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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386
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
387
For knockout mice, how can there be artificial DNA and what is artificial DNA made of?
     Shawn Burgess, Ph.D.: I currently study developmental processes and their relation to human genetic disease. "Artificial"' DNA used in research studies is DNA that has been made to have specific base pair sequences. It is the same as natural DNA in that the basic units are the same.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
388
If we can read the genome, why don't doctors read our genetics during check ups to see if we would be in danger of any sicknesses?
     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. This is an exciting time for medicine, especially with the advent of genomic medicine, which incorporates our genetic information into our medical care. With the decreasing costs of sequencing, there will come a time when you may have your genome sequenced and your doctor will review this data to determine your risks for developing conditions.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
389
If cloning is devoted to the purpose of transplanting the clone's organs, then why can't we just create prosthetics? Isn't this what biomedical engineering is all about? Which one is more costly?
     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. Cloning is used for many scientific purposes: To make medicines, to create animal disease models, to reproduce stem cells for research... Large scale cloning of a body part is not yet available for medical use. I am not aware of costs for these procedures.
South High Community School in MA (11th grade student)
390
Have you seen an increase in the number of people aborting a pregnancy rather than have a child with a genetic problem?
     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. I personally do not currently see couples during pregnancies and I am not familiar with all of the data available about this, but I did find a recent article that found that, for a specific genetic condition, the rates have lowered. From my experience when I was working with pregnant couples, I found that it was a very personal decision and more couples chose to continue pregnancies than to terminate them.
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
391
Is there any way to get rid or un-infect cells of retroviruses?
     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. Excellent question! A retrovirus is an RNA virus that is incorporated in the host's genome (as DNA). Another way to say that is the retrovirus hides in the host's DNA. I am not aware of any treatment that removes the retroviral-based DNA from the host's DNA, as the treatment would somehow have to specifically cut out all the retroviral-based DNA without killing the host cell. Instead, many of the current treatments for retroviral diseases such as AIDS are aimed at stopping the virus from replicating within the infected cell, and then infecting other cells, rather than by removing the virus from the infected cell.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
392
Do you see the whole exome sequencing being available to the general public and covered by insurance companies any time soon?
     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. Great question. I don't see this happening in the very near future, but I do see the possibility for public access to whole exome sequencing becoming a reality in the next 20-30 years. It may still be too expensive for many at that point, but also available to many. Your question about whether insurance companies would actually pay for this testing is complicated. I think we would have to prove that whole exome testing would be useful to our medical providers. That is something I think will take much longer than 20 years. Genetics is complicated by the fact that our technilogical advances, our ability to see information, is improving much faster than our ability to understand that information. That takes much more work since we are talking about how our genetics affect our body's functioning, and our bodies are very complex. We also have to take into account how our bodies are affected by the environment we live in. Lastly, we need to understand the social and ethical implications of being able to get this information. Is it something, as a society, that we want the general public to have access to? There are many of these discussions going on and many more that need to happen as we develop these technological abilities.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
393
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
394
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
395
I want to study the brain. What should I do? (I'm not a doctor, just an ordinary person.)
     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. There are many different ways to study the brain. Common undergraduate college degrees are neuroscience and cognitive science, though many different disciplines spend time studying the brain. Many people in these fields continue their education past college and receive a graduate degree.
Suh (Higher Education )
396
Will our DNA structure change to make humans look different? What changes are evident now and what do you think will happen in the future?
     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. DNA is always changing--that's evolution! Ultimately, we will still look "human", but human features will continue to change over time because of the different combinations. The best way to see evidence of this is when we look at pictures of neanderthals vs. pictures of humans today. In the future, it's possible that people will start to look more and more similar because of more racial/ethnic mixing, which will make people have more similar mixes of DNA.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
397
What kinds of mitochondrial disorders are there? What do they do?
     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. There are many mitochondrial disorders and many that we don't know much about yet. Since the mitochondria are responsible for making energy for our cells to use, the most common features of mitochondrial disorders involve areas that require a lot of energy (brain, heart, muscles). So, many people will have seizures and learning problems, weakness, and sometimes weaker hearts. A great resource for information about mitochondrial diseases is the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation (www.umdf.org).
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
398
Is it possible to synthetically assemble a full line of DNA in the laboratory, without using any other component's DNA?
     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 but for it to be useful, it would have be a known region that codes for something in an organism. Labs make synthetic copies of DNA sequences all the time.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
399
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
400
Do you think we will find anything about cancer by mapping the genome?
     Diane Masser-Frye: I work at a Children's Hospital with families of children with genetic conditions. I also consult with an agency that provides services to people of all ages with developmental disabilities. My role is to help these individuals and families understand the role of genetics in their families and how their conditions are inherited. We already have learned quite a bit about cancer by mapping the genome, and will continue to do so. Cancer, at its root, is caused by alternations in genes that cause cells to behave abnormally. As we learn about our genes and their functions, we have learned about how changes in the genes can up or down-regulate gene expression and cellular behavior. Many cancer therapies are being developed due to our improved understanding that comes with having mapped the genome.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
401
Please comment on what a genetic engineer does for work, what they earn for an average salary, and how long do they have to go to school?
     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 engineers study the genes of microorganisms, plants, and animals. They conduct research to better understand genetics and their research has had important applications in medicine and agriculture. Most genetic engineers will earn a doctoral degree, which means they complete college and go to graduate school to receive a PhD. The median salary of genetic engineers is $65,110 a year.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
402
What does 'Hybridization' mean in the context of genetic testing?
     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! With genetic testing, hybridization can detect the presence or absence of a particular genetic mutation in a DNA or RNA sample. A hybridization probe is added to the sample, and if the particular mutation is present, the probe will hybridize (bind) to the sample, and if the mutation is not present, the probe will not hybridize to the sample. This can be used, for example, to detect whether a DNA sample has a deletion that might be related to a disease.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
403
Is it possible that we could evolve so much that genes would actually kill rather than help us? Also, would evolving eventually cease to exist if we became advanced enough to not need evolution?
     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. Evolution is the process by which populations keep genes that are advantageous and slowly "weed out" genes that are harmful. So, by definition, it's very unlikely that we would keep genes that could kill us. It's also really unlikely that we would ever stop evolving--since the environment is always changing, we have to keep changing in order to respond to that environment.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
404
Poolesville High School in MD (12th grade student)
405
I have a rare genetic condition called hereditary coproporphyria. Some with the condition (porphyria) have been tested and told they don't have it because they weren't able to find the mutation, although all of their lab results and response to treatment indicated otherwise. If they know where the gene is supposed to be located why is it so hard to find some mutations?
     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. Genetic variations can vary by individual and gene scans can sometimes be like "finding a needle in a haystack." There are several methods for gene hunting and scientists are trying to refine methods for identifying and cataloging genetic variations.
Wendy Langacker in IL ()
406
We have a lot of farms around us. What is your opinion about GMO's (genetically modified organisms) like RoundUp ready corn and soybeans? Should we stop growing them, just grow them for biofuels or open it up for everything, including human consumption?
     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. Great question. What is your opinion? This is one of those topics that deserves and receives a great deal of discussion. There are experts and general public individuals that have very strong opinions one way or the other. Bioethicists have great debates about this. And, I believe, there are valid points to be made on all sides. Should we stop growing them? My personal opinion is that making GMO's like roundup ready corn or soybeans can be a help in the short run, but in the long run, those resistance genes may very well end up in the weeds as well, so the end result is a lot of money to discover and create something that only helps for a short while. As far as having people eat genetically modified foods, in my estimation, we've always done this. Farmers and breeders are always looking for a way to grow a bigger, tastier, more easily shipped, etc piece of fruit or vegetable, or pick your type of food. The difference is that now we are not only doing this in the greenhouse but in the laboratory. It is a matter of opinion whether this is good, bad, or indifferent. I think the important thing is to think about the topics, (as you are doing!), form an opinion, discuss it with others, and see where it takes you (and them).
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
407
My son also has William's Syndrome. Why do genetic "syndromes" occur at all? If they are caused by mutations and are random (not inherited), then why do they occur more than once?
     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. Mutations or changes in DNA happen all the time. It is estimated that in humans, one mutation in every 30 million base pairs occurs. Every time human DNA is passed from one generation to the next it accumulates 100?200 new mutations. So it is actually surprising that there aren't more genetic syndromes based on the number of mutations each of us has. However, we also have several mechanisms to reduce the impact of these mutations. We have a good "proofreading" system during DNA replication that helps correct some of these errors, we have duplication of many critical genes (so if one is mutated, there may be an intact gene located elsewhere in the genome), that many diseases (unlike Williams) require two mutations occur in the same gene in order to have symptoms, and others. In Williams syndrome, the primary mechanism of mutation is large deletions that may remove more than one gene. The endpoints of the deletion (or how much DNA is missing) may be different in different unrelated people with Williams syndrome. So these deletions of DNA happen independently in unrelated individuals, but they all remove the critical material, and so they all have similar symptoms.
Angie Haigh in MN (Higher Education )
408
I know alot of genetic experiments are done with fruit flies. Is there enough fruit to accomodate all these experiments?
     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! Fruit flies are very small and they actually feed on the yeast of decomposing fruit or vegetables. They do not need a lot of food to grow and reproduce, so there is definitely enough to continue using them in genetic experiments. Not to worry!
Kristin Lafoman-Zimmermon in OH (10th grade student)
409
Is there a gene that causes bipolar disorder?
     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. Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric condition that has a complex etiology, stemming from a mixture of genetic and environmental exposure. From the genetic aspect, most genes identified to date have a polygenic effect, meaning multiple genes play a small role in the disorder, so there is no one single gene.
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
410
Why does DNA have to be antiparallel?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. There are many unique things about DNA, but the most unique is its double-helix structure. This structure, which resembles a twisted ladder, makes it possible for each DNA strand to be precisely copied. These copies, which contain the same genetic information as the original DNA strand, can then be passed along to an organism's offspring. The anti-parallel composition is important during the replication process.
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
411
Why is DNA capable of self-assembly when other molecules do not have the ability?
     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! Well actually, there are other biological molecules that are capable of self-assembly, such as lipid molecules that self-assemble to make cell membranes, and the folding of proteins which gives proteins their structural and functional properties.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
412
Why is DNA Day only recognized in the USA?
     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. DNA Day is not actually limited to just the U.S. People all around the world can access the DNA Day website and ask questions in the online chatroom just like you are!
WHS 6nd Hr Honors Bio in IL (9th grade student)
413
What specifically makes people more genetically susceptible to certain diseases? What role does environment play in this susceptibility?
     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. Genetic susceptibility means that a person has some genetic changes that make it more OR less likely for that person to get a specific disease. These genetic changes can be anywhere throughout the human genome and are usually very small changes (like single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs). Although these genetic changes play a role in whether or not a person develops a disease, the environment also plays a really important role, especially in more common diseases like diabetes or heart disease.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
414
What would happen if a brother and sister had a child together?
     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. Everyone's DNA has mutations, but most of them don't affect you as they are mostly recessive mutations. Recessive means that a person develops disease only if both parents pass along a mutated copy of a gene. Since full (not half) brothers and sisters share 50% of their DNA, their child is more likely to have a recessive genetic disorder as the parents share the same mutations in the same genes.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
415
How are genes made?
     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. Genes are made of DNA. There are many unique things about DNA, but the most unique is its double-helix structure. This structure, which resembles a twisted ladder, makes it possible for each DNA strand to be precisely copied. These copies, which contain the same genes as the original DNA strand, can then be passed along to an organism's offspring.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
416
What are mitochondrial 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. Mitochondrial disorders are disorders that impact a cell's ability to make energy through their mitochondria. When the mitochondria aren't working properly, the tissues that require the most energy (muscles, heart, brain) are particularly impacted.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
417
Who is your favorite scientist, and why?
     Chris Colon: I provide information and support to families dealing with pediatric cardiomyopathy through virtual communication (phone, email, chat, website). My personal favorite scientist is Albert Einstein, because he believed that while knowledge is valuable, imagination is just as important.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
418
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
419
How does cancer get started?
     Mike Dougherty, Ph.D.: I am the Director of Education for the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). I am responsible for developing and maintaining genetics education activities that advance the mission of ASHG, with a particular focus on high school, undergraduate, and graduate/postgraduate education. This includes hosting the world?s largest essay contest devoted to genetics, conducting research to advance understanding about the teaching and learning of genetics, and programming activities for trainee professional development at ASHG?s Annual Meeting. Cancer gets started when mutations in a single cell cause it divide too rapidly. As these first cells divide, the DNA accumulates other changes that allow the cells to acquire new and dangerous properties, such as the ability to invade other tissues and to move to distant locations in the body (metastasis). All cancer is 'genetic' in that problems with genes are involved, but not all cancer is inherited. In fact, most cancers are not inherited.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
420
How has identifying the structure of DNA helped society?
     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 question. Many of the potential benefits from identifying the structure of DNA are still being realized. Identifying DNA's structure allowed us to understand more about how it works in the body, what it does and how it interacts with other items in and a part of our cells. With this information, we were able to see how similar human beings are to each other on a molecular level, which has social implications that may help society as a whole. With this information we are able to see some specific markers that are inherited in different ethnic groups and this has allowed some people to form a stronger sense of identity and learn more about their own ancestry. With this information, we are able to learn what causes certain diseases and armed with that information, we have a better chance of conquering the disease. For example, certain types of leukemia can now be treated with a drug that was developed by knowing the DNA portion involved in development of the leukemia. This drug interacts with the DNA product to block the leukemia from spreading. We couldn't do that without knowing the structure of DNA. There are some other diseases that have already benefited in this way from this DNA discovery and many, many others that are being worked on.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
421
My dad is kinda dumb and freakishly tall. Sorry but it's true! Please tell me I won't end up like that because of his DNA. My mom is pretty and normal so I've got that going for me at least. What determines if I'm like my mom or my dad?
     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! Well, we know that there are interactions between the genes that you get from you parents and many external environmental factors that ultimately determine what you look like and what your personality traits are.
Noa Jon in NJ (7th grade student)
422
It is my understanding that telomerase has been associated with many forms of cancer. In general, this occurs when telomerase remains active longer than it should. With regards to linear versus circular DNA, does circular DNA contain telomerase even though it appears to be unnecessary. And if it doesn't, do you know of a correlation that might mean organisms containing circular DNA have less frequency of cancer? Also, would it be possible to modify linear DNA such that it becomes circular DNA?
     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. Circular DNA does not contain telomeres as there are no true ends to the DNA. Being involved in human genetics, I am not familiar with the specifics of organisms that have circular DNA, though I have not heard of bacteria or viruses developing cancer. An interesting question. Studies are ongoing about determining the impact of reducing the amount of telomerase available as a potential mechanism for limiting the potential for cancer cells to multiply.
Minot State University in ND (Higher Education student)
423
I read about a doctor who illegally harvested organs and transplanted them in other people only to discover later that the "donor" had cancer and the disease attacked the recipients. Why didn't their immune system destroy the cancer cells?
     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. Genetics are an important consideration when matching donors and recipients. Often, genetic markers will be tested to determine the likelihood that a recipients immune system will reject (attack) the donor tissue. Further, among the many adaptations cancer cells make which allow them to keep growing is the ability to evade the immune system.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
424
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
425
Could you implant normal chromosomes within exact copies of certain cells into the body and then extract the original cells containing abnormal chromosomes, repeating the process until an individual with mosiacism would become "normal"?
     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. Excellent question! The answer is that this would be possible, but not very easy to do. You would need to find a way to identify which cells have the abnormal chromosome in all tissues, and you'd need access to that tissue to replace the abnormal cells with normal cells. Think about your brain, and how hard it would be to accomplish this without causing more damage. On top of that, it would be a technological challenge to replace an entire chromosome without killing the cell. So this is an unlikely treatment for mosaicism.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (8th grade student)
426
When a deletion of a chromosome occurs, how does it effect the body? Can cancer be passed down from parent to offspring, or is it only possible for it to be contracted later in life?
     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 humans, DNA methylation is carried out by a group of enzymes called DNA methyltransferases. This is a normal process by the body, some methylation can be stable while others can be detrimental (as in cancer).
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
427
What makes up the gene itself?
     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. A gene is a portion of DNA or RNA. It is a specific sequence of nucleotides that codes for the building blocks of proteins.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
428
How do you actually cure a genetic disease?
     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! Although, most genetic diseases cannot be cured, there are genetic diseases can be managed to control the symptoms. One great example is Hereditary Hemochromatosis, which causes excess iron to build up in the body. This condition can be treated with regular blood donation, which removes iron from the body.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
429
What triggers a gene to become methylated? If DNA expresses a trait based on being dominant or recessive, then what cause the methylated site to become methylated? Not what causes the actual chemical activation but what causes the body to do that?
     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 humans, DNA methylation is carried out by a group of enzymes called DNA methyltransferases. This is a normal process and sometimes this can result in stable changes or abnormal changes (such as cancer).
Peru High School in IN (12th grade student)
430
If your parents both have blonde hair and blue eyes and two of their three kids have blonde hair and blue eyes, but their last kid had brown hair brown eyes, how does that happen?
     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. If both parents have blond hair and blue eyes, it would be rare to have a child with brown hair and brown eyes. Sometimes mutations happen in the egg or sperm cell that can cause these differences. Or, it could be a case of nonpaternity
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
431
What are some of the classic genetic lines of evidence that support the theory of evolution?
     Mike Dougherty, Ph.D.: I am the Director of Education for the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). I am responsible for developing and maintaining genetics education activities that advance the mission of ASHG, with a particular focus on high school, undergraduate, and graduate/postgraduate education. This includes hosting the world?s largest essay contest devoted to genetics, conducting research to advance understanding about the teaching and learning of genetics, and programming activities for trainee professional development at ASHG?s Annual Meeting. Probably the most compelling genetic evidence for evolution is the fact that organisms that look and behave similarly have DNA sequences that are very similar (humans and other great apes), whereas organisms that are quite different have DNA that is quite different as well (humans and bacteria). This is exactly what you would predict based on the theory of descent from a common ancestor. For example, all vertebrates share a common ancestor, and they all have the same or similar genes controlling the development of vertebrate characteristics. In fact, some of these genes (e.g, the hox genes) are even in the same order on the chromosomes.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
432
I've heard people say that we've cloned sheeps and dogs but I've never heard of anyone cloning a human before. Is it because some people see it as an act of God?
     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. We have cloned many types of animals over the past 15 years. A good place to see an informal list of them is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_that_have_been_cloned. Cloning a human being, or even trying to, is illegal. There are many ethical and social questions to be addressed and answered if this was to be tried. Some may see it as an act of God, not to be tried by people. Some may just see it as something unethical, something that shouldn't be attempted just because we can attempt it. It is a topic that I'm sure will continue to be discussed in the future.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
433
Which genetic fact, condition, or process fascinates you the most and why?
     Chris Colon: I provide information and support to families dealing with pediatric cardiomyopathy through virtual communication (phone, email, chat, website). What I find fascinating is fact that, as humans, our genome is mostly the same, except for slight variations. And yet, we are all very different in the way we look, speak, act, live, etc. It's amazing to me that we can all be so different, yet so alike!
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
434
Can a living thing eventually be modified to have a higher resistance to heat or other natural barriers?
     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. Sometimes simple organisms (ie, bacteria) can be modified to resist certain stressors, such as antibiotics. Genetically modified foods have other organisms' DNA inserted to make them less susceptible to pests for example.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
435
Why do people have so many different eye colors?
     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. Eye color in humans is controlled by many different genes (perhaps more than 16!). These genes interact with each other to determine the amount of melanin in the iris that an individual has. So eye color is a lot more complicated than "B" for brown and "b" for blue!
Peru High School in IN (10th grade student)
436
Can a living thing eventually be modified to have a higher resistance to heat or other natural barriers?
     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. SImple organisms, such as bacteria, are frequently modified to resist stressors (ie, antibiotics). Genetically modified foods have other organisms' DNA inserted to make them more resistant to pests or drought for example
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
437
Are all cancers inherited genetically?
     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. This is an excellent question. In fact, most cancers are not inherited (~90% of the time). This can be confusing because cancer's origin is genetic, due to changes in the DNA of an individual cell. However, most of the time this happens randomly and is not passed to children. An interesting website is: http://www.cancer.net/patient/All+About+Cancer/Genetics/The+Genetics+of+Cancer
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
438
Why are they called genes?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. The term gene means a section or segment of the genome. The word genetics is derived from the Greek words genetikos meanting "genitive", and genesis, meaning "origin."
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
439
How are genes made?
     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. DNA is a chain of chemical bases (also called nucleotides) that are tied together with hydrogen bonds and it is structured in a double helix (kind of like a spiraling staircase). How these bases in our DNA are assembled is multi-step process, involving lots of specialized proteins whose job it is to replicate our DNA so that all of our cells contain our genes. You can find more information about how DNA on this site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/tryit/dna/replication.html
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
440
How did the nitrogenous bases in DNA first come into existence and form?
     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! It has been hypothesized that the bases arose from the "primordial soup" of chemicals that was present a long long long LOOONG time ago here on Earth. Many believe that RNA actually appeared before DNA in the soup.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
441
How do you see gene patents affecting patients?
     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 way that gene patents can affect patients is by keeping the ability to offer a particular genetic test in the hands of one laboratory. That laboratory then has a monopoly on that test, has no competition, and can raise the price. If it is a test covered by insurance, this could affect insurance premiums down the road since the insurance company has to pay more for the tests. If it is not covered by insurance, only those with enough expendable cash will have the test available to them. Gene patents also have the potential to stifle scientific collaboration and discovery.
American Civil Liberties Union in NY ()
442
What are the top 5 most common myths of genetics?
     Diane Masser-Frye: I work at a Children's Hospital with families of children with genetic conditions. I also consult with an agency that provides services to people of all ages with developmental disabilities. My role is to help these individuals and families understand the role of genetics in their families and how their conditions are inherited. What a fun question! Off the top of my head, I'd say: 1. Genes can skip generations. 2. Having the same blood type as your spouse will cause birth defects 3. Scientists can know everything about you by looking at your DNA. 4. Red heads are going to go away due to evolution. 5. Genetic counselors will tell expectant parents whether or not to keep their baby.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
443
What is the importance of personalized medicine compared to normal medicine?
     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! Personalized medicine is the idea that medical practice will be tailored to the individual, based on your own unique DNA. This is important because it will increase the quality of healthcare in the future.
DCB, Kariyavattom, India (student)
444
Sandy in MI ()
445
Since cells are copied to make new cells, what is a birth mark and why aren't all the skin cells discolored?
     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. A birthmark is an irregularity on the skin caused by the overgrowth of blood vessels, melanocytes (pigment cells), smooth muscle, fat, fibroblasts (connective tissue) or keratinocytes (outermost layer of skin). Not all cells are discolored because birthmarks are caused by a localized imbalance of factors that control the developing cells.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
446
When do you think the technology will be available to create drugs that could act as barriers for certain biological pathways in order to stop any disease associated with the pathway?
     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. The short answer is that technology is available now! Here's an example. Ibuprofen (or Advil) acts to stop the activity of prostaglandins that act to increase inflammation. When you take ibuprofen for a headache, the drug stops the production of prostaglandins, which stops inflammation which reduces pain. The trick is that you have to know the biological pathway very well, and know exactly how the drug will act. This is the basis for scientific research, both basic and applied research (learning the pathway) as well as drug effects (pharmacology). Keep supporting research, and we'll keep developing new drugs to treat diseases!
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (8th grade student)
447
What are people doing to study the relationship between stem cells and cancer cells? If a stem cell is near a cancer cell won't that make the stem cell be like a cancer cell?
     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. There are a lot of considerations when thinking about the potential uses and risks of using stem cells. A stem cell needs to be stimulated to develop into a specific type of cell and there are many ways to do this, some of which could put the cell at risk of becoming cancerous. You can find more information about stem cells at http://stemcells.nih.gov/info/basics/
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
448
Is it possible through chromosome microdissection and PCR that one could "preserve" extra copies of a normal chromosome through injecting them into living cells that would function as carriers and then extract them again, when needed, such as for gene therapy?
     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 but chromosomes and DNA do not function in a vacuum. They would alter the organism you inject them into. For example, we already put DNA from animals into plants to help them be more resistant to pests (genetically modified organism). You can't suspend a gene's or chromosome's function just by putting it into another living cell.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (8th grade student)
449
Why is DNA so important to study?
     Mike Dougherty, Ph.D.: I am the Director of Education for the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). I am responsible for developing and maintaining genetics education activities that advance the mission of ASHG, with a particular focus on high school, undergraduate, and graduate/postgraduate education. This includes hosting the world?s largest essay contest devoted to genetics, conducting research to advance understanding about the teaching and learning of genetics, and programming activities for trainee professional development at ASHG?s Annual Meeting. DNA provides the basic blueprint for life. Every physical and behavioral trait, for every organism on Earth, is influenced by DNA. These traits include those related to health and disease. Also, DNA explains both the similarity of organisms within a particular species (e.g., the reason all zebras look like zebras) as well as the differences among individuals within a species (e.g., why each zebra is unique). I hope you agree those are pretty good reasons!
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
450
I recently graduated as a biology major and I am looking for a research position in a genetics lab, I want to do research for a year before i continue with my graduate school in genomics and pharmacology, I would appreciate any feedback regarding research assistant positions at NIH Bethesda.
     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. Research positions at NIH called "IRTA-fellowships" are designed for exactly this purpose. You can get more information about this from the NIH website!
George Mason University in VA (Higher Education student)
451
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
452
Is there another chemical whose properties would make it a suitable replacement for DNA?
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. At this time there are no other chemicals that we know of that are as versatile and work as well as DNA. There are many unique things about DNA, but the most unique is its double-helix structure. This structure, which resembles a twisted ladder, makes it possible for each DNA strand to be precisely copied. These copies, which contain the same genetic information as the original DNA strand, can then be passed along to an organism's offspring.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
453
Family of My friend has diabetes history. I wonder, is there a way to prevent diabetes?
     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! Diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is influenced by both genes and environmental factors. Type I diabetes can run in families and there are some genetic changes that are known to increase one's risk for developing Type I diabetes, but unfortunately there is no way to prevent it. Family history can also play a large role in someone's risk for developing Type II diabetes, but keeping a healthy body weight and staying active can help to prevent disease onset.
Suh (Higher Education )
454
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
455
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
456
Can any disease emerge from any biological pathway or are certain diseases more prone to come out of specific pathways?
     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. This is a great question. In general, genetic diseases result from pathways not working correctly in one way or another. There may be many pathways that, when not working well, could lead to the same or similar disease. It's also important to understand that pathways work together, so if something isn't working well in one pathway, it could affect another one. Bottom line, very specific diseases will be the result of problems in a specific pathway. Common diseases are more likely to involve more than one pathway.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (8th grade student)
457
Is genetic engineering a promising solution for our health issues in the future?
     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. It is certainly part of the solution! Research into genetics and genetic engineering will continue to improve our medical technologies but there are likely to be health concerns that even genetics can't solve.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
458
How has the human genome project affected the practice of medicine?
     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. By sequencing the human genome, scientists now essentially have the instructions for making the human body. This has led to a strong interest in personalized medicine. With knowledge gained from the HGP, health care professionals are finding ways to better understand the health needs of people based on their individual genetic make-up. Scientists are hopeful that the things we have learned from the HGP will continue to lead to new ways of diagnosing, treating, and one day preventing thousands of disorders.
WHS 6nd Hr Honors Bio in IL (9th grade student)
459
How many genomes are currently completed?
     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. That is actually not an easy question to answer. First, there are different levels of "complete". In actuality nor genome is completely, complete - there are portions that we just can't sequence. But for high quality, good coverage genomes, I'd say that the Joint Genome Institute has a good website:http://www.genomesonline.org/cgi-bin/GOLD/index.cgi?page_requested=Complete+Genome+Projects. They list over 3000 there. As the cost of sequencing continues to come dow, we are going to see more and more genomes and it will be even harder to count them.
WHS 6nd Hr Honors Bio in IL (9th grade student)
460
We saw a film where people in Iceland were giving samples of their DNA to a company to study inheritance patterns in diseases like osteoarthritis. Has the US government done any experiments like this?
     Diane Masser-Frye: I work at a Children's Hospital with families of children with genetic conditions. I also consult with an agency that provides services to people of all ages with developmental disabilities. My role is to help these individuals and families understand the role of genetics in their families and how their conditions are inherited. The NIH (National Institute of Health) is a government funded agency that is involved in a huge number of genetic studies, including the human genome project. All studies are voluntary and there is a wide variety of conditions that are being studied.
Peru High School in IN (12th grade student)
461
8476 in IN (12th grade student)
462
How often do birth defects happen? Are they genetic or caused by something going wrong during pregnancy?
     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. It is estimated that 3-5% of babies are born with a significant birth defect (also called a congenital malformation). About a third of these are due to genetic (inherited) disorders. The remaining are due to things like maternal exposures (drug use, infection, or disease in the mother), and sometimes it is not clear what the cause is for a particular birth defect.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
463
Was the idea of the double helix accepted or rejected when it was first proposed?
     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! Actually, yes the double helix theory was rejected by Harvard Press when it was initially submitted for press by Watson and Crick! However, it was eventually accepted and they won the Nobel Prize for their discovery in 1962.
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
464
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
465
If scientists can look at the human genome to identify what traits a person will have, why don't we do this with newborn children to help prevent those diseases/illnesses?
     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. Newborns are screened for several disorders (mostly metabolic and even a hearing test) but this list can vary state-by-state. More information can be found here:http://www.newbornscreening.info/screening.html
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
466
Is analyzing DNA from a crime scene difficult? Does it take a long time?
     Kyla Patek: I work as a genetic counselor in a large neurosurgery practice. I am involved in counseling patients that may be at risk for inherited vascular disorders as well as occasionally cancer predisposition syndromes that involve brain tumors. I also work continuously on research aimed at better understanding the genetics of brain aneurysms. Analyzing DNA from a crime scene is not difficult if there is DNA at the scene. DNA can come from many sources including hair, blood, skin, and certain body fluids, but not all crime scenes will contain DNA, or there may not be enough DNA to be able to run tests on. It is also important to know that even if you have a DNA sample from the criminal, you must either have a suspect or the criminal must have their DNA in a database in order for the DNA to give you helpful information. If you have a suspect, you would compare the crime scene DNA with the suspects DNA at specific regions and if they match, that person is likely the criminal. The CODIS National DNA Databank contains DNA from many criminals, and police can compare the DNA from their crime scene from known criminals to aid them in finding the person who commited the crime. The time it takes will depend on the lab performing it, how much DNA they have, and what tests they run. It can take anywhere from 5 days to several weeks to get the results of genetic testing from a crime scene sample.
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
467
What does UV radiation do to your skin's DNA?
     Chris Colon: I provide information and support to families dealing with pediatric cardiomyopathy through virtual communication (phone, email, chat, website). UV radiation can damage skin's DNA. The light causes a reaction between molecules in a base that make up DNA, which then leads to damage. The body works hard to repair it, but the more often it happens, the higher the chance that the damage will not be repaired correctly. Damage can lead to skin tumors, which may or may not cause cancer.
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
468
Can age have an effect on DNA strands?
     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. Yes! As we get older our DNA accumulates more changes because it has had to replicate itself more times. These changes are part of the normal aging process. The telomeres on the end of chromosomes also get shorter as the cell replicates, or as we get older. This shortening process helps tell the cells when to stop dividing because they are "too old".
McDowell Intermediate High School in PA (10th grade student)
469
Is it easy to detect mutations or diseases when you look at DNA?
     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. Great question! If you know what mutation you are looking for, then it can be easy to use genetic testing methods to find it by looking at someone's DNA. However, scientists still don't know what mutations may be causing a large number of diseases. In this case, it can be very difficult to find anything by looking at an individual's DNA.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
470
Why are dominant alleles "dominant" to recessive alleles??
     Mike Dougherty, Ph.D.: I am the Director of Education for the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). I am responsible for developing and maintaining genetics education activities that advance the mission of ASHG, with a particular focus on high school, undergraduate, and graduate/postgraduate education. This includes hosting the world?s largest essay contest devoted to genetics, conducting research to advance understanding about the teaching and learning of genetics, and programming activities for trainee professional development at ASHG?s Annual Meeting. Your question is a good one, and it reveals a bit of sloppiness in how we often refer to such things. It's overly simplistic to think of alleles as being dominant or recessive, when really it is traits that have this relationship. For example, Mendel's round pea phenotype is dominant to the recessive wrinkled phenotype. At the level of genes, these pea plants have two alleles for pea texture. In a heterozygote, the allele that encodes a functional form of one particular enzyme involved in starch metabolism (e.g., R) results in the pea being round. However, the same cells producing this functional enzyme may also produce a non-functional version from the other allele (e.g., r). Thus, both alleles may be yielding protein, but the amount of protein produced from one allele is enough to make the pea round. Because the wrinkled phenotype doesn't appear, we say it is recessive to round.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
471
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
472
Can we make tiny cells like robots to kill off cancer cells or a bad virus?
     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. Excellent idea! Right now, research is ongoing to use the immune system (rather than tiny robots) to kill off cancer cells. The trick is to tell the immune system which cells are cancerous (by directing the immune system to cells that have a particular abnormal biochemical profile) and then wait as the immune cells seek out and kill only cancer cells, while leaving normal cells alone. This is a very promising area of research as it is using the body's normal defenses against disease.
Peru High School in IN (10th grade student)
473
Is DNA what makes us look the way we do today?
     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. DNA in combination with other factors, such as our environment, influences our phenotype (how we look, act...)
8476 in IN (9th grade student)
474
Is it easy to detect mutations or diseases when you look at DNA?
     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! That depends. Some conditions are easy to spot based on chromosomal rearrangements while others are more difficult. When looking at DNA sequence, some conditions are easy to spot because they have a single mutation, while others (mainly common diseases) have many mutations throughout the genome which are more difficult to detect.
Palms Middle School in CA (7th grade student)
475
How much schooling was required for you to become an expert in this field?
     Kyla Patek: I work as a genetic counselor in a large neurosurgery practice. I am involved in counseling patients that may be at risk for inherited vascular disorders as well as occasionally cancer predisposition syndromes that involve brain tumors. I also work continuously on research aimed at better understanding the genetics of brain aneurysms. I am a genetic counselor. I work with people to help them understand how their genetics influences their health and the health of their family. To become a genetic counselor you have to first get your bachelors degree. Many people get their degree it in biology or genetics, while others focus in psychology and supplement with required biology courses. After 4 years of undergraduate school individuals attend a 2 year masters program in medical genetics/genetic counseling. Graduating with your masters degree qualifies you to practice as a genetic counselor. For more information about genetic counseling I encourage you to go to www.nsgc.org
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
476
When did DNA Day start?
     Kyla Patek: I work as a genetic counselor in a large neurosurgery practice. I am involved in counseling patients that may be at risk for inherited vascular disorders as well as occasionally cancer predisposition syndromes that involve brain tumors. I also work continuously on research aimed at better understanding the genetics of brain aneurysms. National DNA Day, began in April 2003. It 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.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
477
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
478
E. Artie Isdabest in PA (8th grade student)
479
Since DNA is basically a "base 4" number system, has anyone ever tried to translate one of the universal constants (such as Pi or Phi) into a gene sequence? What protein would this encode? I imagine it would look beautiful!
     Robin Troxell: I am a genetic counselor for both prenatal and pediatric clinics. To my knowledge, that has not been tried. You should give it a go!
ST John in NJ (11th grade student)
480
What is the chemical reason why certain traits in DNA are recessive while others are dominant?
     Daniela Iacoboni: I am a clinical laboratory and pediatric genetic counselor. I assist in the genetic evaluation of primarily children with a collection of health issues to determine if there is an underlying syndrome or condition. Good question! So, genes come in pairs and they typically code for proteins. For some conditions, one functioning gene in the pair is sufficient to compensate for the other non-working gene (that's why carriers of recessive conditions are unaffected). Whereas in dominant conditions, having only one normally functioning gene is NOT sufficient for normal function and therefore the condition manifests. I hope that answers your question.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
481
Why does hair/eye color change from infancy into adulthood?
     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. Eye and hair color can change as we get older because the cells that produce pigment change as well. Sometimes as people get older there are fewer pigment-producing cells and sometimes there are more pigment-producing cells; these changes will lead to changes in the color we see.
McDowell High School in PA (10th grade student)
482
Peru High School in IN (11th grade student)
483
What are the 3 things that every human should understand about DNA?
     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. In my opinion: 1) DNA is the "blueprint" necessary for life 2) it transmits hereditary information from generation to generation 3) it controls the production of proteins
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
484
How can Adenine distinguish Thymine from Cytosine?
     Mike Dougherty, Ph.D.: I am the Director of Education for the American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG). I am responsible for developing and maintaining genetics education activities that advance the mission of ASHG, with a particular focus on high school, undergraduate, and graduate/postgraduate education. This includes hosting the world?s largest essay contest devoted to genetics, conducting research to advance understanding about the teaching and learning of genetics, and programming activities for trainee professional development at ASHG?s Annual Meeting. Wow, this is tough to answer without diagrams! The answer has to do with the physical interaction between nucleotides as they are aligned in the double helix. Adenine actually has two of the same hydrogen-bonding groups as cytosine (cytosine has a third), but thymine has groups that are 'complementary' when this base is bonded to a phosphodiester backbone and aligned opposite adenine. You'll see this more easily in a figure of base pairing.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
485
Back to the methylation question I asked earlier. Your body naturally allows certain genes to express (dominant) and others to remain dormant (recessive). What triggers the body to suddenly decide to methylate a specific gene and deactivate it?
     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. Some methylation is coded for and a part of our DNA tells the gene to be methylated or unmethylated. This direction can help control whether the gene is 'on' or 'off'. Other genes are methylated as a result of environmental factors; things we are exposed to can effect our DNA.
Peru High School in IN (12th grade student)
486
How many genes do we have?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. Currently, we think there are about 20,000 genes in the human genome. Interestingly enough, that number continues to go down as we do more and more research. Not too long ago, we thought that number was closer to 100,000! Great question.
Peru High School in IN (9th 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!




488
Which genetic markers must match in transplantation patients?
     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. Organs used in transplant operations are "matched" based on a group of genetic markers called HLA, or Human Leukocyte Antigens. There are many different HLA antigens, but those that seem to be most important when it comes to transplantation are HLA-A, HLA-B, and HLA-DR. We inherit three different kinds of these markers from our mother, and three from our father. The more of these 6 markers that are shared between the donor and recipient, the more likely it is the body will accept the donor organ.
Poolesville High School in MD (12th grade student)
489
Why do people want to know more about genetics?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. Genetics is a really fascinating field that keeps changing and growing on a daily basis! Every day there is something new going on! It is also a part of our health and future, so people find it fascinating to learn more about the parts of themselves that were passed down from generations before!
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
490
What is your take on changing a person's DNA to stop them from receiving a disease?
     Kyla Patek: I work as a genetic counselor in a large neurosurgery practice. I am involved in counseling patients that may be at risk for inherited vascular disorders as well as occasionally cancer predisposition syndromes that involve brain tumors. I also work continuously on research aimed at better understanding the genetics of brain aneurysms. I think that can be a controversial topic, but an important one. A great example that is currenlty in use is Bone Marrow Transplants (BMT). When an individual receives a BMT because they have a condition like Sickle Cell Anemia or leukemia (and many other types of cancer) the recipient of the BMT will have the donor's DNA in all of the cells that are made by bone marrow, including white and red blood cells as well as platelets. The individual who received the BMT will still have their own DNA in their skin, hair, and everywhere else, but not in their blood. That is an example of changing a person's DNA to stop or cure a disease. Scientists are working every day to figure out how to do this same thing, but using a person's own DNA, so the person who has a disease would not be dependent on a donor. If we could take a person's own cells and fix the gene that is causing a person's disease and then put it back in them it would be very beneficial to society.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
491
My right big toe is larger than my left toe, is that genetics or environmental?
     Toni Pollin: I have a background in both genetic counseling and human genetics. I study the role of genetic factors in complex diseases, particularly diabetes and dyslipidemia, and the interaction of genetic with lifestyle and environmental factors. I also co-lead a human genetics PhD program and teach graduate, genetic counseling and medical students. Most likely, it is some combination of both multiple genetic factors, environmental factors (perhaps during development in utero), and chance. One clue about how big a role genetics play might be if others in your family also have one toe bigger than the other.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
492
Why is the complementary pair for adenine different in RNA than in DNA?
     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. Thymine (in DNA) is more stable than uracil; DNA is further stabilized by its double helix structure. RNA breaks down more easily. This way, DNA is more reliable for storage of genetic information.
Elko High School in NV (12th grade student)
493
Is there a gene or any gene combination that can provide immunity against a specific cancer, and can we induce it in every individual?
     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 general, we believe that there are likely some genetic changes that protect people against cancer. We think this is the case because there are people who are exposed to known carcinogens (such as cigarettes) and never develop cancer. There are also people that carry specific genetic changes that significantly increase the risk of cancer but never actually develop it either. All of that said, however, we don't actually know what these protective genetic changes are yet--scientists are still searching! If and when we do find them, it would be great to think that we could somehow make sure everyone expressed those genes.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
494
How is a gene actually identified within a DNA sequence? Is it by matching the entire sequence against its expected pattern? Or is it also required to be located at a specific position within the sequence?
     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. Genes are identified by matching the DNA sequence against its expected pattern, which means the pattern as well as the specific position within the sequence match.
Moshe Buhnik (Higher Education student)
495
Have you found any links to cancer in genetics?
     Toni Pollin: I have a background in both genetic counseling and human genetics. I study the role of genetic factors in complex diseases, particularly diabetes and dyslipidemia, and the interaction of genetic with lifestyle and environmental factors. I also co-lead a human genetics PhD program and teach graduate, genetic counseling and medical students. I do not personally do research in cancer genetics, but genetic is known to be very important in cancer. First, genetic changes in individual cells are what cause the unregulated growth that leads to all cancers. Second, some individuals inherit a mutation in a gene that makes them more likely than others to get certain cancers, such as the BRCA1 gene and breast cancer.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
496
Are genetic defects more common in IVF vs. natural fertilization?
     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! Based on research studies, there appears to be a slightly higher risk for birth defects in pregnancies achieved with assisted reproductive technologies versus natural conception, however more studies need to be done in order to further confirm and explain this increased risk.
Lehigh Carbon Community College in PA (Higher Education student)
497
What is the possibility of locating unusual DNA strands?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. If you mean what is the possibility that a person has a different DNA code from other individuals, then this is very likely, it's what makes all of us different. If you mean what is the possibility of having a change in our DNA that causes us to have medical complications or genetic disorders this is dependent on many different factors including our race, ethnicity, family history, and many other factors. For example in the Caucasian population 1 in 25 individuals is a carrier of a change in the gene that can cause cystic fibrosis and in the African American population 1 in 10 individuals is a carrier of a change that is responsible for sickle cell disease. I hope that this answers your question.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
498
What organism has the least amount of DNA in common with humans?
     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. Great question! We typically compare the number of genes we have in common with other organisms, not the amount of DNA. For example, humans have about 20,000 genes and mice have about 30,000 genes. There is about an 85% similarity between mouse and human genes. If you wanted to look at the amount of DNA in similar organisms we'd typically look at the number of base pairs. The human genome is 3.2 billion base pairs and the mouse is 2.6 billion base pairs.
Elko High School in NV (12th grade student)
499
I would like to know why heart cancer doesn't exist
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. Actually, heart cancer does exist, but it is very rare. Tumors can develop in the heart, and while most of them are benign, they can still cause health problems. It is also possible for cancers that begin in another organ, such the lungs, to spread, or metastasize, to the heart.
gnu in korea gyungsangnamdo jinju (Higher Education student)
500
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
501
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
502
What do you see as the major risks in humans eating genetically engineered foods?
     Asheley Supik: I am a cancer genetic counselor. I work with people that have a personal or family history of cancer. I try to determine if they might be at increased risk for cancer and how it might impact their medical management. I don't think that research has adequately established a clear link between GM foods and health risks in humans. There have been some studies in animals, but we have not seen a consistent clear cause and effect relationship. There are many genetically modified foods on the market today, and GM foods provide potential avenues to feed malnourished populations. As with anything in genetics, medicine, or technology, we need to weigh the risks with the potential benefits of this promising technology
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
503
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
504
Is there a gene that can provide immunity or protection from the flu?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. There are many genes in our cells that are responsible for building and maintaining our immune system. Some people have genetic disorder that make them more likely to become sick because their immune systems are not healthy.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
505
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
506
Is obesity a genetic trait?
     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! We know that genetics can play a role in a person's ability to keep off excess weight, but there is no one gene that determines whether someone will be overweight. We know that environmental factors such as an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise can increase a person's risk of becoming overweight.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
507
Is it legal to clone humans?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. That's a great question! At this time, it is definitely illegal to clone humans. There are very strict laws around human research and what can/cannot be done with people's DNA. However, nature has it's own way of cloning humans outside of the laboratory. Did you know that identical twins are the closest to being genetic human clones? :)
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
508
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
509
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
510
Is it possible to manually construct DNA?
     Toni Pollin: I have a background in both genetic counseling and human genetics. I study the role of genetic factors in complex diseases, particularly diabetes and dyslipidemia, and the interaction of genetic with lifestyle and environmental factors. I also co-lead a human genetics PhD program and teach graduate, genetic counseling and medical students. Yes. In 2010, Craig Venter and colleagues reported on the creation of a bacterial cell controlled by a genome they synthesized. Scientists also construct short pieces of DNA routinely for genetic studies by combining a DNA template and nucleotides at the proper temperatures.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
511
What is the human genome project?
     Toni Pollin: I have a background in both genetic counseling and human genetics. I study the role of genetic factors in complex diseases, particularly diabetes and dyslipidemia, and the interaction of genetic with lifestyle and environmental factors. I also co-lead a human genetics PhD program and teach graduate, genetic counseling and medical students. The Human Genome Project officially began in October 1990 and was successfully completed on April 14, 2003. The most important achievement of this international project - which was finished ahead of schedule and under budget - was sequencing the DNA that makes up the human genome. While the project itself is officially over, we are now engaged in the really exciting -- and even more important -- work of figuring out how the genome functions and how it affects our health.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
512
If I were to save some of my DNA (e.g. hair, cells) from when I was young, could I potentially use my younger DNA to make organs when I am old that are more suitable for replacement? Would this be better for reconstruction of new body parts?
     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. The technology to do that doesn't exist, but scientists are working to use stem cells to grow organs. So in theory, it might one day be possible.
Adam Freeman in CA ()
513
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
514
Is DNA always replicable or are there instances that the DNA can't be replicated?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. If there are errors in the mechanisms that control replication it's possible that replications could not take place. For the most part our DNA is all replicable because it has to be replicated during cell division.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
515
Seattle Pacific University in WA (Higher Education student)
516
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
517
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
518
WHS 7th Hr Bio in IL (9th grade student)
519
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
520
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
521
WHS 7th Hr Bio in IL (9th grade student)
522
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
523
Assuming studying DNA is your career, why did you choose this to be your career?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. Great question! I chose the field of genetic counseling because I wanted to work with human genes/DNA in medicine, while also helping people to understand how their own genes can impact their health. It is important to that people understand how to help prevent illness, make informed decisions, and find the right treatments available for them using the information genetics gives us.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
524
Rajsb, India (teacher)
525
Peru High School in IN (10th grade student)
526
In Primer BLAST, pick primer option can select species specific primers, tell me how this option can be useful for genus specific and universal primer designing?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. The simple answer to your question is that the species specific primer BLAST will NOT work for genus specific or universal primers, because it is designed to exclude close relatives and be, therefore, species specific. However, if you are asking me how to design genus-specific and universal primers, it really depends on your purpose and the genus you are talking about. Can you tell me some more specifics? Are you a microbiologist? If so, there are good universal primers that detect 16S RNA in almost all bacteria.
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
527
Genetics and Nanotechnology are part of biotech. What kind of background do you need to work in this field? Do you need to have majored in physics or engineering or can a biology major do better in this field?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. I can speak from my experience going to graduate school for medical genetics and becoming a genetic counselor that a background in genetics and bilogy where helpful for me. Each specific career path will have areas where strengths are more important. I would encourage you to contact some of the programs that offer degrees in your area of interest and see if you can get their recommendations.
George Mason University in VA (Higher Education student)
528
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
529
Is Asperger's syndrome genetic and can anything be done to help?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. That's a great question that doesn't have a yes or no answer. It's unclear exactly what causes Asperger's syndrome and the other conditions called autism spectrum disorders. There is a genetic component along with other factors, but right now we don't understand how these different pieces fit together to cause the syndrome, or what makes some people more severely affected. Even though we don't know exactly what the cause is, there is still a lot we can do to help people with Asperger's. The most important thing is to learn about the disorder, just like you're doing. Therapists or support groups can be helpful to a lot of people. For some, medications are useful. It's important to work with a doctor to personalize the treatment for each person.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
530
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (5th grade student)
531
What's your opinion on cloning?
     Asheley Supik: I am a cancer genetic counselor. I work with people that have a personal or family history of cancer. I try to determine if they might be at increased risk for cancer and how it might impact their medical management. Cloning is an interesting topic. I assume you are referring to human cloning, which is illegal and raises many ethical dilemmas. If you would like to read more about this topic visit www.genome.gov/10004765
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
532
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
533
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
534
If you cross pollinate two plants with different color flowers, how can you tell if it will be codominant or if one is dominant to the other?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. Hi! Thanks for your question. You look at the F1 (progeny) generation plants. Lets say you cross a red flower and a white flower. If, in the F1 you get all red flowers, then your red color is dominant. If instead you get pink, then red is "incompletely dominant". Codominance is something else - this is when you see BOTH phenotypes. The best example is in blood types where A and B are codominant, leading to an AB blood type in a heterozygote.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
535
Why did scientists start searching/researching for DNA? Was it a random find or on purpose?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. In 1857, Gregor Mendel (a monk in Europe) began studying pea plants. He began seeing patterns when he crossed these peas which sparked the first thoughts about genes/DNA being passed down through generations. No one knew about DNA then. From there, thousands of scientists have added to his early research to find out what we know today about DNA and genetics. Today, researchers are trying to learn more about how DNA impacts health, wellbeing, and behavior. This is growing every day!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
536
If cells contain a high percentage of water, how is it possible to freeze a cells (like an embryo) and it still be alive? When I freeze grapes, they get mushy.
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. Good question! The embryo is first put in a solution that keeps it from forming ice crystals when it freezes. It is the ice crystal formation that breaks the cells in the grape and makes it mushy.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
537
Westview High School in CA (10th grade student)
538
What's the most interesting part of working with DNA?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. The best part is when my students discover something new for themselves! Or, even, just learn how to work with DNA and see how fun it is to make a piece of DNA that encodes something new.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
539
Why do we have to know information on knockout mice?
     Anna Rossoshek, M.S., M.B.A.: I work in the Chemical Genomics Branch at NCTT/DPI. My work encompasses a broad scope of functions that allows me to utilize my education, both scientific and business management, in addition to the experience I have gained through many years as a Biologist in an NIH Intramural Lab and as a Scientific Administrative Analyst in the Division of Extramural Research at NHGRI. I currently assume the role of a Project Manager for the four main scientific sections of the branch. Those sections include Tox21, RNAi Screening, Chemistry Technology Development, and Assay Development and Screening Technology. Knockout mice are great models for genetics. When you knockout a gene in a mouse, you can see what kind of effect it has on the mouse. For example, if the gene you are knockouting out is related to a human mutation, like a deletion, you might be able to mimic the effects the lack of gene or deletion has on a human. Then you can explore other questions related to that gene, or even knockin a human form of the mouse gene you have knocked out.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (5th grade student)
540
Hello! I was wondering, are different species formed because of different DNA makeup? For example, a human and a cat both are made up of animal cells. Is it DNA that make the two different species?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. Yes, you are right. It is the DNA that makes two species different.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
541
How would cloning affect our society if it was legalized? Do you support it?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. Wow! If cloning were legalized, our whole world would change very much! Can you imagine having 2 of everyone walking around? I personally do not support it at this time for many reasons, but one never knows how things may change in the future. I think, regardless, we have to keep people's DNA and genetic information safe, personal, and secure at all times. We need to always make sure people are always given the chance to make informed decisions about their genetic information.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
542
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
543
Peru High School in IN (12th grade student)
544
What's your opinion on cloning?
     Asheley Supik: I am a cancer genetic counselor. I work with people that have a personal or family history of cancer. I try to determine if they might be at increased risk for cancer and how it might impact their medical management. I think that cloning has it's place in research of other species and agriculture but that cloning of humans should remain off limits.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
545
How many people does it take to completely analyze a complete strand of DNA?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Thanks for your very interesting question. In the past few years, new technologies for sequencing DNA have been developed which has allowed DNA sequencing to happen faster. Using this new technology now it is possible to sequence all of the exons (protein coding parts of a gene) in our 20,000 genes in about a week. This is called exome sequencing. The actual sequencing is mostly done by machines. The interpretation or analysis of the sequencing results is mostly done by people using computer programs. It could take a person weeks or months to analyze a person's exome sequencing results. And because we are learning more about genes everyday, it may be years and years until we could completely analyze a person's genes.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
546
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
547
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
548
Is it legal to do tests on human beings, like cloning?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. Right now, it is illegal to do human cloning. However, it is not illegal to do "tests" on human beings. Human research is being done all the time around the world. Any time "tests" are being done on humans, it is important that rules be followed to protect their health, safety, and genetic information. It is good to learn about science and genetics, but we can never hurt anyone in the process.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
549
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
550
Poolesville High School in MD (12th grade student)
551
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
552
According to you, which thing is more important in disease diagnosis: identifying bacteria by 16S or identifying bacterial multi-drug resistance?
     Toni Pollin: I have a background in both genetic counseling and human genetics. I study the role of genetic factors in complex diseases, particularly diabetes and dyslipidemia, and the interaction of genetic with lifestyle and environmental factors. I also co-lead a human genetics PhD program and teach graduate, genetic counseling and medical students. Infectious diseases are not my area, but it would have to depend on the disease. Accurate disease diagnosis in general depends first on obtaining as accurate a medical and family history as possible and considering even the rarest possibilities in the differential.
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
553
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
554
Where do the cells get the atoms required for reproduction when they reproduce themselves?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. Cells divide in a process called mitosis. Before the cells split, the DNA needs to be replicated, so that each new cell has all the correct information. This process uses up a lot of energy, which your cells get from the food you eat. Inside the cell, there are a lot proteins and enzymes that use the energy to copy the DNA and grow the cell to get it ready to divide.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
555
What is the difference between BLAST and BOWTIE? Which other software tools are used the most for post-sequencing DNA queries, and for which purposes? And what are possible drawbacks of existing software tools that may require changes or replacement once sequenced DNA becomes ubiquitous?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. I have not used BOWTIE myself, so I can not comment on the technical details. From googling, BOWTIE appears to be an optimization of BLAST designed for fast alignment of short DNA sequences to the human genome. BLAST is an old algorithm (from the 70s) but works quite well and is great for single-gene searches. It bogs down with genome-scale alignments of lots of reads. Since the genomics industry is booming, there are many many options for software packages out there. I am not an expert on them, so can't compare them for you. The one we use in my lab is called "CLC Bio".
Moshe Buhnik (Higher Education student)
556
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
557
Whose genome do scientists actually study? Is it random people or a select group of people?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. Many times, scientists will study the genomes of mice, yeast, bacteria, etc before running similar studies in humans. Some genetic studies cannot be done in humans at all. Other studies can only be done in humans. It depends on the type of study. Many times, researchers will recruit volunteers to give their blood for testing. The rules around this are very complicated!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
558
Westview High School in CA (10th grade student)
559
My friend's Dad thinks I have a Napoleon complex. His dad is a geneticist. Is a Napoleon complex some type of genetic disorder?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Interesting question. Napolean complex is not a genetic disorder and not a medical condition. You can read more about it here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon_complex.
Jonathan Corrington in NJ (10th grade student)
560
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
561
What exactly is personalized medicine? What does that mean? How can a drug be personalized to an individual?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. Thanks for your question! Personalized medicine means that the doctor will determine, based on your genome, what the best treatment option is for you. For example, in women with breast cancer, the doctor might test for the presence of an activate allele of a growth factor receptor called Her2/Neu. If the patient has this mutation in her genome, or in her cancer cell genome, then, the doctor can treat her with a drug called herceptin. Herceptin will not generally work on breast cancers, it only works on the kind that have the mutation in Her2/Neu. Therefore, the doctor uses the genome information (what mutation the woman has) to *personalize* her treatment options.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
562
I heard that they can make heart muscle out of stem cells. How close are we to actually developing a heart that can be made in a test tube and put inside a person and function correctly?
     Anna Rossoshek, M.S., M.B.A.: I work in the Chemical Genomics Branch at NCTT/DPI. My work encompasses a broad scope of functions that allows me to utilize my education, both scientific and business management, in addition to the experience I have gained through many years as a Biologist in an NIH Intramural Lab and as a Scientific Administrative Analyst in the Division of Extramural Research at NHGRI. I currently assume the role of a Project Manager for the four main scientific sections of the branch. Those sections include Tox21, RNAi Screening, Chemistry Technology Development, and Assay Development and Screening Technology. Stem cell technology has definitely evolved and significant progress is being made, however, the technology is not there yet and I am sure there are ethical issues to consider as well. I believe we are at least 10-20 years away from seeing what you are describing, or even longer.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
563
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
564
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (5th grade student)
565
My dad is bald, my uncle is bald, what are the chances that I will become bald?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. There are probably many contributing factors that determine if somebody will go bald or not. Some studies show that 80% of balding is due to genetics. There are been some specific genes associated with baldness but the long and the short of it is that at this point there is not a clear cut way to give you a percentage risk you might become bald, but with the family history it's likely that you have more genetic material inherited from your father's side of the family meaning you probably have an increased risk over the general population to also have balding. But remember baldings not that bad, in fact it looks good on lots of people.
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
566
How much safer are genetically modified crops?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. Genetically modified crops are bred to be disease resistant. So the process is "healthier" for the crop itself. Genetic modification of crops does not alter the "healthfulness" to anyone that consumes the crop.
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
567
To Erin Cram: Yes, I am microbiologist aiming for genus specific primer designing. I just wanted to know how pick primer can be useful to me, however I really liked Primer BLAST tool.
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. Hi - I'm sorry, I'm not a microbiologist, so don't have any real expertise with genus specific primer design in microorganisms. Here is a strategy that might work for you: design based on the more divergent parts of the 16S sequence. See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC161812/
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
568
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
569
I have been told that having green eyes is due to a genetic mutation. Is that true?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. Yes, eye color is coded within our genes. Different DNA codes instruct eye color to differ between blue, green, hazel and brown.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
570
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
571
Can knowing the information in one's genome help cure diseases, especially blindness?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. It is hopeful that knowledge of a person's genome will some day provide insight on how to cure many types of diseases. Currently, there are several genetic conditions that can respond to treatment that is tailored genetically.
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
572
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
573
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
574
On the Galapagos Islands, can you still see all those organisms that Darwin studied?
     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. Yes, absolutely. In fact, I just returned from the Galapagos. I was there a week and a half ago. I saw giant tortoises, iguanas, mocking birds, finches and many other animals. It really is an environment where you can see the differences between animals and how they are associated with the differences in the environments of the islands.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
575
How does breast cancer develop?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. The exact mechanism that causes breast cancer to develop is not completely understood. In some cases it may result from changes to signals that are supposed to control the amount of cell growth (Ie. cell signal goes faster than normal).
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
576
Are all humans related?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. On a genetic level, we are all very closely related. In fact, DNA is 99.9% the same across all humans. If you go back far enough, about 200,000 years, we probably can be traced to the same parents, the earliest homo sapiens.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
577
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
578
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
579
Poolesville High School in MD (11th grade student)
580
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
581
Can alcoholism be genetically passed down?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Thanks for your question. There are many researchers studying the genetics of alcoholism. The data suggests that there are genetic factors that contribute to alcoholism from twin and family studies. So there may be some genes that predispose a person to addiction like alcoholism, but a person's environment, behavior, etc. also play a role.
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
582
Bednarcik Junior High School in IL (8th grade student)
583
Is it possible for someone to have a trait that his/her great great great great great great grandpa had?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. Yes it is. Every time we have a child half of our DNA is passed onto them. This is why family members tend to look similar to one another and why we can be carriers for disorders like other people in our family.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
584
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
585
When a baby is born with a genetic syndrome, is there anything that one of the parents could've done differently to prevent that?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. No, when a baby is born with a genetic syndrome there is not anything a parent could have done differently.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
586
Are genetic treatments covered by insurance?
     Asheley Supik: I am a cancer genetic counselor. I work with people that have a personal or family history of cancer. I try to determine if they might be at increased risk for cancer and how it might impact their medical management. Currently, treatments that would help to fix the underlying genetic errors responsible for a disease (or gene therapy) are still in the development phase, so, insurance would not cover those. Insurance coverage is very good for genetic tests to identify disease causing mutations (and therefore test relatives to see who else might be at risk) and for treatments that help to compensate for genetic errors (i.e. replacing an enzyme that is not working).
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
587
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
588
Which is the worst cancer?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. That is a tough question. I think, from a medical standpoint, the most aggressive forms of cancer are glioblastomas, sarcomas, and other malignant forms of cancer that spread rapidly through the body. I, personally, think the worst cancers are those that affect small children and babies.
Rajsb, India ()
589
What controls bone growth, some people are really tall and some short?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. Our height is determined mostly by our genes, and it depends a lot on whether your parents are short or tall. There are also some genetic conditions that lead to being unusually tall or short. However, nutrition is very important to bone growth. If a child suffers from malnutrition, even if her genes are programmed for "tall," she won't be able reach that potential. That's why a healthy diet with enough calcium and other vitamins is so important.
WHS 7th Hr Bio in IL (9th grade student)
590
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
591
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
592
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
593
What are the effects (if any) does having a sickle-cell trait have on someone, especially of African-American descent?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. Typically, being a carrier of sickle cell anemia has little impact on an individual. In certain situations, such as the combination of increased altitude and strenuous physical exertion, a person with sickle cell anemia can experience adverse health effects such as a sickling crisis. This potential is independent of a person's ancestry.
Florida International University in FL (Higher Education student)
594
Craig Valenty in MN ()
595
Do you think DNA can explain why some people are more immune while others less?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. Yes, our DNA is responsible for the creation and the maintainence of our immune system. Some people have genetic disorders that weaken their immune system.
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
596
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
597
Two of my children, as well as myself, have spinocerebellar ataxia type-8. Both my boys have displayed mild symptoms since birth and I have yet to show any symptoms. We are planning on getting their whole genome testing done in September. What are the chances of actually finding what "else" could be affecting them by doing this testing? We've been told that there seems to be something else influencing it.
     Toni Pollin: I have a background in both genetic counseling and human genetics. I study the role of genetic factors in complex diseases, particularly diabetes and dyslipidemia, and the interaction of genetic with lifestyle and environmental factors. I also co-lead a human genetics PhD program and teach graduate, genetic counseling and medical students. This would be an excellent question to ask the geneticists/ other medical professionals involved in the sequencing effort. I cannot answer specific personal medical questions during this web chat. I will say that whole genome sequencing provides the highest likelihood of being able to find an answer than any method so far. Best wishes to you and your family.
Steve in WV ()
598
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
599
In the future, will gene therapy surgeries be the first action in the hospital for surgeries?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Thanks for your question! Right now, scientists are working on gene therapy for genetic disorders, caused by mutations in a single gene. For example, our group studies a genetic disorder called MMA http://www.genome.gov/27529399. We have mice with MMA who die very young and when they are treated with gene therapy they live to a normal age for a mouse. We are hopeful that gene therapy will someday be a treatment for MMA and other people with genetic disorders but this will require years of research. It is less likely that gene therapy will be used for standard surgery unless there is a problem with a specific gene.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
600
Are we closer to a cure leukemia?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. This is a tricky question to answer because there are many different kinds of leukemia, but, yes, I think so. Advances in bone marrow and cord blood stem cell-based therapies show great promise for leukemia treatments, as do drug therapies targeted to mutant proteins found in some leukemias, such as Bcr-Abl.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
601
Elko High School in NV (12th grade student)
602
For chromosomal disorders, how many extra chromosomes can you have and still survive?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. It is generally believed that a person can have only one extra autosome (numbered chromosomes that are the same between males and females) and survive (chromosome 21 which codes for Down syndrome). In contrast, a person can have a larger number, such as three or more, of extra sex chromosomes (X and Y chromosomes that code for gender) and survive.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
603
I saw recently that death rates from almost all forms of cancer (lung, liver, breast, etc.) are going down EXCEPT for pancreatic cancer -- only 5 percent of patients survive 5 years after treatment. Why is pancreatic cancer so hard to treat?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Thanks for your question. I believe that it is very difficult to detect pancreatic cancer since there is not routine medical screening. For example, for breast and colon cancer, there are routine medical tests such as mammogram and colonoscopy that can catch cancer early on so that it can be treated. People with pancreatic cancer may not have symptoms until the cancer is at a late stage when it is more difficult to treat.
Peru High School in IN (12th grade student)
604
My teacher said that mitochondria used to be a separate orgasm that was swallowed up by a bigger one, so now they organelles but still have their own DNA. Is it possible for mitochondria to live outside a cell, maybe with a little help from scientists?
     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. As far as I know, mitochondria can't live outside cells. Scientists often find a way to grow individual cells, say from a tissue or organ, in culture, so they can study them. This all depends on being able to create the right conditions. I don't think scientists have figured out the conditions needed for mitochondria.
Dane Iaela Lowe (Monaco) (9th grade student)
605
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
606
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
607
What happens when a person has YY?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. It's actually not possible for a person to have 2 Y chromosomes and no X chromosome. You probably know this, but to review: one sperm cell and one egg cell are required for reproduction; a sperm cell can have an X chromosome or a Y chromosome; and an egg cell can only have an X chromosome. Normally, the embryo will be either XX or XY, depending on which sex chromosome is in the sperm. Sometimes, there is an extra copy of an X or a Y chromosome because a sperm or egg cell doesn't divide evenly. In those rare cases, it is possible for a person to be XYY or XXY, but there is too much genetic information on the X chromosome for the embryo to survive without it.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
608
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
609
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
610
What are prions?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Hi Ravi thanks for your question. Prions are proteins in the brain that when altered can cause a neurodegenerative syndrome. There are inherited prion diseases and also prions are involved in "mad cow" disease. You can read more about them here: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/prions/
Ravi Jaggernauth in NJ (10th grade student)
611
Can we change our DNA to change our appearance?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. Mostly, no. You could alter the DNA in your skin and change the appearance of a patch of your skin. For example, you could use a "gene gun" to shoot gold particles coated with DNA engineered to express a green fluorescent protein into your skin cells. (really - see http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2008/06/video-how-to-us/) Then, the skin cells in that patch of skin would be green, but only for a short time until your immune system attacked and killed them for expressing that foreign gene, or until they died naturally. To change your appearance, as in your height, bone structure, etc., is beyond current technology (and unethical) because it would require changing the DNA very early in the developing embryo.
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
612
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
613
Is it ethical to receive a gene therapy treatment for a particular disease knowing that this treatment will not be passed on and will force later offspring to also recieve gene therapy treatment?
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. Great question! If we look at gene therapy treatments from an ethical perspective, there are set rules/laws in place that govern what is ethical and what is not ethical in medicine. As long as those rules are being followed, then in theory gene therapy treatments can be very beneficial. However, the other piece of your question touches the topic of disease inheritance. This is very complicated as well. Many people know they are "affected" with a genetic condition, seek treatment for themselves, and then have their own children who are at risk for having the same condition. This is a matter of personal choice, and no one has the right to tell anyone they can or cannot have children. However, we always hope that patients with known genetic conditions receive proper counseling and guidance about the inheritance patterns of their disease so they can make educated decisions for themselves and other family members.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
614
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
615
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
616
Are certain chromosomes located in the mitochondria beacause of their purpose, or are chromosomes located in the mitochondria randomly?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. Mitochrondrial DNA, or mtDNA, makes up only a tiny portion of our genome. Of the 20,000 genes in the human genome, only 37 are in the mitochondrial DNA. The mtDNA genes aren't located there randomly - all of them are essential for mitochondrial function. You can read more about mtDNA and what these genes do here: http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/chromosome/MT
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
617
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
618
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
619
Is RH factor determined by a single gene?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Great question! The Rh factor blood group antigens are encoded by two genes: RHD and RHCE. But clinically only the protein encoded by RHD is measured. Patients are Rh+ and Rh- and this follows single gene inheritance. You can review the details here: http://www.biology.arizona.edu/human_bio/problem_sets/blood_types/rh_factor.html
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
620
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
621
Westview High School in CA (10th grade student)
622
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
623
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
624
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
625
Is it possible to cure genetic disorders in a develpong embryo through gene therapy?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Thanks for your question. Currently we do not have the technology to perform gene therapy in a developing embryo. But scientists are making progress in the gene therapy field and are currently treating hemophilia and other genetic disorders in humans.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
626
Why does your immune system attack itself in diseases like arthritis?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. We do not know. However, genetic susceptibility by a combination of genetic factors are thought to play a role.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
627
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
628
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
629
Ravi Jaggernauth in NJ (10th grade student)
630
Chester Copperpot in NC (12th grade student)
631
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
632
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
633
How are scientists now working to find a cure for cancer and when do you think it will be completed?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. I wish I had an answer to your question, but unfortunately, I don't think anyone knows when we'll find a cure for cancer. However, it probably won't be one cure, but different cures for different kinds of cancer. Cancer develops when something goes wrong in the cell cycle and the cell continues to divide even when it's not supposed to. There are many different ways that something can go wrong, so scientists are looking at how to target the specific mistakes to prevent and cure cancer at the genetic level. At the same time, other scientists are working on more effective chemotherapy and radiation, and better methods of early detection, so we're battling cancer from many angles at once.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
634
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
635
How does a person get cancer if they have no other history of cancer in their family?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. All cancers are genetic. Over time as the cells in our body replicate, our DNA in these cells is replicated and errors are bound to happen over time, even though our cells have protections to try to prevent this. Over time these errors accumulate to the point that the instructions for our cells to replicate and die off (our genes) are no longer functioning the way that they should. Without these proper instructions cells grow out of control and a cancer forms. 50% of American men and 33% of American woman will develop cancer in their life time. This is mostly due to the sporadic changes in our DNA, as well as environmental factors and exposures throughout life. Not all cancers are inherited, so not having affected relatives does not guarantee a person will not develop cancer in their life time. However there are some inherited cancer syndromes which make people at a higher risk to develop cancer in their life time, but we all have risk to develop cancers.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
636
Adam Freeman in CA ()
637
What can cause a genetic mutation?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. Lots of things (UV, chemicals, reactive oxygen species (like peroxide), radioactivity, etc.) damage DNA. Before cell division, the DNA must be replicated (copied). This process is not perfect, and can also generate mutations. The bases (ATC and G) in DNA also tend to come off easily...about 10,000 bases per cell per day have to be repaired! Fortunately, we have evolved to have very good DNA repair "machinery" in our cells that busily fixes up the mutations as they occur. Also, if our cells get too many mutations (e.g. a bad sunburn) the cells with normally die to protect the rest of the organism.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
638
Would it be possible to create a usable form of artificial DNA?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. Yes- it is common practice to create small lengths of based pairs that match to commonly known sequences of human DNA. These are commonly called probes and are usable as they are used in the process of testing a person for particular genetic mutations.
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
639
From what I understand, gene therapy is rather difficult on anything caused by more than one genetic abnormality. Have there been any other ways to go about multi-gene therapy?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. Very good question- and good thinking for the future. To date, multi-gene therapy is not possible.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
640
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
641
Do you think it would be possible to genetically engineer a human to have chloroplasts so we could do photosynthesis? That would cure our problem of hunger in the world.
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. I like the way you think. I don't think that we are close to this type of development in genetics. It would also be very difficult because human cells are so different from plant cells that this type of solution is probably not very likely, at least in the forseeable future.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
642
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
643
Why are older mothers more likely to have babies with Down Syndrome?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. Thanks for your question. As women age, there is an increased chance of a process called non-disjunction or "not coming apart" in their egg cells. Nondisjunction is when the chromosomes separate unevenly in the dividing egg cells during meiosis. If an egg with an extra chromosome 21 is fertilized, the baby will have Down syndrome. Because there is more non-disjunction with age, there is an increased risk of Down syndrome in older mothers.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
644
What is the medical importance of junk DNA?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: I am a genetic counselor in NHGRI's Genetic Disease Research Branch. I provide counseling for patients with a metabolic condition called methylmalonic acidemia enrolled in a research study at the National Institutes of Health. 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!
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
645
How is it possible that humans all look so different if we all have the same genes and phenotype possibilities?
     Erin Cram: I have been a Biology professor at Northeastern University since 2006, where I teach Genetics and Molecular Cell Biology. Before that, I studied at UNC Chapel Hill, UC Berkeley, and Princeton. My lab is a "worm" lab - we use the nematode C. elegans as a model organism. We are investigating how the structure of tissues controls cell behaviors like cell migration. We do all have the same genes, but we have slightly different versions of them called "alleles". There are thought to be more than one million small differences in the DNA between any two unrelated people. These small differences in the DNA sequence produce the different alleles which lead to the different phenotypes. Environment can also have a big effect on phenotypes like height and weight.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
646
Westview High School in CA (11th grade student)
647
Does a normal microarray result mean that a person does not have a genetic syndrome?
     Toni Pollin: I have a background in both genetic counseling and human genetics. I study the role of genetic factors in complex diseases, particularly diabetes and dyslipidemia, and the interaction of genetic with lifestyle and environmental factors. I also co-lead a human genetics PhD program and teach graduate, genetic counseling and medical students. Definitely not. A normal microarray result means there are no obvious (a few thousand bases or more) missing or deleted pieces of the genome. A person can have a genetic syndrome with just one single base substitution, which is not detected using microarray testing.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
648
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
649
In your opinion, what is the worst genetic defect a human can inherit?
     Kelly Donahue: I am currently a prenatal genetic counselor. I speak with families that are at risk to have children with genetic conditions. This risk may be based on their family history or be signaled by results of specific blood work or ultrasound during their pregnancy. In my opinion, the worst genetic defect that a person can inherit would be one that is incompatible with survival. Unfortunately, there are many genetic defects that fall into this category so I can not just pick one.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
650
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
651
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
652
Do you think cloning will ever be 100% achievable and allowed?
     Asheley Supik: I am a cancer genetic counselor. I work with people that have a personal or family history of cancer. I try to determine if they might be at increased risk for cancer and how it might impact their medical management. I think that it will be achievable, but we will have to determine if it is appropriate for our society at that time. I do know that we have explicitly decided that it is not allowed today, and although I cannot say how people will feel in the future, I doubt our current opinions on the legality of cloning will change in the near future.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
653
How can individuals get acne if they don't have a family history of it?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. Unfortunately, yes. Although there may be an increased risk for acne based on family history (I'm not sure about that), but exposure to bacteria, dirt, etc. may cause acne in anyone.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
654
What are the possibilities that I can change my DNA so that I can be like superman?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Unfortunately, we are stuck with the genes we are born with! No chance you'll be flying around the world anytime soon.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
655
What organism has the most complex DNA?
     Craig Adamski: I am a pediatric genetic counselor and cystic fibrosis newborn screening genetic counselor at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. I also do prenatal and cancer genetic counseling through Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan. It depends on what you consider when thinking about complexity. Some organisms have large amounts of DNA but are consider simple life forms where as others have less DNA but are higher life forms. DNA is complex on many different levels. As humans I think that we like to think that we have the most complex DNA, but like I said I think that it depends on what you are comparing in regards to complexity. All in all, DNA being the building blocks of life, it's all very complex and amazing.
Westview High School in CA (10th grade student)
656
What's the total number of species that have been identified on Earth to date?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. Since we haven't discovered all the species that are believed to exist, that's a tough question. I think estimates are around 8-9 million, although only 1-2 million have been cataloged at this point.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
657
In the 60's, we were taught that environmental factors could not change a species DNA makeup. (classic example -giraffe stretching to eat leaves from high up in the tree did not change the length of the giraffe's neck). Is this still accepted by most scientists?
     Anna Rossoshek, M.S., M.B.A.: I work in the Chemical Genomics Branch at NCTT/DPI. My work encompasses a broad scope of functions that allows me to utilize my education, both scientific and business management, in addition to the experience I have gained through many years as a Biologist in an NIH Intramural Lab and as a Scientific Administrative Analyst in the Division of Extramural Research at NHGRI. I currently assume the role of a Project Manager for the four main scientific sections of the branch. Those sections include Tox21, RNAi Screening, Chemistry Technology Development, and Assay Development and Screening Technology. No, I think on the contrary, we definitely take environmental factors into consideration. For example, Epigenetics considers environmental elements and factors as they apply to genetics.
Janice Flahiff in OH ()
658
Can any human traits evolve so fast that we could see the change in our lifetime?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Evolution is a very slow process. It takes generations and generations of mutations and propagation of those mutations (via reproduction) for any major changes in evolution to take place. So we aren't going to see every human on Earth walking around with a 3rd eye, for example, anytime soon.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
659
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
660
What are the latest advances in the treatment of muscular dystrophy?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. There is no treatment yet that can stop or reverse the progression of muscular dystropies, but there are treatments that can slow the progression of the disease. On clinicaltrials.gov, there are currently 143 studies being done in US alone on muscular dystrophy. Scientists are looking into many options from drugs to gene therapy. You can read about medical updates on the MD Campaign website: http://www.muscular-dystrophy.org/research/news
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
661
Is one kind of mutation more common than others in humans (like deletion mutations or point mutations)?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. This depends on the genetic disorder. For example, in sickle cell anemia there is the same exact point mutation in every person who has the condition. In another example, a family that carries a BRCA mutation may have a duplication, a deletion, or a point mutation within BRCA1 or BRCA2, so just about any kind of mutation can cause disease. For humans, just about every type of mutation can lead to genetic disease, depending on the condition you're thinking about.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
662
Since blood type is genetic, what would happen if a person gets a transfusion with the wrong blood type?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. If you are treated with the wrong blood type your body cannot recognize it and will essentially treat it as a foreign invader- sort of like when you have a virus. This causes your immune system to react and attack the the "foreign invaders". This not only makes the blood transfusion useless, but can also cause severe reactions in the body.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
663
How do proteins know how to perform their jobs?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. It's in the structure. Compound like proteins interact with their surroundings in very specific ways due to the way that the molecules that make them up are arranged inside. The molecules may have an attraction for certain parts of their environment, or they may cause the proteins to fold up in specific ways that make them fit like puzzle pieces with other compounds in their environment. It's these interactions that make the proteins "perform" their specific jobs.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
664
Is the rate of degradation of mRNA important in regulation in eukaryotes?
     Anna Rossoshek, M.S., M.B.A.: I work in the Chemical Genomics Branch at NCTT/DPI. My work encompasses a broad scope of functions that allows me to utilize my education, both scientific and business management, in addition to the experience I have gained through many years as a Biologist in an NIH Intramural Lab and as a Scientific Administrative Analyst in the Division of Extramural Research at NHGRI. I currently assume the role of a Project Manager for the four main scientific sections of the branch. Those sections include Tox21, RNAi Screening, Chemistry Technology Development, and Assay Development and Screening Technology. In eukaryotic cells, the degradation of mRNA is an essential determinant in the regulation of gene expression, and it can be modulated in response to developmental, environmental, and metabolic signals. This level of regulation is particularly important for proteins that are active for a brief period, such as growth factors, transcription factors, and proteins that control cell cycle progression.
RadPharm Polytechnical in NJ (Higher Education student)
665
If I want to explain about DNA and its effect in life to small school children, then what you suggest, which will be best method for such awareness.
     Stephanie Gandomi: I am a prenatal screening genetic counselor/supervising coordinator for the State of California prenatal screening program. My role includes coordinating all aspects of our State-run prenatal screening program for all women throughout California. I work in a setting that incorporates both clinical genetic counseling and public health aspects of prenatal care. Since genetics is very complicated, it is probably best to keep the teaching lessons simple. Perhaps starting with simple lessons, such as eye-color inheritance, is a good way to start. Finding ways to help the children understand how genes and traits are passed down in their own families makes the lessons personal and interesting. This way they get a sense that genetics includes them as well!
SMVCBT, India (teacher)
666
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
667
What's the strangest mutation you have ever seen in your career so far?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. I had a patient whose baby was found to have a deletion of a very tiny portion of one of it's chromosomes. This mutation had never been seen in another person before! Since the baby hasn't been born yet, we don't know what effects the mutation will cause. However, we saw problems with the structure of its heart and brain by ultrasound. Those problems that are likely to have been caused by the mutation we found.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
668
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
669
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
670
Do all disorders develop because of problems with a person's chromosomes?
     Rachel Shapira: I am studying genetic counseling at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. I am currently in a clinical rotation at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center Prenatal Assessment Center. Not all disorders are because of chromosome problems. Some disorders are because there are too many or not enough copies of a whole chromosome, like Down syndrome. Some disorders are due to a change to a single gene located on a chromosome. But most diseases are complex, and have a number of factors that work together to cause the disease. Some of these factors are genetic, but many have to do with a person's environment and behaviors, like diet and exercise.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
671
J. Rod Clemence in CA (Higher Education student)
672
During the process of evolution, how does the number of chromosomes in the organism change?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. Evolution is a continuous process that happens over a long period of time and is not to a specific organism but a species as a whole. Changes in one organism are necessary, however, to lead to change in an entire species. In a single organism, the number of chromosomes may change if one chromosome splits into two, or, alternatively, if two fuse into one. Evolution relies on changes being beneficial to a species in order for those changes to persist from one generation to another.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
673
How do you clone a person?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. Theoretically, you would insert the nucleus of a cell from the person you wanted to clone into an egg cell after you remove the nucleus that was already present in the egg cell. By doing this, you are replacing the genetic material of the combined sperm and egg with the DNA from a single individual. Then, the egg is implanted in a uterus and allowed to develop into the clone.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (5th grade student)
674
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
675
I think there is a genetic link to the formation of fingerprints. How do genes control the whorls and loops?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. I'm not sure if there is a genetic link to formation of specific loops and whorls in a fingerprint. However, there is a genetic condition called adermatoglyphia that can cause the absence of fingerprints.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
676
The use of telomerase in anti-aging research has been studied recently, since the presence/overexpression of it allows a cell to bypass its Hayflick limit. But this over-expression of telomerase is also a prerequisite for tumorigenesis. Could using it pose an increased risk for cancer in patients, and if so, is there anything to counteract this?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. This is an excellent question, and was an immediate concern as soon as the role of telomerase was first understood a number of years ago. We know that the telomeres do get shorter every time our cells divide. The telomeres help to protect the coding DNA (chromosomes would stick to one another, undergo structural changes, etc if there are no telomeres). However, that shortening of the telomeres has been linked to the aging process. Telomerase helps to keep this routine shortening with each cell division to a minimum, but cannot erase the process entirely. If up amped up the production of telomerase within a cell, hypothetically you could prolong the life of that cell (and hopefully circumvent some of the aging process). However, in a normal setting, a cell that does not die when it's supposed to is frequently a precancerous cell. So this could be quite dangerous. As cancer causation is still such a complex, and still a poorly understood process, attempting to use telomerase to reduce aging is likely a foolish endeavor at this time.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
677
Have there been any advancements in treatments to diseases caused by prions?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Some symptoms of prion disease can be treated, but unfortunately, there are no curative treatments as of yet. Clinical trials are underway in some countries.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
678
What animals are the easiest and hardest to do DNA experiments on?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. Typically, it is easier to do DNA-based experiments on organisms that have smaller genomes, reproduce rapidly, and on which experiments can be performed without complicated ethical issues. Bacteria is a big favorite for DNA studies, especially E. coli. When animals become more complex such as mice or chimpanzees they become more similar in DNA and also anatomy to humans. That similarity is considered when experiments are designed and conducted. Decisions about animal experiments should always be made with the utmost of care and consideration.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
679
How has gel electrophoresis helped with your work?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. I don't use gel electrophoresis in my work, but it is a very useful technique for crime scene investigators to identify/match tissue samples from a crime scene to suspects identified in the crime.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
680
What are you currently researching about DNA?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. Personally I come from a clinical background, so I work directly with patients who have genetic disorders. I do not work in a molecular genetics lab. However, in my practice I am in frequent contact with laboratories that are developing genetic testing so that we can more accurately diagnose patients with a genetic disorder, and therefore take better care of them. One exciting new test option that's been available in my clinic is much more precise diagnostic testing for a condition called Noonan syndrome (and affected person has short stature, increased risk for certain heart defects, and other health problems). It turns out that several different genes can cause Noonan syndrome, and some of the genes have only recently discovered. Now we can much more accurately determine who has Noonan syndrome, and in some cases tailor their care depending on which exact gene mutation they have.
Westview High School in CA (11th grade student)
681
Why are there so many cancers?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a very good question. Cancer occurs when there is unregulated cell growth and can occur in any part of the body. Some types of cancer occur based on a 2 hit theory. A person can be born with a genetic predisposition to developing cancer and then there is an environmental trigger that causes cells to overgrow and develop tumors. Other cancers are part of genetic conditions, one example is tuberous sclerosis. Thank you for your question.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
682
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
683
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
684
Are neuromuscular problems genetic in origin?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. Not all neuromuscular disorders are genetic, but there are many that are. Some examples of genetic neuromuscular disorders include spinal muscular atrophy and the different types of Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorder. These conditions can be a challenge to diagnose, but it is important to determine when a neuromuscular patient may have a genetic cause, as then it can impact other family members.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
685
How are the two strands of DNA held together?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. A DNA strand and its complementary strand are held together by hydrogen bonds. A "G" (guanine) base on one strand will always be bonded to a "C" (cytosine) on the opposite strand by 3 hydrogen bonds. An "A" (adenine) base on one strand will always be bonded to a "T" (thymine) on the opposite strand by 2 hydrogen bonds. Hydrogen in hydrogen bonds are attracted to electronegative charges such as those found on oxygen and nitrogen in DNA bases.
Michigan Virtual Charter Academy in MI (9th grade student)
686
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
687
Is one means of speciation more effective than the others (like geographic isolation compared to reproductive isolation)?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. The two often work hand-in-hand. For example, if a physical barrier separates members of a population (geographic isolation), they would still be able to reproduce with one another if they find a way across the barrier. However, as their environments become different from one another, and as the two groups acquire mutations that make them genetically different from one another, they will eventually become incapable of reproducing with members in the other group due to differences in their genetic make-up (reproductive isolation).
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
688
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
689
Why can't egg and sperm cells from different species fertilize each other?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. This is a great question! I am glad you asked. In general, organisms' body designs are in fact very smart. Outside of the egg, there is a protective coat called the "zona pellucida" that prevents sperms of other species to fertilize that particular egg. You can think of the zona pellucida as the guards of a certain country, for example, preventing "foreign sperms" from getting into the territory. There are specific proteins on the sperms that allow them to recognized as foreign or not. Different species have different amount of genetic materials in them. Having too much or too little would lead to a imbalance and often defects. Organisms try to only fertilize within their species to keep the same amount of genetic materials over generations.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
690
Ravi Jaggernauth in NJ (10th grade student)
691
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
692
What do you do with the DNA after it comes to your lab?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. It depends what kind of answers we are looking for. Two common types of testing we do on DNA are 1)Karyotype: a picture of an individuals chromosome complement that can show missing or additional chromosomes or pieces of chromosomes 2) Sequencing: read a particular sequence of an individuals DNA code to look for any small nucleotide changes.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
693
Is it possible for siblings to have opposite traits?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a very good question. Yes, it is possible for siblings to have opposite traits. We inherit genes from our parents. In the formation of the fertilized cell there is crossing over of genetic material which means siblings can inherit different charactericists of each parent. This makes each of us unique. Thank you for your question.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
694
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
695
What is your average day like?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. As a graduate student in genetic counseling, on an average day, I spend a lot of time in the classroom learning about genetics, medicine, biology, and other related science topics. We also take classes in psychology and counseling to understand the thought process patients would go through. These courses help us understand the complex genetics knowledge, and at the same time prepare us to talk with families through difficult situations facing a diagnosis. I also spend a lot of time in the clinic, working with patients and practising my counseling skills. Overall, I really enjoy what I do everyday.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
696
Is it genetically inevitable to become an alcoholic if alcohalism runs in your family?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Susceptibility to alcoholism has been known to have a genetic cause; however, just because an individual is susceptible does not mean they will inevitably become an alcoholic. There are other factors like a person's environment and personal choices that can play a role.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
697
How accurate is pedigree analysis to predict the likelihood of developing a genetic disease in the future?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a very good question and it depends on the genetic disease. With mendelian diseases, pedigree analysis is very good at predicting the likelihood of developing a disease. One example of a Mendelian disease is cystic fibrosis. This is a recessive condition, so both parents are carriers of the recessive gene that in combination results in their child having the disease. However, some genetic conditions follow a more complex inheritance pattern, like mitochondrial diseases. Other genetic conditions are due to a de novo mutation which means a change in the gene that results in the condition happened for the first time with the child. About 50% of people with neurofibromatosis have the condition due to a new change in their gene. The parents are healthy. However, the person with a de novo mutation can then pass this condition on to their children. Thank you for the question.
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
698
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
699
If eye color is controlled by our genes, why do some people's eye color change when they are tired, or change with their mood?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. We often perceive changes in eye color that we may think is due to sleep deprivation or mood change but is more likely due to other factors. Different kinds of light can reflect back different colors and this same principle applies to how your eyes may look next to different colored shirts. There is current research to suggest that eyes that change color over time do so because many different genes (that we have yet to identify) tell them to.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
700
Do conjoined twins share DNA?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Conjoined twin results from the same egg and sperm, therefore, theoretically should have identical DNA. However, the way that they express their genes may differ, resulting in not always appearing exactly identical.
Westview High School in CA (Higher Education student)
701
Is it possible for diseases to eventually become immune to the antibodies that fight them?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. The better way of viewing this question is- do antibodies lose their power over time? It's become pretty well understood that in some people, even if they've been vaccinated correctly in childhood, sometimes they may need a "booster" vaccine when they are older. We learned a hard lesson about this recently in California when multiple children got sick due to pertussis, or whooping cough. Even though many people in the state had the pertussis vaccine when they were kids, it turned out that many had lost immunity as they got older. One study even found that some kids that had cancer and were treated with chemotherapy had to be re-vaccinated afterwards (Pediatric Blood & Cancer, Volume 49, Issue 5, pages 656?660, 15 October 2007). Those kids had antibodies in their bloodstream before the chemo, but after many were reduced. So while antibodies are an incredible part of our body's defense system, they are not perfect.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
702
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
703
What part of the cell determines your height?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a very good question. It is known that genes play a role in a person's height. If both parents are tall, we expect that their children will also be tall. If one parent is short and the other parent is tall, often the children's height is inbetween the two. There are some genetic conditions that affect height due to a change in a particular gene. One example of this is a type of dwarfism, called achondroplasia. However, other factors are also involved in a person's height. One example is nourshiment. Children who are malnourished are shorter than children who have adequate food to eat. Thank you for your question.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
704
How can A distinguish T from C?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. "A" or adenine has room for two hydrogen bonds and lines up perfectly with "T" or thymine on an opposite DNA strand because thymine also has room for two hydrogen bonds. "C" or cytosine has room for three hydrogen bonds and does not fit like a puzzle piece against adenine.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
705
Do you think that scientific research in the future will advance as fast as it has in the past decade or two?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Definitely!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
706
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
707
What are some new advancements in DNA that you've discovered?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. In the clinic I am part of right now, we've discovered the impact of having missing or too much genetic information (ie. DNA) can sometimes have a very important impact on how a person grows. For example, we found that up to a quarter of the children with special needs who came to our clinic have small missing or extra pieces of DNA. This discovery will hopefully help us take care of these children better.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
708
Which bases are purines and which are pyrimidines?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. Cytosine and thymine are pyrimidines. Adenine and Guanine are purines. A good way to remember is that cytosine and thymine both have a "y" in their names and so does "pyrimidine"!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
709
Is it hard to study Genetics?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Genetics can be complicated, but for me it's very exciting and fun to learn all about how our genes can effect our health! For me that makes the hard work in studying worth it.
Wassom in KY (7th grade student)
710
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
711
If a purine we substituted for a pyrimidine at a single position in one strand of a DNA double helix what would happen?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. That depends on what base was substituted and where it was located. There are many stretches of bases in our DNA that are unaffected by a substitution because they don't seem to code for anything. On the other hand, a single base substitution can cause the entire organism to have a number of symptoms because the protein made from that stretch of DNA fails to work properly because of the substitution. An example is sickle cell anemia.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
712
Is the scientific field crowded? C:
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. This is a very interesting question. There are indeed a lot of people working in the scientific field, but I don't think it is over-crowded. There are lot more opportunities and challenges waiting for bright minds to tackle. We are really just entering into the genomic era, so there is a lot more to be learned and discovered. As we learn more, more opportunities will present themselves as well, whether it's in basic science, or the application of science, or the social and ethical issues related to science! If you are interested in the scientific field, definitely think about investing yourself in it and exploring the unchartted territories!
Westview High School in CA (12th grade student)
713
I would like to ask if there is any connection between allergies and genetics? I myself am allergic to dairy and I was not so earlier in life. What explains this?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. I'm not aware of a specific gene causing allergies, but there may be an interaction between genes and environment resulting in an allergic response. Allergies may also be the result of an epigenetic mechanism (genes turning on and off). It's not uncommon for people to "outgrow" an allergy as they get older, or to develop allergies later in life.
Daya Rhiad Izastre (11th grade student)
714
What happens to mRNA after translation?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. A single strand of mRNA can be translated many times before it eventually degrades inside the cell. That is why it is important for the cell to continue transcribing mRNA from DNA as it needs to because the mRNA strand does not exist indefinitely.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
715
What is Mitochondrial DNA, where did it come from, and why is it needed?
     Anna Rossoshek, M.S., M.B.A.: I work in the Chemical Genomics Branch at NCTT/DPI. My work encompasses a broad scope of functions that allows me to utilize my education, both scientific and business management, in addition to the experience I have gained through many years as a Biologist in an NIH Intramural Lab and as a Scientific Administrative Analyst in the Division of Extramural Research at NHGRI. I currently assume the role of a Project Manager for the four main scientific sections of the branch. Those sections include Tox21, RNAi Screening, Chemistry Technology Development, and Assay Development and Screening Technology. In humans, mitochondrial DNA spans about 16,500 DNA base pairs, representing a small fraction of the total DNA in cells. Mitochondrial DNA contains 37 genes, all of which are essential for normal mitochondrial function. It is inherited solely from your mother. Many genetic conditions are related to changes in particular mitochondrial genes.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
716
My father, in the Navy and a decade before my birth, was at ground zero of the atomic bomb tests on Bikini island. Would genetic testing (23 and me, etc.) reveal any genetic effects that exposure to radiation might have had on me? I did get a weird form of cancer in my 20s, and have long suspected that might be the cause.
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a great question. It is known that individuals exposed to radiation have an increase risk of cancer due to somatic mutations. Somatic cells are cells other than those that form the egg and sperm. There is a web site http://www.rerf.jp/radefx/genetics_e/geneefx.html, that looks at the genetic effects of radiation in the offspring of atomic-bomb survivors. It is part of a joint project with both USA and Japan. One part of the study found that cancer rates in children of exposed individuals was not really different from the general population. You may want to look at this website and see if there is any reference to your type of cancer. Thank you for the question.
BT in CA ()
717
Is there a genetic disorder that could cause a 4 month old baby with a nevus to have seizures and be chronically ill.
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. Depending on what you mean by "nevus", an example could be Sturge-Weber syndrome, in which a child will often have a birthmark on the face known as a port-wine stain, and often there are neurological complications such as seizures. An individual with tuberous sclerosis can have an unusual skin finding on the face called angiofibromas, as well as light areas of the skin called ash leaf spots, and they are also prone to seizures. I would need to know more about the nature of the "nevus" to have a better idea of a possible diagnosis.
Kensington Sanchez in NJ (Higher Education )
718
How did you get interested in your field of work?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. I remember when I was 7, my dad, who is an engineer, told me the story of Isaac Newton and the falling of an apple. Since that age, I've developed a strong interest in science. In university, I found out that biology and genetics are where my strongest passion lies. I wanted a career that can combine my passion for science and my love to work with people. In my journey, I discovered there are many jobs and careers in sicence, healthcare, and medicine that would allow me to do that. Genetic counseling was one of them and was what I chose, but I know there are many other exciting opportunities out there for young bright minds like yours!
Westview High School in CA (11th grade student)
719
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)

Information - Moderator You have 10 minutes left to submit your questions! If you don't see the answer to your question yet, don't worry. Our experts will continue working on answers until 6 p.m. -- as long as we receive them them by 5 p.m.


721
What college did you attend and did you study any other majors while attending?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. I completed an undergraduate degree in biology at Concordia University in Canada. Now I am currently completing my Master's degree in Genetic Counseling in San Francisco! Besides many genetics courses, I also enjoyed taking psychology classes.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
722
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
723
Do the different base pairs degrade at different temperatures?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. If you are asking about single base pairs and their chemical degradation, I'm afraid I don't know. The separation of DNA strands, on the other hand, may require different temperatures based on the ratio of GC base pairings to AT base pairings. Typically a higher GC base pair content will require a higher temperature to denature the strands.
Taykadum Ponmahchest in PA (Higher Education student)
724
During replication or transcription, can nucleiotides ever bind with an incorrect orientation?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. I'm not sure if this is what you're asking, but nucleotides can bind incorrectly in the formation of new DNA strands. These incorrectly bound nucleotides may be the source of a new mutation or, more commonly, they are fixed by enzymes that are specially designed to make sure errors in DNA replication do not occur.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
725
What was your college major?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. I was a Human Biology major in undergrad and studied Genetic Counseling in grad school. Many genetic counselors studied biology or psychology in undergrad, while others came from different backgrounds.
Westview High School in CA (Higher Education student)
726
Do you see things such as "genetic discrimination" happening in the near future?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. They are definitely possible, so that's why it's important that we take measure now to prevent them through legislation, promoting awareness, and developing guidelines for the professionals involved. Right now, individuals are protected by GINA (Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act), where health insurance companies cannot discriminate someone based on his/her genetic testing results. In the future, we may also move towards establishing legislative protection from genetic discrimination from other sources, like disability insurance, life insurance, etc.
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
727
What is a day like for someone with your occupation?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. Genetic counselor's have many roles, and it can change depending on what time of clinic you are working in! My favourite part is being able to see patients and help them adjust to life with a genetic syndrome. Outside of the clinic my other duties include coordinating the care that our patients need, writing letters to other health care providers, attending case conferences and journal clubs, as well as engaging in some research related activities.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
728
What is DNA day?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a very good question. National DNA Day is a dedicated day when students, teachers and the public can learn more about genetics and genomics. The day celebrates the completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003. Thank you for your question.
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
729
How many years of schooling did you have to go through to get where you are now?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. I am a Genetic Counselor, and to get here I did my undergraduate education (4 years) and then my Masters in Genetic Counseling (2 years). If you're interested in further education or a different field of genetics, a PhD or MD may interest you, which will be at least 4 more years.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
730
Do clones continue to be classified as clones if the natural environment changes and the physical make up of the clones, or are they just classified as clones because their genes are identical at the time of their birth/existence?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. This is a great question. Clones would be classified as clones based on their identical genetic make-up at conception. Our genes can change in any one of our cells due to environmental insults and other factors, but a change to DNA in one cell does not change that same piece of DNA in all cells.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
731
What training did you go through in order to become a biological scientist?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. I am a genetic counselor, so I see patients in the hospital who are at risk for having a genetic condition, or to have a child with a genetic condition. I first got my bachelor's degree (a BA) in biology, with an emphasis on molecular genetics. I then worked in an immunology lab for 4 years as a research assistant. I then realized I wanted to work more with people, so I obtained a master's degree in genetic counseling. I have been working as a genetic counselor ever since. The genetics doctor I work with (known as a medical geneticist) first got his bachelor's degree in biochemistry, then went to med school, then went through a special fellowship in Genetics. He also obtained an PhD in biochemistry so that he could do genetic research as well as see patients.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
732
When folks refer to the "human genome," what exactly is included?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. This is a great question. The term "human genome" refers to all the genetic information that is in a human cell, so essentially every gene and every piece of DNA.
Pasadena City College in CA (Higher Education teacher)
733
Are all 23 pairs of chromosomes made of one single DNA molecule?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. Each chromosome is its own DNA strand - the 23 pairs of chromosomes are not linked together.
Clara Harmonson in TX (Higher Education teacher)
734
Crosby-Ironton High School in MN (10th grade student)
735
Why did you choose to go into the biology field?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. I love to learn new things. With biology and especially genetics, technological advances has generated an incredible abount of new information in just the past decade. Biology is never boring! Thank you for your question.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)

Information - Moderator Thanks for participating in National DNA Day! We're no longer accepting questions but our experts will be answering questions until 6 p.m. as long as you submitted your question by 5 p.m. Check out the transcript of today's questions and answers at www.genome.gov/dnaday. See you next year!


737
What is the worst birth defect ever known?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. I think that is a hard question to answer. People have different reactions and opinions on what would be the "worst".
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
738
You said earlier that telomeres get shorter the more times DNA gets replicated. Is that why they say that you should try and maintain a healthy weight? If you gain weight and produce more fat cells, does this shorten the telomeres so you end up with more mutations and the possibility of making a tumor?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. Maintaining a healthy weight has to do with the fact that an unhealthy lifestyle can cause a number of problems within systems of the body. It is less related to the DNA and whether it mutates, although exposure to some chemicals may affect your DNA. Also, DNA mutations (such as those that can cause cancer) are different from the gradual shortening of the telomeres that occurs when cells divide again and again as we age. More fat does not cause telomeres to shorten.
Peru High School in IN (9th grade student)
739
What are your thoughts on cloning?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. I am somewhat troubled by cloning. On the one hand, it's interesting to think of being able to "re-create" an organism. However, any complex organism (like a sheep or a dog or a human) is so much more than just its DNA. Let's say you try to clone a child that has died young. There's no guarantee that the "new" version would be anything like the "old". There are so many external and epigenetic factors that impact how an organism ultimately turns out. For now, I'm not a big fan of cloning in general. I think the field needs more research and a lot more discussion as far as the ethical and scientific impact it could have.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
740
What human traits are being acted on by the forces of natural selection because of the things we are doing to harm our planet environmentally?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. What we do to the planet definitely have downstream effects on our health. For example, according to studies by the NIH, the prevalence of asthma in children has increased steadily sinve the 1980's. Air pollution due to human activities is a big factor in this increase. In the long run, one may suspect that human genetic trait of susceptibility to asthma (which just means how easily one would get asthma) may change over time because of the change in environment.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
741
Is it possible to transplant bacteria whose plasmids have been genetically modified to produce insulin into the pancreas so that the body produces its own insulin? If no, why not?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. Good question! This is a technology called genetic engineering. In this specific scenario it is useful in the treatment of diabetes. Check out this site for a step-by-step process: http://www.iptv.org/exploremore/ge/what/insulin.cfm
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
742
Are you born with all the DNA you will EVER have?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. Nope. As we grow, our cells have to reproduce (divide) to build bone, muscle mass, skin, etc. More cells = bigger bodies. With each cell division, the DNA in the parent cell has to be copied so there is enough DNA for each new cell. So, we are constantly making more DNA.
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
743
Dogfish sharks have very big livers resulting from increased mercury in the ocean- natural selection. Is it possible to genetically engineer their DNA with human DNA to help us cope with the growing global polution?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. Research will undoubtedly make genetic engineering more advanced in the future, allowing even changes to human DNA. We may also consider the impracticality of changing human DNA to solve our survival to a global problem when all species are affected by growing global pollution.
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
744
If the gene for brown hair was used to replace the gene for black hair in one of the human's cells after enough cell divisons, would the person have partly brown hair and partly black hair?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. It depends on how early in development that gene for brown hair was replacing the gene for black hair. The earlier in development any gene is changed in one cell, the more daughter cells in the organism will have that changed gene. For example. If one cell has a gene changed when there are only two cells, then we could expect approximately half of all the cells in the organism to have that gene change. If one cell has a gene changed when there are four cells, we may expect 25% of all the cells in the organism to have that gene change. Of course, there are more complex factors at work such as cell type determination and I encourage you to read more about that!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
745
Thank you for giving us the chance to ask questions to people who are "doing this for real in the real world". Our school tries to do career education and this year we had students from Life Science to AP Biology asking questions. I know they all got something good from the experience - good information, good education, a good laugh from some of your answers. We really appreciate you taking the time to give us a unique classroom opportunity and look forward to doing this again next
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. I'm so happy to hear that you had a great experience! It's been a lot of fun answering the questions! If ever you want to have the same experience with a live person in your classroom, don't hesitate to contact local professionals. We're pretty cool and very approachable people, and we're generally happy to tell others about how much we love our subject!
Peru High School in IN (teacher)
746
Knock knock! Who's there? RNA. RNA who? ARE ANY of my nucleic acids single-stranded!? (R-N-A, get it?)
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. Haha, I love your knock knock joke! Thank you for sharing. You got it, RNAs are single-stranded! Sometimes there can be exceptions to the norm. For example, RNAs in certain viruses or RNAs that do a very special function in the body (such as RNA interference) can be double-stranded. By large, most RNAs are single stranded!
Geoff Cohan in VA (11th grade student)
747
Are DNA and RNA the only moleules that have been identified as carriers of inherited information?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. Those are the only ones I can think of.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
748
Is it possible to create a unicorn?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. It is theoretically possible to create an animal that resembles our notion of a unicorn. In fact, breeding animals to have specific traits has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Westview High School in CA (Higher Education student)
749
What can DNA tell us about a person?
     Ian Wallace: I am a clinical genetic counselor who recently launched a new genetics clinic in a rural area. I see patients for any genetic indication, to include prenatal, pediatric, adult, cancer referrals. That's a good question. Something like 99.9% of our DNA is the same no matter the person. The remaining DNA that's different makes us who we are compared to any other person. We also have mutations which alter the protein products of any given gene, and these are what we spend a lot of time and money researching. That's because many diseases either have a single gene mutation that causes them or different mutations that predispose one to certain diseases. A genome is the totality of all of our DNA spread over our 46 chromosomes. In the past, if we looked at an entire genome we wouldn't be able to tell much about the person. But now we're getting to the point scientifically that we can analyze an entire person's genome for a relatively low cost and in a shorter period of time. It won't be long that it will be very cheap to scan an entire genome to know every disease risk someone has, but we're not there quite yet. This is where most of science is focused, but note that DNA doesn't tell us many important things about a person, such as their character, values, or insights on life. Those traits are all influenced by genes, but are something DNA analysis will never be able to completely tell us.
Gertz Ressler High Academy in CA (10th grade student)
750
Which base is the most important in DNA?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. I think the 4 bases are all super important! Genes can't be genes without any of the 4 bases, A, C, G, or T. The bondings of the 4 bases help DNA maintain its double helix shape. If all 4 bases are not there, not only would we be missing letters in the genetic instruction, DNAs might even fall apart. A, C, G, and T - we don't want to leave any one of them out!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
751
Do you know any examples of founders mutations in humans?
     Melanie Hardy: I am a prenatal genetic counselor working in the Richmond, VA area. I help pregnant women who have increased risk of having a baby with a genetic condition due to family history or genetic testing. Sure! There are a number of conditions that are particularly common in certain ethnic groups because of a founder mutation that has spread, over time, to be present in multiple individuals. For example, the delta F508 mutation (present in many carriers of cystic fibrosis). It's more common in individuals of Northern European descent.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
752
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
753
What chromosomes do hermaphrodites have?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a very good question. Hermaphrodite is a person who has both ovaries and testes and the chromosomes are usually 46,XX. Ture hermaphrodites are rare. Sex determination is a complex cascade of events with only the initial switch for selecting the male differentiation pathway being on the Y chromosome. Many other genes are involved and likely reside on autosomes or the X chromosomeThere are all sorts of sex determination abnormalities, including 46,XX males (femae chromsoomes, but phenotypically male), 46,XY females (sort of the complement). Some of these likely arise, respectively, from translocation or deletion/mutation of the male determining gene on the Y (SRY locus). Thank you for your question.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
754
How much DNA is in the tip of your finger?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. I am not sure how much DNA we have by weight or length in the tip of each finger. In each cell in our body we have all the DNA instructions we need to tell our body how to grow and develop properly. Depending upon whether we look at a skin cell on the tip of our finger or a muscle cell in our heart we will find different genes turned on and off specific to the functions that cell needs to perform for its place in the body but both cells have the exact same DNA!
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
755
What applications would you expect DNA technology to have even further into the future?
     Julia Su: I am a second year genetic counseling student from Sarah Lawrence College (graduate May 2012). I have rotated through several genetics clinics in the New York area and Toronto. I am highly passionate about genetics, as well as the integration of psychosocial counseling in clinical genetics services. I would expect many new applications and advances with DNA technology in the future. One of them might be that we would be able to develop more personalized medicine using DNA technology. Based on our genetic make-up, we may respond differently to the same medication - some people may be able to absorb them more and faster, others less and slower. Some people may experience very few side effects, while others a lot of side effects. If we can figure out exactly how one's genetic information alters someone's responses to a drug, we can make sure that we are giving the right drug to the right person with the right dose!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
756
Throughout history, which organism has adapted the fastest?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. That's difficult to say. Adaptation (evolution) can result in small scale to large scale changes over many generations. Organisms continue to adapt, but we may not be aware of the changes right away! A popular example is the change in the beaks in Darwin's finches. Their beak shape adapted to the type of food available.
McCleskey Middle School in GA (7th grade student)
757
What advice would you give younger people that are interested in bio-technology?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. Biotech is a constantly evolving field and there is always something exciting and new going on. Ask questions, of anyone you meet who is in or connected to the field! Take as many biology, chemistry, and also maybe computer and physics classes as you can. Once you start getting a sense of what you're interested in (is it gene discovery? drug development? robotics?) try to find someone who is already doing something similar and try to contact them. Depending on what you want to do, you may need to consider secondary degrees like a masters or PhD. Above all, find what you love!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
758
Are there any recent advances in the research of genetic aspects of Neuroblastoma?
     Ian Wallace: I am a clinical genetic counselor who recently launched a new genetics clinic in a rural area. I see patients for any genetic indication, to include prenatal, pediatric, adult, cancer referrals. Neuroblastoma is the most common childhood cancer diagnosed before the age of 1 year, and accounts for 10 to 15% of all cancer deaths in children. Some patients inherit a genetic predisposition to neuroblastoma due to germline mutations, whereas others develop sporadic disease that may result from either germline or somatic mutations. Neuroblastoma tumors are derived from embryonic cells that form the primitive neural crest and give rise to the adrenal medulla and the sympathetic nervous system. Susceptibility to neuroblastoma-1 is conferred by germline and somatic mutations in the KIF1B gene on chromosome 1p36, but there are other genes that lead to susceptibility as well (namely the ALK and PHOX2B genes). Mutations in these genes can lead to neuroblastoma, but there is incomplete penetrance (which means that if you get the mutation, you don't necessarily develop neuroblastoma).
Moshe Buhnik (Higher Education student)
759
I'm 30 years old, am I too old to study genetics? where do you start in order to become a geneticist?
     Regine Lim: I work primarily with prenatal patients in an OB/GYN department, discussing genetic testing options, prenatal screening, and genetic test interpretation. Occasionally, I will see patients with a personal and/or family history of breast/ovarian cancer. You are not old let alone too old! Genetics is a vast and ever changing field. A typical medical geneticist (physician) will go through medical school, residency, and complete a genetics fellowship. There is also genetic counseling, which is what I do. After my B.A. I went to graduate school for two years to obtain my M.S. in genetic counseling. There are also so much research to be had in the field of genetics which you may do as a lab technician or conduct your own research as a Ph.D. The possibilities are endless. You may find more to explore at this link: http://www.ornl.gov/sci/techresources/Human_Genome/education/careers-6new.pdf
Clara Harmonson in TX (Higher Education teacher)
760
What are all of the things that happen when the cell divides?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. Cell division is a complicated process. Let's think about mitosis, which is where one cell basically replicates itself, so you end up with two identical cells. What needs to happen is all of the structures of that starting cell needs to be copied. For example, all of the chromosomes need to be doubled and then halved into each ultimate cell. If you remember the process of mitosis, that's where the cell goes through prophase, metaphase, anaphase, and then telophase. The chromosomes become solid, they line up in the middle of the cell in an orderly fashion, and then structures on each end of the cell "pull" the right number of chromosomes to each new cell. And that doesn't even address what happens with the other cell organelles!
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
761
I'm allergic to deodorants. What's a likely cause of this? (It developed a couple years ago)
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. Allergies are the result of the immune system overreacting to a substance. It's not uncommon to develop an allergy later in life, or "outgrow" an allergy you had as a child. As with your example of deodorants, people can react differently to certain chemicals or natural products. Our bodies are only trying to protect us!
Northwestern High School in MD (12th grade student)
762
What do people call scientists who study and research DNA?
     Gabrielle Jervis: I am a laboratory based genetic counselor at a children's hospital. My responsibilities include coordination of complex molecular testing and research assistant for the molecular cytogenomics lab. This is a very good question with many different answers. Scientists who study DNA include molecuar geneticists, molecular biologists, geneticists, molecular pathologists, molecular researcher, genomicist, functional biologist, plant geneticist, animal geneticist, comparative molecular geneticist and many others. The field is growing so quickly and there are many opportunities for people who are interested in this subject. Thank you for your question.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
763
Why are there introns if they don't do anything?
     Ian Wallace: I am a clinical genetic counselor who recently launched a new genetics clinic in a rural area. I see patients for any genetic indication, to include prenatal, pediatric, adult, cancer referrals. This is a great question, and one that's still being explored. According to researchers Michal Chorev and Liran Carmel, the presence of introns in a genome imposes substantial burden on the host, because the excision of introns requires a spliceosome, which is among the largest molecular complexes in the cell. Some have theorized that the intronic space is an ideal ?evolutionary playground,? whereby almost any mutational tinkering of the intronic sequence is tolerable. In particular, introns have a potential to serve as repositories of cis elements, participating in the regulation of transcription, and genome organization. Also, introns modify the expression level of their host gene in many different ways, and this regulatory purpose may be integral in gene function and expression.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
764
Are biological pathways like a subway or train station? (Each path goes its own way and carries important things, and they sometimes malfunction)
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. This is a great example! In your "subway" biological pathway system there are stops along the way as well where different steps in the process happen. Sometimes pathways can overlap and share the same stops. And when a "train" breaks down, what do you think happens later in the pathway? Or earlier in the pathway?
Tredyffrin Easttown Middle School in PA (6th grade student)
765
If a mistake were to happen, what happens to the DNA that was copied wrong?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. When DNA is being copied, there are different possible outcomes if there is a mistake. The cell actually has a few "proofreading" mechanisms to help fix some errors. For example, there is a group of proteins called "mismatch repair" enzymes, which helps to correct an error where the wrong base pairs are put together (like a G to a T, rather than a G to a C). So in some cases, the cell can correct the error. Other times, an error like a deletion, a duplication, or a point mutation within a stretch of DNA might happen, and this could be missed. This might be an example where a permanent mutation could then continue with that gene, and possibly could change the function of that gene.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
766
How much funding is given to the research of gene therapy and when will there be more or less funding?
     Niki Lovick: I am a graduate student in genetic counseling at CSU Stanislaus. I have clinical experience in prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetics. A lot of factors go into funding for gene therapy research and I think it is difficult to predict how much money will be given in the future. The theory of gene therapy is a great one, but there have been some road blocks in actually having be successful in human subjects. Currently there is only gene therapy for just a few conditions.
Westview High School in CA (9th grade student)
767
When one piece of your DNA changes do the DNA molecules around it change also?
     Angela Filose: I work as a full-time genetic counselor for a Kaiser hospital, working with prenatal, pediatric, and hereditary cancer patients. Not necessarily, although it depends on what kind of "change" you're thinking of. If you had damage to one part of the DNA strand that was caused by UV exposure, this could have also caused damage to other parts of the DNA as well. However, if you're thinking of a very specific new mutation in one gene, then you wouldn't expect there to be changes in other portions of the DNA. If you have a person who is found to have a genetic condition due to a new (not inherited) mutation, that person wouldn't necessarily have other new genetic disorders at the same time.
Elko High School in NV (10th grade student)
768
Is the structure of the DNA molecule something that was originated randomly? or was it designed?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. The structure of DNA (the double-helix) is the way it is out of necessity. This structure, which resembles a twisted ladder, makes it possible for each DNA strand to be precisely copied. These copies, which contain the same genetic information as the original DNA strand, can then be passed along to an organism's offspring. I'm not sure when DNA first evolved into its double-helix structure. Sounds like a chicken-and-egg problem!
Clara Harmonson in TX (teacher)
769
Why is DNA made of sugar?
     Ian Wallace: I am a clinical genetic counselor who recently launched a new genetics clinic in a rural area. I see patients for any genetic indication, to include prenatal, pediatric, adult, cancer referrals. This is a good question, and I don't know that we necessarily have a absolute answer as to why, but there are theories. DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is the molecule that carries the instructions needed to build and maintain living things. The backbone of the DNA strand is made from alternating phosphate and sugar components. The sugar in DNA is called 2-deoxyribose, which is a 5-carbon sugar. The DNA molecule consists of a long chain of deoxyribose-containing units called nucleotides, linked by phosphate groups. The absence of the 2' hydroxyl group in deoxyribose is apparently responsible for the increased mechanical flexibility of DNA compared to RNA, which allows it to assume the double-helix conformation, and also to be compactly coiled within the small cell nucleus. The double-stranded DNA molecules are also typically much longer than RNA molecules. The backbone of RNA and DNA are structurally similar, but RNA is single stranded and is built from ribose instead of deoxyribose. Again, these are just theories, and we may never know for sure how and why 2-deoxyribose was chosen as an important component of our DNA.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)
770
Can organs be rejected even if the blood type matches?
     Becky Clark: I am a genetic counselor and research associate in an ophthalmic genetics department. I counsel patients on inherited retinal disorders and manage a repository and database for genetic testing research. Yes. Even if you have the same blood type as someone, you don't necessarily have the same antibodies or antigens. When matching individuals for a transplant, more than just the blood type is taken into account.
Elko High School in NV (11th grade student)

Information - Moderator The DNA Day Chat Room is closed for the year. Thank you to everyone who sent in questions. And please come back and celebrate with us next year!



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Posted: April 20, 2012