Paul Academy and Summit School, MN (Teacher: Tina Barsky); Gabrielle Ewall, Cold Spring Harbor High School, NY (Teacher: Jaak Raudsepp).


1st place:
$1,000 + teacher receives a $1,000 grant for laboratory genetics equipment.
2nd place: $600 + teacher receives a $600 grant for laboratory genetics equipment.
3rd place: $400 + teacher receives a $400 grant for laboratory genetics equipment.
Honorable mention: 10 prizes of $100 each

For complete details, visit: http://www.ashg.org/education/dnadaycontest.shtml.

Congratulations to all the winners and thank you all for participating. Happy DNA Day!




318
Are there small genetic difference between identical twins?
     Surabhi Mulchandani: I am a genetic counselor working at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I interpret complex genetic test results and see patients for diagnosis and counseling of genetic disorders. Yes there are. Since our cells keep dividing as long as we live. Some changes get introduce after we are born as well. These are called somatic changes. Apart from the changes in the genetic code, some changes occur because of our environment, they are called epigenetic change. Identical have these somatic and epigenetic differences.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
319
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
320
What if DNA is mixed up--A binds with C?
     Sarah Robart: I received my undergraduate in Biology from Queen's University (Canada), where my thesis specialized in cell cycle genetics in the fission yeast, S. pombe. I am currently completing my Master of Science in Genetic Counseling in Boston, MA, where I counsel individuals on their risks to develop or pass on hereditary conditions, and help coordinate medical care for individuals who have genetic conditions. Ah, good question. Errors in DNA replication can occur and the wrong bases get inserted, like you said, an A binding to a C instead of the usual T. This causes the DNA to make a little out-pouching bubble (because the bases done "fit" together so perfectly). Certain proteins in the nucleus can recognize these errors in DNA and fix them by removing the wrong parts, and writing over them again. This is called "Mismatch repair."
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
321
What animal's DNA is closest to humans?
     Laura Panos: I am a genetic counselor that evaluates cancer patients and those with a family history of cancer. I counsel patients with any type of hereditary cancer syndrome. Probably chimpanzees. I believe we are about 96-98% similar. And although humans are all different, we still have over 99% similar DNA to each other!
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
322
How much do genetic workers get paid?
     Amy Gaviglio: I am a genetic counselor working for the Minnesota Department of Health. My particular focus is in newborn screening and ethical/legal issues with genetics and genetic testing. It depends on the profession: Geneticist versus Genetic Researcher versus Genetic Counselor, but in general, people working in genetics are well-compensated. You can go to the AAMC or NSGC for up-to-date salary information. Regardless of monetary compensation, we are all well-paid intrinsically as genetics is such a dynamic and fascinating field!
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
323
Clara Harmonson in TX ()
324
What does the Microarray test looks into? is it at specific genes, or chromosomes?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. DNA microarrays can give us a "zoomed in" look at chromosomes allowing us to see genetic deletions or insertions that can't be seen just by looking at chromosomes under a microscope. The amount of information that can be obtained by a microarray varies depending on the type of array and some are capable of picking up very small deletions or insertions in the genome.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
325
What are the down sides of genetic engineering?
     Kelle Steenblock: I am a genetic counselor with experience in the areas of cancer, neurogenetics and reproductive genetics leading a telephone based genetic counseling company (InformedDNA). I spent 5 years in the Mayo Clinic Molecular Genetics Lab where I was involved in clinical process development, colon cancer research, and the development of the preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) program. I also work with several non-profit organizations that advocate for breast cancer support and research. Genetic engineering is an important part of historical and on-going genetic research. Many advances, treatments and scientific discoveries would not have been possible without genetic engineering. One of the current uses of genetic engineering is in the area of food production. Scientists have created genetically engineered food products that may be easier to grow, more resistant to certain bugs etc to aid in quality and production. It is still an area of controversy and thought that these products have the potential to cause adverse reactions (allergies etc). The biggest downside may be that much still remains unknown.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
326
Do you think they will ever be able to manipulate reproduction to pre-determine the sex of a baby or to make the baby athletic?
     Laura Rodriguez, Ph.D.: I am the Director for the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. I work to develop and implement policy for research initiatives at the NHGRI, design communication and outreach strategies to engage the public in genomic science, and prepare health care professionals for the integration of genomic medicine into clinical care.?I am particularly interested in the policy and ethics questions related to the inclusion of human research participants in genomics and genetics research and sharing human genomic data through broadly used research resources (e.g., databases). There are ways now that some clinics can try to increase the chances of embryos fertilized through in vitro fertilization to be male or female. It isn't perfect and there are some people that still question whether or not it is an ethical thing to do. At this point, the technology is not well-developed enough to specify athleticism, and that is definitely an area where there are many ethical questions! Do you think it would be okay to pre-determine a baby's athletic potential? What do your friend's think? This is a question that you will all have to think about in the future.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
327
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
328
How many generations do you think it would take for humans to develop gills, if every generation spent life in the water?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. The experiment has already been done! Or really is still in progress. About 60 million years ago, some land mammals returned to the ocean to live. This ancestor resulted in the cetaceans (whales, dolphins, porpoises). So in 60 million years, they have not evolved gills, although they have developed many adaptations that allow them to stay under water for minutes or hours. So the short answer is more than 60 million years!
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
329
Do genetic engineers travel around the world or do they just stay in one place?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. Genetic Counselors (GCs) may stay in one place/city to work with a specific doctor or hospital. Some GCs work for laboratories or companies and travel to promote those companies' tests and services.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
330
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
331
Are cloned organs more advanced than normal human organs?
     Laura Rodriguez, Ph.D.: I am the Director for the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. I work to develop and implement policy for research initiatives at the NHGRI, design communication and outreach strategies to engage the public in genomic science, and prepare health care professionals for the integration of genomic medicine into clinical care.?I am particularly interested in the policy and ethics questions related to the inclusion of human research participants in genomics and genetics research and sharing human genomic data through broadly used research resources (e.g., databases). At this point we don't have the capability to generate cloned organs. It may be possible in the future through stem cell research and other technologies to create such organs. There will be many important questions to ask about "cloned" organs to help us learn how they function and age in our body, so we can answer your question when we get to that point.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
332
Is there any danger in receiving a blood transfusion from blood that might contain a genetic defect?
     Heather A. Junkins, M.S.: I am a Scientific Program Analyst in the Office of Population Genomics on a variety of projects that aim to promote the application of genomic technologies to population-based studies.? Included in the portfolio are projects that develop standard phenotype and exposure measures for genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and using well-characterized cohorts to follow-up on putative casual variants.? I am also a curator for the NHGRI GWAS Catalog. Good question. In blood transfusions you are mostly receiving red blood cells which do not have nuclei (the "brain" of the cell) and cannot share genetic materials. Here is a good website for my information about blood transfusions: http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/begin/traits/blood/
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
333
DNA determines our traits, but what else influences their expression?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. There are lots of complex factors that influence the expression of different traits, some of which we know (chemical exposures, sun exposure, diet, lifestyle) and many of which we haven't yet identified and are still learning about. Researchers also study the way that these exposures can impact people with different genetic backgrounds (gene-environment interactions).
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
334
Poolesville High School in MD (11th grade student)
335
Are there any risks associated with being a genetic engineer?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. I am not sure what you mean by genetic engineer. As a genetic counselor, the only risk I feel personally is that there is a high incidence of 'compassion fatigue.' We may seen many families that have very sad outcomes - children with multiple birth defects and mental retardation, or syndromes or birth defects that cause miscarriages or stillbirths or early deaths - among other things - and working with those families, and helping them work through their grief, can take an emotional toll on the GC as well. We have to learn to take care of ourselves emotionally so that we can be of the greatest help to the families we work with.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
336
Kristin Lafoman-Zimmermon in OH (5th grade student)
337
How do you feel about cloning? when do you think it should be put to use? or are there too many unethical issues that scratch the surface?
     Phyllis Frosst, Ph.D.: I am the the Senior Advisor for Policy, Communications and Strategic Alliances at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) part of the NIH. I focus on a range of therapeutic and translational policy efforts for the center and educate a range of audiences on the center?s activities and opportunities. I think it depends what you mean by "cloning". Recombinant DNA technology, used in just about every molecular biology lab in the world, and is pretty much free of ethical conundrums. If you're thinking of Human cloning, then I think that these are issues which we need to discuss as a society, before we make any rules or laws. So much good has come from science which careful consideration of limits allowed to move forward.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
338
Do you think we will achieve a mapping from genes to social or personality traits?
     Laura Rodriguez, Ph.D.: I am the Director for the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. I work to develop and implement policy for research initiatives at the NHGRI, design communication and outreach strategies to engage the public in genomic science, and prepare health care professionals for the integration of genomic medicine into clinical care.?I am particularly interested in the policy and ethics questions related to the inclusion of human research participants in genomics and genetics research and sharing human genomic data through broadly used research resources (e.g., databases). Good question! Genes are very important for helping to shape what we look like and whether or not we will have certain diseases, but they are very often not the sole factor in determining our "fate". This is likely to be especially true in social and personality traits, because our individual experiences are so very different and they also are extremely important in shaping who we become. Plus, personality and social behaviors are influenced to greater or lesser degrees by our personal will and choice. How we make those choices and why is very much influenced by our environment, culture, and, again, our personal experiences.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education teacher)
339
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
340
George Mason University in VA (Higher Education student)
341
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
342
In the future, do you think that there will be any sort of genetic engineering on the human race?
     Phyllis Frosst, Ph.D.: I am the the Senior Advisor for Policy, Communications and Strategic Alliances at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) part of the NIH. I focus on a range of therapeutic and translational policy efforts for the center and educate a range of audiences on the center?s activities and opportunities. No one can predict the future - we need a time machine! I think it depends on what you men by genetic engineering. Some in vitro fertility programs can offer couples with a high risk of having a child with a genetic disease a chance to avoid the disease, which to my mind is a good thing. But anything more than using genes that already exist in the human gene pool, is something that we as a society need to think very carefully about.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (9th grade student)
343
Can a genetic test such as a whole exome sequencing detect mitocondrial disorders?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Good question! Mitochondrial diseases can be caused by mutations in either the mitochondrial genome (a small circular chromosome found within the mitochondria) or by mutations in the nuclear genome (on the chromosomes found in the nucleus). Whole exome sequencing is typically done in such a way that only the exons in the nuclear genome are captured and sequenced, and thus, will only identify some of the mutations associated with mitochondrial disease. Some labs will also do a separate analysis of the mitochondrial genome to identify those mutations.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
344
I once read that on average humans have somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 genetic mutations. Is that accurate? Do all living organisms have a base rate of genetic mutations?
     Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D.: I am the Director of NHGRI, a position I've held since late 2009. NHGRI is the largest organization in the world solely dedicated to genomics research.? Previously, I was the NHGRI Scientific Director, Chief of the NHGRI Genome Technology Branch, and Director of the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center.? Since the early 1990s, I have been extensively involved in efforts to map, sequence, and understand eukaryotic genomes. My work included significant, start-to-finish involvement in the Human Genome Project, and more recently focused on utilizing large-scale DNA sequencing to address important problems in genomics, genetics, and biomedicine. A very recent study revealed the following, which is relevant to your question. Keep in mind that each of us have 2 copies of our genome-- one from mom and one from dad. And that a given human genome has ~20,000 genes (so we have 2 copies of each of ~20,000 genes). On average for each human-- for 100 of those genes, 1 copy is 'broken' (mutated), and for 20 of those genes, both copies are 'broken' (mutated). So, each of us on average is 'missing' 20 genes completely (in terms of them working). For your second question-- different living organisms have differing rates of acquiring mutations.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
345
How did the Q and P segments of a chromosome get their name?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. That is a great question! In short, there is no agreement on exactly how it happened. The majority of professionals in genetics were taught that the p arm was named by a French scientist for "petit" and that q was used as the next letter in the alphabet. See Robert Resta's long explanation of this on http://thednaexchange.com/2011/05/02/p-q-solved-being-the-true-story-of-how-the-chromosome-got-its-name/
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
346
American Civil Liberties Union in NY ()
347
Is there a gay gene?
     Phyllis Frosst, Ph.D.: I am the the Senior Advisor for Policy, Communications and Strategic Alliances at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) part of the NIH. I focus on a range of therapeutic and translational policy efforts for the center and educate a range of audiences on the center?s activities and opportunities. There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
348
What does DNA do best for our society?
     Laura Rodriguez, Ph.D.: I am the Director for the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. I work to develop and implement policy for research initiatives at the NHGRI, design communication and outreach strategies to engage the public in genomic science, and prepare health care professionals for the integration of genomic medicine into clinical care.?I am particularly interested in the policy and ethics questions related to the inclusion of human research participants in genomics and genetics research and sharing human genomic data through broadly used research resources (e.g., databases). DNA is information. It is information about ourselves, about our families, and about our ancestors. Through this information we can learn a lot about how we are connected to one another and about our shared history. Also, as we learn to understand all of this information, it will become increasingly useful as a tool in our health care and health decisions. Obviously, improved health possibilities for all within our society will also positively affect our society.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
349
Is the gene that determines brown eye color always dominant?
     Julie Rousseau: Following many years in clinical genetic counseling, the majority of which was spent in pediatric genetics, I currently work in a laboratory setting. In this position, I interpret DNA results and help providers determine which test(s) are most appropriate for their patients. That's a great question. In general, brown eye color is dominant. However, since there are many genes that play a role in determining eye color, there are a lot of pieces to this puzzle and it can get complicated. I found an interesting website that you might want to take a look at: http://www.eyedoctorguide.com/eye_general/eye_color_genetics.html
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
350
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
351
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
352
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
353
Does sperm hold the dad's DNA and the egg holds the mom's DNA? Even if it does hold the DNA how does it get in the sperm or egg?
     Julie Rousseau: Following many years in clinical genetic counseling, the majority of which was spent in pediatric genetics, I currently work in a laboratory setting. In this position, I interpret DNA results and help providers determine which test(s) are most appropriate for their patients. The dad's DNA is in the sperm and the mom's DNA is in the egg. The way this happens is through a process called meiosis. Meiosis takes place only in the ovary (making eggs) and testis (making sperm). In meiosis, the first step is for the chromosomes to duplicate themselves. Remember that chromosomes come in pairs. Instead of all the duplicated chromosomes lining up along the mid line of the cells, the chromosomes pair with each other and THEN line up on the mid line. The first meiotic division takes one set of paired, duplicated chromosomes to each daughter cell making 23 duplicated chromosomes per cell. The second meiotic division divides the duplicated chromosomes into 23 chromosomes per egg or sperm. That way, when an egg and a sperm combine, the new zygote has 46 chromosomes - the right number.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
354
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
355
My daughter has Williams syndrome and we believe that chromosome 7 has about 26 genes missing that were not inherited by either parent. Why does this happen and why do those missing genes have such an impact?
     Gillian Hooker, Ph.D., Sc.M.: I am the Associate Director of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health/National Human Genome Research Institute Genetic Counseling Training Program and a contracted staff scientist within the Social and Behavioral Research Branch of the NHGRI. Prior to entering the field of genetic counseling, I completed my Ph.D. in Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology. Sometimes, as eggs and sperm are being made, pieces of DNA can be gained or lost in the process. In the case of William's syndrome, genes are lost which impact some, but not all, aspects of development, explaining why certain parts of the body can be affected by William's syndrome and others are not.
Charlotte clark (Higher Education )
356
My friend has alopecia, which he has had since he was an infant. He also has asthma and different allergies. I was wondering why alopecia makes him more likely to have these conditions?
     Heather A. Junkins, M.S.: I am a Scientific Program Analyst in the Office of Population Genomics on a variety of projects that aim to promote the application of genomic technologies to population-based studies.? Included in the portfolio are projects that develop standard phenotype and exposure measures for genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and using well-characterized cohorts to follow-up on putative casual variants.? I am also a curator for the NHGRI GWAS Catalog. In alopecia the white blood cells attack hair follicles, basically the body is attacking itself (auto immune). Research has found that people who have alopecia have a higher occurrence of atopic eczema, nasal allergies, and asthma.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
357
How are the ethics of genetics controlled or monitored?
     Phyllis Frosst, Ph.D.: I am the the Senior Advisor for Policy, Communications and Strategic Alliances at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) part of the NIH. I focus on a range of therapeutic and translational policy efforts for the center and educate a range of audiences on the center?s activities and opportunities. A variety of federal advisory groups exist, such as the President's Advisory Council on Bioethics and as well, any research that involves human subjects is both subject to the "common rule" http://www.hhs.gov/ohrp/humansubjects/commonrule/index.html and reviewed by Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) at universities and hospitals.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
358
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education teacher)
359
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
360
Minot State University in ND (Higher Education student)
361
Do you think in the future, cloning will be a possiblity for infertile parents ?
     Laura Rodriguez, Ph.D.: I am the Director for the Office of Policy, Communications, and Education at NHGRI. I work to develop and implement policy for research initiatives at the NHGRI, design communication and outreach strategies to engage the public in genomic science, and prepare health care professionals for the integration of genomic medicine into clinical care.?I am particularly interested in the policy and ethics questions related to the inclusion of human research participants in genomics and genetics research and sharing human genomic data through broadly used research resources (e.g., databases). Even if cloning humans becomes technically possible, it will be important for all of us to ask ourselves if we think it should be possible to do. There are other ways for infertile parents to have a baby that do not involve cloning and result in creating new variation and uniqueness within our species. What do you think would be acceptable options in the future?
1941 in CA (7th grade student)
362
To what extent does 'other genetic material' (i.e. not known genes) affect gene expression?
     Tracy Futch: I am a molecular biologist and certified genetic counselor. I provide genetic counseling as well as guidance and decision support for genomic medicine to patients, providers, and payers. Currently, we think there are about 20,000 genes in the human genome. That leaves a lot of "non-coding" DNA in each of our cells. This DNA at one point was called "junk DNA", because it didn't appear to be coding for anything. However, in recent years, we have found that there may be some information that's included in non-coding DNA (for example, regulatory elements like enhancers). Additionally, there is a phenomenon called "epigenetics" where genetic information is clearly outside of the coding elements. This is a growing area of study, and it is likely that the influences of epigenetic elements are quite large.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
363
How do we determine the probability of genetic defects or disorders? Can that be calculated? Is it estimated retrospectively? By other means?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. It depends on if you are worried about something specific. About 3-5% of all pregnancies result in a newborn with a birth defect or genetic syndrome. However, by age 5-6, almost 10% of children have a recognized problem with either their health or development related to a genetic problem. Approximately 50% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, many very early, and many of these probably have a chromosome abnormality or other birth defect as the cause. If you are looking at autosomal recessive diseases, the ethnic background of the individual can be important. For example, in Caucasians, about 1 in 25 individuals are a carrier for a cystic fibrosis mutation. Only about 1/60 African Americans carry a CF mutation, but 1 in 10 African Americans are carriers for sickle cell anemia. Each population has different carrier frequencies for different disorders. For autosomal dominant conditions, the incidence is different for different disorders. For conditions like achondroplasia, the new mutation rate is considered high (about 50% of cases) because the gene is large and has several spots that are more prone to error. Other AD conditions are rarely new and more likely to be inherited from an affected parent.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
364
What do Genetic Engineers do?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. Genetic engineering is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
365
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (Higher Education teacher)
366
I'm 28, female, and in the midst of switching careers from software development to biology. My end goal is to do genetic engineering research in the private sector. Undergrad will be finished when I'm 31 then grad school for another 5-7 years. I would love to get a PhD, but I also want to have kids and buy a house within the next 5-7 years. SoCal is expensive, and I'm worried that studying instead of working will impact my ability to do this. Is it even possible to get a good job with a B.S.?
     Ami Rosen: For the past 10 years I've provided genetic counseling to people at risk for developing Huntington's Disease. I am also a neurogenetics research coordinator, well-versed in the ethical concerns of human subjects research and DNA banking. The answer to your question is that it really depends what you want to do in the field. There are many good jobs in the field of genetics for people with a BS. Genetic engineering itself requires higher level studies. However, being a technician, working in the laboratory, and working your way up by being good at what you do and involved in what is going on in the lab is another way to accomplish success in this field.
Cal Poly Pomona in CA (Higher Education student)
367
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
368
How is it determined if C. elegans is going to be a male or a hermaphrodite?
     Ellen Macnamara: I am a first-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I graduated from UVA with a degree in Biology. I have always been really interested in science and genetics. If the 6th chromosome pair is XX then the C. elegans is a hermaphrodite. If the chromosome pair is XO (which means it only has one X chromosome) then it is male. All C. elegans start as a hermaphrodite. When they lose an X chromosome they become male.
Poolesville High School in MD (12th grade student)
369
What is the difference between the incidence of something and the prevalence of something?
     Julie Rousseau: Following many years in clinical genetic counseling, the majority of which was spent in pediatric genetics, I currently work in a laboratory setting. In this position, I interpret DNA results and help providers determine which test(s) are most appropriate for their patients. Excellent point to clarify as these are often used interchangeably. Incidence tells us about a change in status from non-disease to disease, thus being limited to new cases. Prevalence includes both new cases and those who contracted the disease in the past and are still surviving. In genetics, we usually discuss incidence as the birth rate for a given condition (1 in 50,000 births, for example) and prevalence for the number of affected individuals in a given region (US vs world, for example).
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
370
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
371
Were do you think the future of genetics is going?
     Jenny Gordon, Ph.D.: I am a genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I graduated with a bachelor's and Ph.D. degree in Biomedical Engineering, but found that I desired a more service-oriented career. I became drawn to genetic counseling because of combination of science and counseling components, and find genetics to be a dynamic and very interesting field! Right now there have been a lot of exciting advances in DNA sequencing capabilities and what might be considered the next wave of personalized medicine. In the future the hope is to be able to sequence a person's entire genome, and start to look for all of the disease-related genetic changes for a particular person, and then be able to provide more personalized and preventative medical care based on these findings.
1941 in CA (7th grade student)
372
What are the down sides to genetic engineering?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. I would say this is similar to the "risks" that another student asked about recently. There are a lot of sad situations in our job, and we have to take care of ourselves to avoid compassion fatigue and get burned out. Caring for families who may have babies with birth defects, intellectual disabilities, early onset or frequent cancers, and such can be emotionally draining. the upside is that when we are able to help them through these situations, it is very rewarding.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
373
Woot!Woot! DNA Day!
     Ami Rosen: For the past 10 years I've provided genetic counseling to people at risk for developing Huntington's Disease. I am also a neurogenetics research coordinator, well-versed in the ethical concerns of human subjects research and DNA banking. Good to see you're excited about this. Me too. The discovery of DNA's double helix structure was made 50 years ago in 1953. That discovery led to a whole new field of scientific exploration and career opportunities. Pick up any paper, medical journal, or news website and you're bound to see some article on how the discovery of DNA and our understanding of genetics today is affecting how we live and understand the world. I wonder what you'll discover?
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
374
Are there any cool studies being done regarding gene linkage in humans?
     Sandy Woo: I work with patients and their families who either have a genetic condition or birth defect, are at risk for one or have a risk to have a child with such. I provide education, faciliate genetic testing decisions and psychosocial support. You will have to be more specific about what exactly you are asking in regards to gene linkage. This type of analysis is still being used in laboratories all the time to clarify results. It is one of many tools labs have available to provide information about disease/traits with possible genes.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
375
Will scientists ever be able to clone a neanderthal or human relatives?
     Ellen Macnamara: I am a first-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I graduated from UVA with a degree in Biology. I have always been really interested in science and genetics. The technology to clone a human relative or neanderthal exists but we are still far from actually cloning a person. There are many ethical and legal issues that surround cloning; currently it is illegal to clone a human in the USA.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
376
Why do some people's eye colors change? I have blue eyes but sometimes my right eye changes color. The only person in my family that has green eyes is my grandmother.
     Julie Rousseau: Following many years in clinical genetic counseling, the majority of which was spent in pediatric genetics, I currently work in a laboratory setting. In this position, I interpret DNA results and help providers determine which test(s) are most appropriate for their patients. Excellent question. Most people's eye color changes when they are babies because we develop pigmentation over time. Many people have gradual changes in eye color as adults. We may notice differences in our eye color depending on the lighting in a room or our mood. These are subtle differences due to our pupils expanding or contracting. These are not signs that our genes have actually changed. Some people will have sudden changes in eye color, but these can be signs of medical problems.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
377
Is DNA Day your favorite day?
     Ami Rosen: For the past 10 years I've provided genetic counseling to people at risk for developing Huntington's Disease. I am also a neurogenetics research coordinator, well-versed in the ethical concerns of human subjects research and DNA banking. One of them. The discovery of DNA's double helix structure was made 50 years ago in 1953. That discovery led to a whole new field of scientific exploration and career opportunities. Pick up any paper, medical journal, or news website and you're bound to see some article on how the discovery of DNA and our understanding of genetics today is affecting how we live and understand the world. The opportunities for what knowledge we may still gain based on this discovery is endless and very exciting.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
378
At what stage are researchers with stem cell implementation in terms of replacing things like discs in someone's back? Last I heard from an orthopedic surgeon in Los Angeles, we were 5 years out & that was about 5 years ago. How long will it take to be able to receive treatments like this for the general public?
     Tracy Futch: I am a molecular biologist and certified genetic counselor. I provide genetic counseling as well as guidance and decision support for genomic medicine to patients, providers, and payers. Stem cells implants are currently in (human) clinical trials for diseases such as repair of damaged heart tissue, diabetes, and many others. However, when looking specifically at disc regeneration, it would appears testing is still at the animal stage (testing is currently being done on rats and rabbits). It's difficult to predict when this technology might be available to the general public, as first the animal studies must be completed and be successful, then different types of human clinical trials must be done and be successful, etc. I think the orthopedic surgeon was discussing a "best-case scenario", while in reality there are often setbacks and problems to overcome during a research protocol.
Michigan Virtual Charter Academy in MI (teacher)
379
How long does it take to analyze all DNA in a person's body?
     Sandy Woo: I work with patients and their families who either have a genetic condition or birth defect, are at risk for one or have a risk to have a child with such. I provide education, faciliate genetic testing decisions and psychosocial support. Currently, there is something called exome sequencing, which allows for selected "decoding" of certain parts of DNA. Results can take anywhere from 2-4 months but the interpretation can take much, much longer. There is no way (yet) to analyze all the DNA in a person's body.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
380
When a trait is recessive, is there a chance that over time this trait can come to be nonexistent? Such as eyes, is there a possibility that there was more variety of eye traits in the past, but some were recessive and now extinct?
     Sally Ann Rodriguez: I am a 2nd year student in the JHU/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. Along with taking classes, I see patients on a weekly basis during my clinical rotations. I have seen patients in many settings, including prenatal, pediatric, connective tissue disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. I am also working on my Masters thesis, which focuses on assessing genetic literacy in a Spanish-speaking population. In theory, this is possible, but it would likely be quite a while before this could ever happen since it would require very specific mating combinations (i.e. people with recessive traits would have to mate with people with non-recessive traits, etc). So, while it's possible, it's probably pretty unlikely, unless the trait causes a severe disease and is naturally selected out. For things like eyes, it would be pretty difficult because there are lots of genes that dictate our eye color, so there's not a single allele that would need to become extinct.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
381
Is nail patella syndrome more prominent in a specific ethnicity, demographic, or race?
     Dana Petry: I am a second-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I am taking classes in genetics, public health, and psychosocial counseling. I have also rotated through various clinics for prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling. Thanks for your question. The prevalence of Nail-Patella Syndrome is estimated to be about 1 in 50,000, though keep in mind that it could be higher because some individuals with mild symptoms are never diagnosed. This syndrome has been reported in a wide variety of ethnicities with no reported race predilection. Additionally, males and females are equally affected.
George Mason University in VA (Higher Education student)
382
Is there any credible evidence that genetically modified organisms cause harm? Is there any credible evidence that they are safe?
     Phyllis Frosst, Ph.D.: I am the the Senior Advisor for Policy, Communications and Strategic Alliances at the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) part of the NIH. I focus on a range of therapeutic and translational policy efforts for the center and educate a range of audiences on the center?s activities and opportunities. Unfortunately for us all, long term depth of evidence around GMO foods is lacking. I haven't seen any evidence that would convince me that genetically modified food cause any harm, and I'm not concerned about eating GMO corn and other grains. That said, I believe that transparency in labeling is a good step to consider, and as well, that long term studies examining both people and the environment are essential.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
383
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
384
What is an appropriate major if someone wants to be a computational biologist/genetic counselor?
     Ellen Macnamara: I am a first-year genetic counseling student in the Johns Hopkins University/NHGRI Genetic Counseling Training Program. I graduated from UVA with a degree in Biology. I have always been really interested in science and genetics. Genetic counselors and computational biologists major in many different areas in undergrad; many are in biology or psychology or statistics or computer programing though there is no one specific major you need. It is important to review the requirements of different graduate programs to make sure you've taken all the classes you need, but you should major in an area that you are interested in.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
385
Could a Cannabis plant be genetically engineered to have more or less THC? And have they attempted this for medicinal purposes?
     Sandy Woo: I work with patients and their families who either have a genetic condition or birth defect, are at risk for one or have a risk to have a child with such. I provide education, faciliate genetic testing decisions and psychosocial support. Technically yes. Medicinal marijuana is currently derived mostly from good old fashioned "farming" practices by crossing favorable traits found in plants with other such plants.
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
386
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)


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Posted: April 20, 2012