Online Chatroom Archives

2007 National DNA Day Online Chatroom Transcript

The 2007 National DNA Day Moderated Chat was held on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern. NHGRI Director Francis Collins and genomics experts from across the institute took questions from students, teachers and the general public on topics ranging from basic genomic research, to the genetic basis of disease, to ethical questions about genetic privacy.

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Information - Moderator Good morning! Welcome to DNA Day 2007 chatroom. We have experts from the National Human Genome Research Institute standing by ready to answer your questions. So, start sending your questions in!

What are the pros and cons of getting genetic tests?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Choosing to have or not to have genetic testing is a personal one. For example, a person who has a family history of early onset breast cancer may wish to have genetic testing to learn whether he or she has inherited a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene that greatly increases their risk for developing breast and other cancers so that they can take preventive actions. Another person in the same family may not wish to know if he/she has inherited the gene because of concerns about insurance and employment discrimination. When a person is considering having genetic testing, they can seek genetic counseling with certified genetic counselors, nurses and medical geneticists to learn about all of the reasons to have or not to have a genetic test.
I am just testing to see if our students will be able to access this. Thank You!
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Yes! Good morning! We are all here ready to answer your questions!
Lynn Wilson, Incarnate Word Academy
How are proteins made?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Proteins are made using the DNA as a template. Basically, messenger RNA or mRNA is made by a molecule known as RNA Polymerase using the DNA template in the nucleus of the cell. Depending on the gene, sometimes the mRNA may have to be modified and certain portions of the message RNA are removed or spliced. The mRNA is then transported outside the nucleus to the cytoplasm where the ribosomes attach to the mRNA. The ribosomes interact with the Transfer RNA or tRNA molecules that carry the amino acids to assemble the proteins by adding the individual amino acids and linking the amino acids each other. Once all the amino acids are added, we have a complete protein.
carmen, NY
What's your favorite DNA joke?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: What did one DNA helix to the other DNA helix?? "Hey, do these genes make me look fat?"
Annie, Cape Elizabeth, ME
How does a baby get an extra copy of chromosome 21?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There are several ways a baby can get an extra chromosome number 21. Most commonly, at the time of conception, there are two number 21 chromosomes in either the egg or the sperm. This is a sporadic event. Another way occurs after conception when an error occurs in cell division creating a cell line with an extra chromosome number 21. This is called mosaic trisomy 21. A third way is when one of the parents carries a chromosome rearrangement called a translocation that involves chromosome number 21.
How are DNA and RNA related?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: DNA is used as template for the messenger RNA or mRNA which is then used as the template for the proteins. In other words, DNA is transcribed into RNA which is translated into proteins.
Lymiracle Hill, Hogdson Vo-Tech.
How many possible genes are known?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: As far as we know now, the latest analysis shows about 20,000 genes in the human genome.
MEMS Middle per 1
What are your work surroundings like?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The work surroundings here definitely depend on the kind of work you do. Some people at the National Human Genome Research Institute work in labs, others work in offices, I've been spending quite a bit of time lately in classrooms. The diversity of opportunities in a field like genetics makes the workplace a great place to be.
Savannah P'Poole Lyon Co. Middle School, Kentucky
Do you get to spend time with your family at times, or are you alwasys being called out to work?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: I do get to spend time with my family. Although there are times when things are very busy, I try to balance my work and family time. It is very important to balance both family and work.
kelsey martin, kentucky
Do any current gene therapy treatments cure a genetic disorder, or do they only temporarily treat the person? If we are not able to cure a disorder with gene therapy now, are we close to achieving a cure through gene therapy?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There are currently no gene therapy treatments available clinically that can cure a genetic disorder. There are some gene therapies that are in the research phases, and as more is being learned about the genetic basis of diseases, there is hope that targeted gene therapy will be available in the not to distant future.
Thomas Muntaner, St. Ignacious Prep
Why is DNA Day on April 25th?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: That's a great question! DNA Day falls every year on April 25 because it marks the anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003 and the description of the structure of the double helix by Watson and Crick in 1953.
Mango Bristol
Do you get to spend time with your family at times, or are you alwasys being called out to work?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: I do try to balance my work and family time. Although things get busy, I always try to make time for my family and friends.
kelsey martin, kentucky
What's your favorite gene in a cell?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: I can't really say I have a favorite gene. There are so many that are pretty cool like the gene for eye color or the gene for hemoglobin. At this time, there are about 20,000 to choosde from so I can't say there is a shortage of cool ones.
Is having twins a genetic trait?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Yes, having twins can run in families. Having twins can be due to having a trait for multiple ovulation, or a trait for identical twins.
Lappi; Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY
Are scientists close to cloning a person?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: No. Scientists have successfully cloned a sheep, dog, and cat, but to our knowledge, no effort has been made to clone a human. It would be technically very difficult and is quite improbable that it would happen any time soon.
MEMS Middle per 1

Information - Moderator A Kailey, TN, student wants to know how much money we are paid to answer these questions and whether it is worth it. Every scientist working in the chat room today is a volunteer and it's definitely worth it because we are having a lot of fun!!!

What's your favorite gene in a cell?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: I can't say that I have a favorite gene. There are several cool ones like the one for eye color or the one for hemoglobin. There are more than 20,000 to choose which makes the choosing just one cool gene pretty hard.
How much DNA do we have in our body?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: There are 3 billion base pairs in every cell of our body (except red blood cells and lens cells). If you were to uncoil one strand of DNA from one of your cells, it would stretch 6 feet long!
MEMS Middle per 1
How soon will it be until we can alter the DNA of an unborn child in the womb?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Altering anyone's DNA has ethical, moral and legal implications, which will have to be addressed first before any clinical application to altering DNA in the womb can take place.
Chase Helschien Marisa Beck
Why are people different colors?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Because of the variation in our genomes, some of us produce varying amounts of pigment proteins. These proteins are responsible for the various colors of people.
Are there Y-linked traits and/or disorders/diseases in existence?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: One example of a Y-linked disorder is the chromosomal disorder, 47,XYY.
Katherine Casabar, from Westview High School
Is it possible to change a gene if you are full grown man/woman and will it affect that person phenotype?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: There are changes that naturally occur in your DNA throughout your life. Many of these changes won't affect your phenotype, but some certainly will. There is a field of gene therapy that is attempting to determine how to correct genetic 'mistakes' but this field is still very preliminary.
akbar Mondal
How do you choose whose DNA to use for the human genome?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Many individuals from upstate New York were selected from a newspaper ad to donate a sample of their DNA to the Human Genome Project. DNA for the Genome project was collected from a pool of all of the samples, so it's actually unknown whose specific DNA was used.
Katie and Kelsey
Can DNA repair itself? If so, how and how long would it take?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: DNA has mechanisms that allow it to repair itself when it breaks and or mistakes occur. Most of these repair mechanisms are happen very quickly. Although these mechanisms are very accurate and quick if the DNA has too many breaks or mistakes, the cell is unable to repair them. This inability to correct the mistakes can result in problems or even cell death.
Mitch Philadelphia, MS
Is suicide genetic?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Suicide may happen when a person has a mental condition such as manic depression. Mental conditions like manic depressive illness can be inherited in some families. If you have a concern about whether mental illness and suicide are inherited in your family, you can seek further information from a genetic counselor, genetic nurse or medical geneticist.
Cassie, Alden
What field of genetics would you recommend someone to study at this time? Is there a field that is advancing more quickly than others currently?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The great thing about the field of genetics is how diverse it is. There are opportunities related to molecular biology, computer science, ethics, law, sociology, politics, and many other fields. I would recommend considering the things you are interested in and finding how those interests could be integrated into the field.
Katie Krueger, St. Ignacious Prep
Why is Down syndrome more evident in births where the mother is older?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Babies with Down syndrome are more evident when the mother is older because of an error that occurs during formation of the egg such that it has two number 21 chromosomes. At fertilization, then, there are three number 21 chromosomes present in the baby - two from the mother and one from the father.
Jacob and Mark, Sharon PA
With DNA testing, can you find out if your infant would have a chance of being obese?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Currently, DNA testing is not available clinically to determine whether a child has an increased chance of being obese.
Tessa Turner, spanish river high.
Why is DNA so famous?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: DNA is such a famous molecule because it holds the instructions for creating an entire organism. There is an enormous amount of information encoded in a single DNA molecule, and without it, there would be no next generation of offspring, whether it be humans, plants, animals, or even bacteria.
Amanda Bakouni
Who came up with the name DNA?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The chemical that is called DNA was discovered by Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss biologist, who isolated it from white blood cells in 1869. He called it nuclein, which is why the molecule is called deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA.
Do you enjoy what you do?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Yes, I do! I am an advanced practice nurse in genetics and a board certified genetic counselor. For the past 20 years I have provided clinical genetic counseling and education to patients and families in a rural genetics clinic. For the past two years I have been fortunate to work at the National Human Genome Research Institute as a Health Educator, overseeing projects that translate new genetic information and discoveries to the public.
brandi boca raton florida
With the development of the the haplotype map, how will disease and health in humans be affected? Will this research better enable the discoveries of cures, or why some occur?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: We hope that the haplotype map will enable us to recognize how the variation in different human genomes are related to a human's predispoistions to disorders. Understanding why some people are more susceptible to diseases than others will assist us in better diagnosis and cures.
Jay, OHS

Information - Moderator Some of you have sent messages asking why your questions aren't being answered immediately. We are receiving many questions from students and teachers across the nation. Our experts are busy answering as many questions as possible, but you may need to check back later in the day to see if your particular question has been answered. Thanks!

4. Because the judicial system often resorts to DNA as concrete evidence, do you believe the public is aware of the potential errors and restrictions on DNA testing?
     Vence Bonham, J.D.: I think the public is just learning the limitations and the power of DNA testing. For many their first knowledge of the role of DNA indentfication was in the criminal justice system. We will all continue to learn about potential errors in DNA Testing. One controversial area is the abiity to profile what a person looks like based upon DNA information.
Serena Yee, St. Ignacious Prep
Who thought of DNA day?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: National DNA Day began in 2003 as a celebration launched by the National Human Genome Research Institute to mark the completion of the Human Genome Project, and as part of the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick's description of DNA. It was such an exciting and momentous occasion in science that the genetic research field wanted to create an entire day to celebrate each year.
Mike Hunt, From Coconut Creek, FL
How many genetic disorders can currently be identified in unborn children?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There are easily 100 genetic disorders that can be identified in unborn children and that number is growing every year as more genetic tests become available.
Is it possible to genetically alter animals to combine them, for example a human and a horse to make them one new, altered species?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The answer to your question is no, it's not possible to combine two species that are as unrelated as a human and a horse. However, breeders have created combinations, such as a horse and donkey, to create a mule (though the mule is then not fertile, and therefore does not result in a new species).
kyle carrilio, florida
Do all people have the same amount of genes?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Yes, all humans have approximately 20,000 genes in each of their cells.
Matt Spanish River
If a fetus has Down syndrome can it be cured before it is born?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: A fetus with Down syndrome has an extra chromosome number 21 in all or most of its body cells. Down syndrome cannot currently be cured before a baby is born.
Jacob; Crooms Academy; Sanford, Florida
What does DNA stand for? I seem to have forgotten since college.
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid.
Ms. Bradbury
What ideas do you have for motivating students to pursue a career in the field of science, especially life sciences?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: There are so many cool things happening in science, especially in genomics. There are several interactive activities being created by many universities and governmental agencies that students can interact with to get an idea of the breadth the careers and opportunities in science. In addition, I think that having people who are in the fields speak to students is always helpful. During DNA Day, we send several speakers to a variety of schools that are vibrant and enthusiastic about there work. This helps make it seem real and the careers accessible. I would also suggest having the students check out the LifeWorks database on the Office of Science Education at the National Institutes of Health.
Sarah Holmes- Liberty MO

Information - Moderator Joining us now in the DNA Day chatroom are Andrea Kalfoglou, a researcher in NHGRI's Social and Behavioral Reserach Branch, and Tony Antonellis, a researcher in NHGRI's Genome Technology Branch.

if you get a sex change, can it affect your DNA?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: No. If a person has a sex change, external organs and hormonal balances are altered, but not the person's DNA.
Do identical twins have identical DNA?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Yes, identical twins have the exact same DNA as each other.
Rachel Besser and Lauren Chieffo
Do homosexual people have gene that says they will be homosexual?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: No one knows for sure yet.
Anthony Abatecola

Information - Moderator And another expert has just come in to answer your questions. Flavia Facio is a researcher in our Genetic Disease Research Branch.

Does DNA control your emotions? If so can they be changed permanently?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Certainly there are genetic aspects to many diagnosable mental health conditions that may involve people's emotions. Right now, there are no permanent, genetic ways to change emotions. Mental health conditions are frequently treated with pharmaceutical drugs and talk therapy.
Jordan, PMWHS
What are the best university for studying biology or medical science?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Honestly, there are numerous excellent institutions for studying biology. It's important to find the right institution for you, whether it be large or small, public or private. You might want to talk to a guidance counselor to discuss different options that are right for you.
george (crooms AOIT)
Do you think that there are many more genetic diseases than we know of right now? If so, are there any processes that you want to work with to get to find this out?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: There are probably more genetic disorders that have yet to be discovered. With the sequencing of the human genome and a better understanding of the genome, we have better tools that can help us discover those disorders. In addition, we are also looking at the sequences of other organisms to help us understand the human genome.
How do sickle cells and altered hemoglobin provide protection against malaria? Why malaria and not other viruses? Keep up the good work!
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: It has to do with how malaria is passed on. The mosquito that infects individuals with Malaria is not very effective in passing on the disease when the cells are in the shape of a "half-moon" (sickle).
Ben Tolkin, Newton MA
im 100% african american, but for some odd reason, my skin is so light. can you tell me why? please.
     Vence Bonham, J.D.: That is a great question. African American is a social group. Race is a social construct that is a blurry correlation with genetic variation in populations. People who self identify as African American can have a very diverse ancestral background. There is signficant diversity in the ancestral background of people who self identify as African American.
If only 2% of the genome is coding DNA, what purpose do you think the majority of the "junk DNA" in our bodies have?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: You are correct that about 2% of our genome encodes proteins, which have direct roles in how cells and tissues function. However, another important function of the genome is in turning these coding genes on and off, and in organizing the genome in cells. We currently believe that some, if not most, of the remaining DNA is involved in these processes. To address this, we are comparing our genome to the genomes of other animals (for example mouse and dog) to identify non-coding regions that are similar. We think that these will be very important for genome function!
Bobby Losoya, St. Ignacious Prep
Why is there a DNA Day?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: DNA day is the annual celebration of the completion of the Human Genome Project, and of the description of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick.
tyler hf
Can doctors tell what genes I have before I am born?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There are some genetic tests that can be done during pregnancy for specific genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis. But there is currently not a genetic test that can identify all of a person's genes before they are born.
Samantha, Sam, Spanish River Community High School, FL
Up to how long after someone dies can a DNA sample be taken from their body?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: DNA is chemical and as long as it is still intact and not degraded, it can be isolated. For example, the DNA from the wolly mammoth was 18,000 years old and was isolated.
Daniel from Westview High School
How does DNA affect someone's looks?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The DNA you inherit from your parents includes all of the information for eye color, hair color, and other physical traits. It explains why you look a little like your mom, and a little like your dad, but not exactly like either one of them.
MEMS Middle per 1
How many genetic disorders are there in total?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: We are finding more and more that every disease has a genetic component, so it is not possible to know the total number at present.
Mike Roch, from boca Raton FL
What is DNA profiling and banking? should i consider it and when?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: There are many levels at which your DNA can be tested. A "whole genome sequence" would identify all of the genes you have, but we don't know the function of most of these genes. Genetic banking usually refers to a collection of blood specimens for research. DNA profiling and banking aren't yet available to the public. At this point in your life, unless you have a specific health condition where knowing more about your genetics might help with diagnosis or treatment, genetic testing should be unnecessary.
Heather, Alden
Is D.N.A. day a national holiday?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: No, we are all still hard at work for this year's DNA day. Though it may not be an official holiday, we are excited to see DNA day recognized by students and teachers across the nation.
Shi-thead Mohammed, Coconut Creek
In general, what are your views on how society as a whole has reacted to the human genome project?
     Vence Bonham, J.D.: I think it is still early to tell. As you know the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. We are only beginning to understand the power of the information generated from the project to improve health and how it will impact society.
Shivani, Uni of Leicester, UK
Wasn't it Phoebus Levine in 1929 who came up with the name DNA.
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Phoebus Levine was a physician and biochemist at Rockefeller University who figured out the components that make up DNA, including the four types of bases -- adenine, guanine, thymine and cytosine -- as well the sugar deoxyribose and a phosphate group in its helical backbone.
Gene, CA
What is an X chromosome?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: The X chromosome is one of the two sex chromosomes in humans. Females have two X chromosomes and males have one X and one Y chromosome. The X chromosome carries about 1000 genes and some of these are related to various disorders( known as X-linked disorders).
Someone In Kansas
What does dystonia do?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: Dystonia is a condition that affects a person's movements and motor skills. In some families, dystonia can happen as part of a hereditary trait, i.e. something that is passed on from generation to generation.
Dominick Steele
Has anyone found any correlation between genetics and intelligence?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: This is a very good, but difficult, question. There have been studies performed that try to correlate genetic background and intelligence. However, these studies should be interpreted very carefully. Intelligence is most likely to be a complex trait, which may involve many different genetic and environmental factors. In practical terms, this means that these studies are very difficult. As our ability to study complex traits improves, such studies may be more useful and informative.
Lauren from Londizzle
How long until geneticists can decode the human genome.
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: We successfully decoded the human genome in 2003, both ahead of schedule and under budget!
Max HF
Do genetic tests give false reassurance?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Some genetic tests may give false reassurance. For example, if a person has a strong family history of early onset colon cancer and learns that there is an inherited gene called HNPCC that is being inherited in the family, he or she may choose to have testing. If he/she tests negative for the HNPCC gene, that person hmay believe that they are no longer at risk for colon cancer, when in fact, they have the average person's risk, so can still get colon cancer, though the risk is greatly reduced.
Dominic, Maryland
Do you think it is ethical to use family's genetic information in crime cases?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: That's a great question! I don't know. It would really depend how the investigators accessed the family's genetic information. For instance, if they had a court order/warrant for the sample, you would hope there was adequate judicial review and probable cause. However, it would get even tricker if a family member's DNA were in a criminal data bank, or worse, accessed without their knowledge.
Rachel Besser and Lauren Chieffo

Information - Moderator We welcome another expert to the chatroom. Joning us now is Kate Reed, a genetic counselor with the National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics.

Does bone marrow have DNA?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Yes, bone marrow does have DNA. All cells of the body, except red blood cells, have DNA.
is it possable to have bad genes?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: I'm not sure what you mean by "bad genes." There are genetic alterations that can cause disease. I doubt that folks with a serious genetic disease think of these alterations as "good."
ryan anderson
How close are you to a cure for cancer?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: There is a lot of research going on to look at how we can better treat cancer and hopefully one day cure cancer. There are many different types of cancer and we are better at treating some types of cancer versus others. For example, we are better are at treating cancer in the uterus versus cancer in the pancreas.
Phillip, Florida
Why does mitosis occur?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: In order for your body to grow, you have to increase the number of cells in your body which requires that your cells to go through mitosis. In addition, you have to replace the cells that are constantly dying, this also requires that mitosis occur.
Sharon, Westview Learning Center
DNA Day's Finally Here!!! DNA Day! cheer, cheer, cheer! DNA day fun, fun, fun! DNA day is for everyone!!!
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Thanks Jenn! We are very excited to be here too! DNA day is a great day every April 25th!
Jenn, Pasadena, MD
How long does it take to get the DNA from a crime scene analyzed?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Ideally, DNA should be processed quickly but the amount of time to analayze the DNA can be dependent upon the individual labs and police departments that collect the samples and the type of analysis.
Spencer Westview High
What's your favorite gene?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: Funny question! Personally, my favorite gene makes a protein called glycyl-tRNA synthetase. This protein is responsible for placing an amino acid (glycine) onto a transfer RNA (tRNA). This step is the first, essential step of protein synthesis (the process by which mRNA is translated into protein). The reason why this gene is so interesting, is that we have identified mutations in it that cause peripheral neuropathy - a disease where patients get severe weakness in their hands and feet. Why do mutations in such a universally important gene cause a very specific disease??? This question is very interesting to us and is the central focus of my current research.
V-SHAL, Sanford, FL
What does DNA have to do with Fragile X syndrome?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: Fragile X is a condition caused by changes in the DNA in the X chromosome. Our DNA is organized in structures called chromosomes. We 23 pairs of chromosomes - the first 22 are called autosomes and are responsible for many different traits, the last pair determines our gender and some other characteristics. Individuals with Fragile X have changes in a specific site in their X chromosome that leads them to have features of the condition, such as learning difficulties.
Is there a national DNA musuem?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: No, not specifically for DNA, but there are plenty of science museums that have great exhibits around DNA. For example, the National Library of Medicine at the NIH has a fantastic exhibit on forensics.
Kelly from St Paul's School for Girls
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Well, vocal talent may have a genetic component. There's also the fact that many folks who audition are tone deaf, which could also be genetic. I doubt there's a direct link between DNA and predicting who will win. If I had to make a prediction, I'd say it's going to be a toss up between Jordan and Blake primarily because they are the most marketable. I personally love Melinda.
Can alleles be changed?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Our DNA is being inundated with radiation from the sun all the time which can change our DNA. In addition, viruses can also insert their genetic material into our DNA and exist there for years causing changes in our DNA. In the future, we hope that gene therapy or the ability to change specific genes to correct mutations will be a utilized therapy.
Flavia, are you Mexican like me?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: No, I'm not Mexican. I'm from Brazil. Like in Mexico, people in Brazil descend from many different ethnic groups -- caucasians from Western Europe, blacks from Africa, native populations. This makes our countries very interesting and diverse! This is one of the reasons I became interested in genetics, and chose genetic counseling as my profession.
Pepe, Guadalajara

Information - Moderator Now in the chatroom is Joe McInerny, a genetics educator from the National Coalition of Health Professional Education in Genetics. In addition to answering your genetics questions, feel free to send him any questions that you may have regarding evolution.

if im adopted, how do i find out information about my birth parents' dna?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: There aren't DNA banks of birth parents. I think the best option would to check out some of the websites that let you enter your birthday, etc. and will help you match up to your birth parents in order to learn more about your medical history. Family history is the best way to understand your personal genetic risk for disease.
amanda long, florida
When was NHGRI established?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The NHGRI began in 1989 as a center (the National Center for Human Genome Research) at the NIH, and was responsible for leading the NIH's role in the Human Genome Project. It then was renamed to be the National Human Genome Research Institute in 1997.
jepeto mendez
What is the best sample to take from a dead body for DNA testing?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Skin, hair, saliva, blood. Most of these cells contain DNA.
Rob K. Grand Island
How many base pairs are there in the DNA code within each cell?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: Each cell in our body contains about 3 billion base pairs of DNA! Furthermore, every time a cell divides (and gives rise to two 'daughter' cells) this large amount of DNA is copied (or replicated) so that each daughter cell carries a complete copy. While only about 2-3% of this DNA encodes proteins, much of the remaining DNA is presumed to be important. A major focus of genomic research is to determine the function of the 98% of DNA that does not code for proteins.
tevin ali boca raton florida
Does a particular ethnic race or group at a higher risk for developing diabetes?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Adult onset diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, is a complex disease caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Environmental risk factors include obesity, which can be affected by diet. Individuals in certain ethnic groups may be more likely to be exposed to certain environmental risk factors based on shared cultural values and traditions, which may increase their risk through their diet not because of their genetic make up. Researchers are constantly studying diabetes to identify other enviromental and potential genetic risk factors.
Lucinda Yu Carver High School Houston, Texas
Why don't red blood cells contain DNA? How is the protein hemoglobin produced if it cannot be transcribed from the cell's DNA?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: Red blood cells do not have a nucleus, so they do not have DNA. Hemoglobin can be made by other cells (like cells in the bone marrow) that have DNA that codes (or instructs) for the protein hemoglobin. But they themselves do not have DNA and so cannot make any proteins. Hope this helps!
D. Lawrence, New York
Do you think that we will be able to choose our genes in the future?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: You are stuck with your DNA for life. Future generations may be able to have more control over their genetics. For instance, we have the ability right now to do genetic testing on embryos and only transfer back those embryos that are free of the genetic alteration that causes the disease.
JFK MIddle School New York
Since most of the genetic sequence is identical(99.9%), human beings vary by mutations in that 0.1% of base pairs. Therefore, considering the billions of people that have lived on this Earth, is it safe to hypothesize that two people have shared the same genetic sequence(excluding identical twins)?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Individuals have probably shared similar sequence over time. Based upon the billions of combinations it would be hard to say that two people shared the exact genetic sequence. In my opinion, based upon the the billions and billions of combinations that one person could have, I would say it is unlikely, but not impossible, that two unrelated individuals shared the same exact genetic material.
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Hi Willie! Yes we are also very excited for it to be DNA Day again this year. Thanks for your excitement!
willie, hf
In reference to the novel "Double Helix," is it possible to identify a genetic order in certain eggs and fertilize only those without the disorder?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: No. A human egg only has one cell. If we tested the cell, the cell would die. The same goes for sperm. Once the human egg is fertilized, it begins dividing. Once it reaches the point where there are about 16 cells, it is possible to remove one of those cells and test it. Then doctors can choose between the embryos and only transfer those embryos without the genetic alteration that causes disease back to the woman's uterus. This technology is called preimplantation genetic diagnosis or PGD.
How much longer till you find the cure for Alzheimers?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: It is difficult to say how long it will take until we find a cure for Alzheimers. There is a lot of research going on to find ways we can treat Alzheimers. There is also a lot of research going on to look at ways we can delay symptoms and improve the quality of life of those individuals who are diagnosed with this disease. We will probably make more progress in this area of delaying symptoms before we are able to find a cure.
Samantha Klasfeld
When DNA was first discovered were people suprised? Or did some people go into panic that people were going to try to steal you DNA?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: I wish I could say I was there when DNA was discovered to see their reaction, but it was quite a long time ago. I think with each new genetic discovery people are excited at the possibilites, but also take care to make sure the information is appropriately used.
Shananay Laquisha, Witchiaka, Kansas
Are sociability and friendliness genetically based?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: We don't know yet. My guess is that there are lots of genetic and environmental factors including a person's choice at every given moment.
Morgan Springer, St. Paul's School for Girls
DO you know if anger is associated with DNA?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: There may be a genetic influence, but there are also many environmental factors including a person's individual choice at any given moment.
JFK MS - New York
What is the Human Genome Project?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, Lisa. The HGP, completed in 2003, was an international effort to identify the sequence of all 3.2 billion base pairs that make up human genes. There were and are other projects to determine the DNA sequence of other species as well, for example mouse, many bacteria, the chimapnzee, and the macaque monkey. These sequences are available to the public on a variety of databases. The major challenge, once a sequence is completed, is to figure out what those data mean in terms of the biology of the species in question. Best -- Joe McInerney
Lisa HF
why do you love your job?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: It never get's boring. The technology is always changing, so there are always new ethical questions to think about. I also get to do lots of different things including research, teaching, mentoring, and participating in DNA Day.
Bob Dole
What are some of the most recent advances from the Human Genome Project?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Many of the tools and technologies that were created during the Human Genome Project are now being used for today's research. For example, GWAS (or Genome Wide Association Studies) have been made possible because of the advances in technology of the Genome Project as a way to identify genes responsible for more common disorders, such as cancer or diabetes.
brandi boca raton florida
I was wondering what is happening at the molecular level during transcription/translation that makes one allele dominant over another. Does the polymerase have an affinity to the dominant allele over the recessive one? Or is the control at the translation level?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: At the transcription level, variations in promoter sequences and the affinty of the RNA polymerase for the promoter can have an effect on the level of the transcripts produces. In additon, translation of the allele could be affected by factors such as the morphology or amount of the transcript available for translation.
Sule Bertram from Rockford IL
Is there a cure or treatment for color blindness?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: There are a number of different types of color blindness, including red-green colorblindness and a complete lack of ability to see color. Colorblindness is casued by changes in genes that influence the distribution of rods and cones in the eyes. Because these changes are found in every cell of the body, we currently do not have the technology to fix the problem, though this technology, called gene therapy, is being researched.
Ryan C. QBY, NY
Is it possible to "inject" your DNA with a spider's and turn out like Spiderman?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: Spiderman is a great science fiction, comic book hero. While most science fiction is based on some science fact, it would not be possible to inject yourself with spider DNA and become like Spiderman. One reason for this is that, for a spider to become a spider, there is a detailed developmental process involving gene regulation (turning them on and off), cell differentiation, and so forth. Therefore, injecting the spider DNA into already-differentiated human cells would not allow the development of spider-like qualities and could actually be harmful!
Nate Glover
Do you think the theme from GATTACA will come true?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Good question. In the movie GATTACA, genetic discrimination is illegal, but it still rules people's lives. There's a bill in the Congress right now (that we refer to as GINA) to make genetic discrimination illegal, but even if it is illegal to discriminate based on genetics for job hiring or insurance coverage, we don't know how people might use genetic testing in the future. Currently, certain cultures routinely test for carrier status for certain diseases before they marry or have children. This could potentially become more common in the future. It's up to all of us collectively to make sure that we use this new and exciting technology to create a better society for everyone.
Marcelo Lopez, from Johannesberg, South Africa
How could changing one base in the DNA sequence disrupt the production of essential amino acids?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: The codon sequences (three bases that represent the amino acids) are specific for each of the amino acids. If one base is changed, this can result in a change to the codon. Changing the codon can result in a change in the amino acid.
Christopher Green, Carver High School, Houston TX
What would happen if humans didn't have genetics?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, George. The discipline "genetics" is the study of inherited biological variation. If we didn't have this discipline we'd know a lot less about the origin, nature, and extent of human variation. If you mean, "what would happen if we didn't have genes," the short answer is that we wouldn't be here. Genes -- DNA - are the basic molecules of life. Best -- Joe McInerney
George emmanouilidis i am from greece
Is it possible for gene mutations to develop in the later stages of life?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: This is a great question. Gene mutations can develop throughout our life and as people get older they tend to have more of these mutations or changes. Changes that happen in our gene during our life (or after we are born) tend to affect only some cells as opposed to all of the cells in our body. One example of this is cancer. Cancer arises from gene mutations in a specific cell that then passes that mutation on to its daughter cells and so on until there are enough cells with gene mutations that leads to cancer. The good news is that our cells can correct mistakes and gene changes before they cause a disease like cancer. Once in a while, however, these mechanisms fail, leading to disease.
Maxwell and abby-gail, Tennessee
Do you think that later we can modify DNA in order for a human being to reach perfection?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Probably not because everyone's definition of perfection is different. Also, character traits have positive and negative characteristics. It's up to every individual to channel characteristics like ambition, intelligence, etc. in ways that contribute to the good of society.
What does your day typically look like? Are there people who work in your field without participating in research?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: My job doesn't involve research. I work in an Education office and get to organize online chatrooms and other programs for people who are interested in learning about genetics. I'm sitting in a room filled with people who have very different jobs, all related to genetics. Some are basic scientists, others genetic counselors who see patients through their day, others consider the ethical implications of genetics, and still others work in a media office to help announce all of the exciting events in the field of genetics. It's a very diverse field!
Amanda from Baltimore, MD
Is there a gene for for the way people think or see the world?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Not that we know of. Even if people have a generally positive or negative outlook on life, they always have the freedom to change that perception.
Stephanie from NJ
Is it possible for parents who are genetically related to have normal children?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Yes. Parents who are closely related (first cousins) may be more likely to have children affected by autosomal recessive conditions, which means that the child carries mutations in both copies of a certain gene. Even in these situations, the parents have a 75% (3 in 4) chance of having a child who is not affected by disease.
Deidre from NJ

Information - Moderator Another expert from the National Human Genome Research Institute has entered the chatroom. Please welcom Jean McEwen with our Ethical, Legal and Social Implications program.

How can the knowledge of RNAi be manipulated by scientists to our advantage?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: RNAi has been utilized as a tool be scientists to interfere with the production of proteins in orders to decrese the amount of protein that a cells produces or down regulating the proteins.
Bobby Losoya, St. Ignacious Prep
how close are people on creating a way to creat eternal life or somthing like that?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Public health interventions and some medical interventions have extended our life span over the last few decades, but death in not something we are likely to escape anytime soon.
chris kingry, crooms AOIT
Can someone change their DNA?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: For the most part, DNA is an incredibly stable molecule. However, there are small changes that naturally occur through a person's life, but these don't necessarily cause phenotypic changes. There are some outside forces, such as radiation or other mutagens, that can cause changes to a person's DNA.
Sarah Felty
How linked is evolution to genetics?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, Marcelo. It's impossiblle to understand genetics without genetics, and vice-versa. Darwin showed us that variation is the rule, not the exception, in the living world. Variation is essential to Darwin's theory of natural selection -- if all members of a given species were the same, there could be no differential selection. Genetics helps us understand where biological variation resides and how it gets transmitted from one generation to the next. The only variation that matters in an evolutionary sense is variation that is passed on. Finally, one definition of genetics is a change in gene frequencies in a population across time.
Marcelo Lopez, from Johannesberg, South Africa
Primarily, where is most genetic research conducted?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: It depends on the kind of research. Some research is conducted in the typical wet lab. But other research occurs entirely on computers. Genetic research that answers social and behavioral questions may be conducted through surveys and focus groups. Genetic research is an incredibly diverse field.
sarah cisek, St. Paul's School for Girls
Have they used gene therapy for treating breast cancer?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: The short answer is not yet. Breast cancer is a very complex disease caused by changes or mutations in many different genes. This makes it a difficult disease to be treated by gene therapy. Some people do have a predisposition or a greater chance to develop breast cancer because of a gene change or mutation they are born with. Not many people fall in this category. But for those that do, there may be a way in the distant future that we can alter their genes and decrease their chance of developing breast cancer. In general, gene therapy is still in its early stages and is only available as part of research studies for very specific conditions.
Kelci Hughesville,MD
How can something so small, like DNA, hold so much information about a person?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: Not only is DNA small, it is also fairly simple in that it contains only four types of nucleotides (adenine or A, guanine or G, cytosine or C, and thymine or T). These nucleotides are responsible for carrying out the many functions of the genome (for example making proteins, regulating the activity of genes, organizing the genome into the nucleus of cells, and so on). The different combinations of these nucleotides is one of the ways that DNA can carry so much information about people (that is, how to make different proteins, how and when to turn a gene off or on). Furthermore, while DNA is very small, there are many of these nucleotides in each cell (about 3 billion). Thus, having a lot of DNA in each cell is another way for it to carry information.
MEMS Middle per 1
As high school athletes continue to strive for more of an edge, could these athletes gain that edge by using DNA as a substitute for steroids?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Yes. The internation olympics committee is already beginning to think about this. Hypothetically, modifying a person's DNA would be the most efficient at the point of conception. Altering a person's DNA after they are born is only being used in clinical trials to try to treat disease.
Willard Bobby, Poster, CO
Is the ability to memorize things quickly inherited?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: I'm not aware of any research to test that theory.
Can DNA make noise?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: I am not sure that DNA makes noise, but the process of replicating it, transcribing it, and modifying it requires cellular processes that probably make really, really small noises.
NIck Sigmon
If you volunteer to clone yourself, is it still illegal?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: There are some states that have made reproductive cloning illegal. The federal government has yet to pass legislation on this issue. As of today, no one has actually cloned a human being.
How long is a strand of DNA?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Great question! A strand of DNA from one cell, completely unwound, would stretch six feet long!
David, newton,MA
Why do you like your job, Flavia?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: I like my job for many different reasons. One of them is that I can help individuals and families who may be at risk for a genetic condition. Another reason is that my job allows me to do research in areas that interest me. And, lastly, it allows me to teach students in the classroom and in the clinic, which is something I love to do!
Benito Camelo
Do you believe the term "race" should be used when referring to different ethnic backgrounds? How woudl you define the tow terms to students?
     Jean McEwen: Race is primarily a social construct relating to how individuals and groups define themselves. It is inherently a very imprecise concept, as there are no clear "boundaries" between "races." Ethnicity is also primarily a social construct, which relates to groups that share a common cultural background, language, diet, etc. In genetics, the concepts of both race and ethnicity have limited utility because of their inherent imprecision and the fact that they are both largely social--not biological--constructs. Ancestral geography, however, does have meaning for geneticists, because it may correlate with differences in the frequencies with which people have certain genetic variants. Ancestral geography does correlate to some extent with concepts of race and ethnicity, but it is not exactly the same thing.
Shannon Hudson, Crawfordsville, Indiana
Does anyone have the same DNA as anyone else?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: The DNA that an individual carries in their cells is unique to that person, and is inherited from both biological parents (half from the mother, and half from the father). Therefore, nobody really has the same DNA as another person. This is why DNA profiling is an effective tool for identifying people. That being said, the DNA from any two individuals is more than 99% identical, and it is believed that very small differences are responsible for our individual characteristics.
MEMS Middle per 1
I fear I may have herpes. Will it affect the dna in my children?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: No. Herpes is caused by a virus and can be passed on to other people through sexual contact, but it does not cause mutations in your sperm or egg cells. This means that you are not at any greater risk of having children with changes in their DNA than if you hadn't had herpes. There are treatments available for herpes. You can find more information about herpes at It's always a good idea to talk to your doctor about your fears about your health.
Zack Armanda

Information - Moderator Joining us now is Brian Capell, a researcher in the National Human Genome Research Institute's Genome Technology Branch. He is working on research involving progeria, a rare disease that leads to premature aging in children.

Can you provide interactive multimedia presentation of gene mutations and chromosomal mutations for K-12 students?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Absolutely, a great multimedia resource is our Education Kit, which can be found online at Another great resource is the Genetic Science Learning Center at
how much money do you make a year
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: A lot. Way more than the national average household income for the US, but average for the Washington DC area where the cost of living is very high. I have a Ph.D. in public health and was very poor for many years while I was in school. Most of my salary goes to pay for child care for my two boys.
evan florida
Do people have similar DNA?
     Jean McEwen: Yes, we are all approximately 99.9% identical at the DNA level. However, even very small differences in DNA from person to person can in some cases have important health implications.
Usnavy Abatecola
Do you have DNA Day every year?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Yes! DNA Day occurs every year on April 25. It is something we look forward to every year!
What are future directions in DNA research?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: DNA research is going in many directions. Here are just a few: 1. Gene therapy 2. Analysis of the the genome and trying to better understand how the environment affects our genes 3. Better understanding of human variation 4. Personalized medicine 5. Pharmacogenomics 6. and more
Where is ligase made and what is it made up of?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: A ligase is an enzyme that attaches two molecules, and there are many genes that makes ligases in the human genome. One example are the enzymes that ligate amino acids to tRNA molecules. Since ligases are enzymes (a special kind of protein) they are made up of amino acids.
Lappi; Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY
Is intelligence determinded by genes
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: It definitely has a genetic component, but certainly isn't based on a single gene. It's likely a combination of multiple genes and the environment.
Daia from Georgia
Can you inherite a trisomy?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: Individuals who are born with a trisomy usually have them as a result of a mistake in cell division. This mistake can happen in the sperm, or in the egg, or in the fetus at the time they are being formed in his/her mom's womb. This type of mistake happens by chance in most cases. An example of a trisomy is Trisomy 21 which leads to Down Syndrome. Most individuals with Trisomy 21 have it as a result of one of these mistakes in cell division.
What are some of the experiments that you are working on right now?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: I work on two kinds of experiments. First, I am trying to identify genes that cause neurodegenerative diseases in humans. This involves obtaining DNA from various patients with these diseases and performing PCR (the polymerase chain reaction), and DNA sequencing to identify disease-associated mutations. Second, I am trying to understand the development of the peripheral nervous system - the part of our body that controls, for example, movement of our hands and feet. Mainly, I am interested in comparing the genomes of different animals (human, mouse, rat, and so on) to identify genomic regions that are involved in turning genes on and off as the peripheral nervous system develops.
Lauren Chieffo and Rachel Besser
What is holding back gene therapy?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Because the greatest concern for new therapies is safety, one of the challenges in developing gene therapy is to make sure it is safe for participants in clinical trials. Also, the technology itself is quite complex because the therapy would have to be delivered to many cells. Researchers are working hard on finding ways to address the difficulties and move the technology forward.
Dude Johnson
Sarah, how did you decide that you wanted to become a scientist?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Hi Kayla, My father was a huge influence for me to go into science. He was a science teacher and encouraged me to study science when i was in college, and I really enjoyed learning about how things work. After college I studied public health genetics, because I was interested in learning about the implications of genetics, and how genetics might affect large groups of people in the future. It's a very rewarding field to be in, and certainly there is never a dull day.
how does it feel to be scientist
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Being a scientist is really a fascinating opportunity. Each and everyday one is able to learn new things and explore new questions. I have been studying a rare disease where children age prematurely and it is exciting to come to work each day and use experimental techniques to answer questions that both might lead to new treatments for this condition as well as insight into the normal aging process.
Do you support the use of DNA in criminiology? (use of evidence for conviction, etc)
     Jean McEwen: DNA can be a very powerful tool in criminal cases, both to help identify guilty people and exonerate innocent people in cases that involve biological evidence. (Many people who have spent years in prison - some of them on death row - have been exonerated through DNA technology.) Of course, it is important that the chain of evidence be handled properly and that labs that do the testing maintain good quality in control in order for the evidence to be reliable. A major policy current policy issue in this area is whether the state should pay for DNA testing for people who have already been convicted but who continue to maintain that they are innocent.
Sam Vaught, Crawfordsville, Indiana
When did the human genome project start?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Hi Sean, The genome project kicked off in 1990, and finished up in 2003...ahead of schedule!
sean p, minnetonka mn
What do you find most benefical about working with DNA?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: I think the most important aspect of our research is the ability to identify variations in DNA that cause human disease. First, this will allow us to more accurately diagnose patients and to develop novel or more efficient therapies for specific diseases. Second, by understanding how mistakes in DNA cause diseases we get a better idea of how molecules, cells, organs, and tissues normally function.
Rachel and Lauren
Is being an albino hereditary? If so, is it dominant or recessive?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: Albinism refers to a group of disorders that are inherited. Most types of albinism are inherited in an autosomal recessive form, meaning the individual with albinism inherits two gene changes, one from the mother and one from the father. There is a great website that goes over albinism in detail. I think you would enjoy checking it out. See the link below.
Lappi; Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY
Is there a way to prevent someone from inheriting a genetic disease that one or both of their parents have if doctors are aware of the inheritance risk before the baby is born?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Yes. A couple who know that they are at risk of having a child with a genetic disease have a number of options. They can take their changes with a natural conception. Some types of genetic disease have a 50% chance of being passed on to a child and other diseases only one out of four children will actually have the disease. The couple can then have prenatal testing. If the fetus has the genetic disease, the couple will have to make a difficult decision about whether or not to continue the pregnancy. The couple can use a sperm donor to have children to avoid the risk of disease. They can adopt, or they can use invitro fertilization to create multiple embryos. These embryos are grown in a dish until they have about 16 cells. One cell is removed with a microscopic straw, and the DNA from the cell is tested. Those embryos that are unaffected by the genetic condition are then transferred to the woman's uterus. Affected embryos are usually discarded; however, some of them have been donated to stem cell research designed to learn more about these genetic diseases. This research could lead to new treatments.
Tara, St. Paul's School for Girls
Can DNA change as you get older?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: DNA can change as one ages. With age, different stresses, for example UV sunlight, can damage DNA and many people think that these DNA changes are what lead to normal aging.
MEMS Middle per 3
Which one, DNA or enviroment affects a persons traits more?
     Jean McEwen: It depends on the trait or disease. However, most human traits, and most common diseases, are influenced by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Many studies are now underway to try to figure out the relative contributions of genes and environment to a number of common, complex conditions.
fio Newton,MA
do you have a wife/husband, and are they a nerd too?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: I have a husband. He's way more of a nerd than I am. I am a social scientist who studies the ethical implications of the human genome project. It's really cool. My husband is a computer expert. I don't understand anything that he does. On the weekends, he's a volunteer fire fighter. I like to quilt in my spare time. We have two boys ages 3 and 6 who keep us really busy. When I get home from work, I frequently color, ride bikes, or go to the park and feed the ducks. Sounds pretty nerdy, huh?
Tighe Lutz
What are your typical research experiments about and how do they affect us?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: My research involves identifying variations in DNA that cause human disease. Basically, this involves obtaining DNA from patients with specific genetic diseases, and performing PCR (the polymerase chain reaction) and DNA sequencing to identify disease-asoociated mutations. The major affect this will have on public health is that, by knowing the specific mutations that cause a disease, we will: (1) be able to more accurately diagnose patients; (2) be able to develop novel or more efficient therapeutics; and (3) get a better understanding of how the affected genes normally function.
Kyle carrilio, florida
What is the point of DNA Day? Does anything special happen?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: DNA Day is the celebration of the completion of the Human Genome Project and the anniversary of the description of the double helix by Watson and Crick. Every year the NHGRI celebrates by hosting an online chatroom like this one, and sending researchers out to classrooms to talk about their careers and about exciting topics in genetics. It's a lot of fun, we look forward to it every year!
Is being a scientist stressful to your sex life?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: Not really. I love my research, and it never get's boring. Right now, I find being a mother way more stressful.
Drew Johnson, GA
What kind of scientist are you?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Currently I am studying to receive both my medical degree and my Ph.D. in molecular and cellular biology. I hope that by receiving this broad training in both science and medicine that I will be able to take results from basic science lab experiments and translate them into clinical treatments and improvements for patients.
Will we have the same DNA in the future or will it be different?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: DNA is made up of 4 base pairs and that will not change in the near future. An individual's DNA can change during his or her lifetime because of environmental exposures. For example, most types of cancer are caused by mutations in genes that control cell growth and division. These mutations happen during a person's lifetime and we often do not know what the specific cause of the mutation is.
cam yeaw newton massachusets brown middle school
As prenatal testing and genetic test become more used to look for genetic diseases, do you think that our privacy will be at risk with insurance agencies, and if so what do you think that we should do to combat such a thing from occurring?
     Andrea Kalfoglou, Ph.D.: The US Congress is currently debating a bill that would make genetic discrimination for insurance purposes illegal. Let's hope it passes.
thomas Muntaner, St. Ignacious Prep
Mr.McInerny, with regards to the new behaviors being demonstrated by chimps, gorillas and some bird species (i.e. tool use), do you speculate that their evolution will mirror that of humans whereby their intelligence will place them higher in the food web?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Dear Ms. Lugo: Thanks for your interesting question. First, we have to remember that these behaviors likely are not new to these species. We have, rather, begun to look for different types of behavior in many species and have uncovered some that we did not recognize before, or we have begun to attach new interpretations to those behaviors. For example, behavioral biologists have observed some chimpanzees seemingly comforting others in times of stress. We still don't know what that means for sure. It is clear, however, that many behaviors are conserved across species, inclding primates -- Darwin even wrote a book about that. Remember that behaviors have an environmental context, and that behaviors reflect the needs of the species in question. We never know what direction evolution will take, but there is no expectation that birds, for example, eventally will to move "up" toward humans in terms of intellectual capacity.
Ms. Lugo Rosa Parks High School, Paterson, NJ
Has there been a discovered for breast cancer? Can breast cancer be inherited?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: Most breast cancer is not inherited. About 10% of all cases of breast cancer are due to inherited predispositions to breast cancer. There are different genes changes that lead to these predispositions. Most individuals who have a predisposition to breast cancer have changes in one of two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2 -- BR stands for breast, CA stands for cancer, 1 for the first gene that was found, and 2 for the second one. It is important to understand that people who have changes in these genes have a predisposition or a higher chance to develop breast cancer compared to those people who do not have these gene changes. But it does not mean that they will for sure develop breast cancer. Hope this helps!
Liz Komarek Holy Family Catholic High School
If you could be a gene, what gene would you be?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: I think I would be Gene Kelly...I've always wanted to be able to dance :)
Richard Cranium
Do my genes affect my dislikes and likes?
     Jean McEwen: They probably do in some way, but right now we really understand very little about how genes interact with factors in people's environments to influence likes, dislikes, or other complex behavioral or personality traits.
My professor is involved in C. elegans studies. Are any of you, and in what manner?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: I, myself, am not working with C. elegans, though I am aware of a lot of work that has been done with this organism and it has definitely provided scientists with many incredible insights into numerous biological processes. For instance, single mutations in C. elegans can actually double their lifespans! I am currently working just with mice and human samples.
Do you have time outside of the lab to spend time with your family?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: Yes! I have a wife and two beautiful children, and spend a lot of my time with them. Science is a career path that can occupy a lot of your time. This is in part due to the pressure to produce and publish data, and in part due to the fact that most scientists really enjoy their job. However, I try to keep a very balanced lifestyle, and while I work very hard, I try to know when to stop!
brandi boca raton florida
If you have progeria, do you immediatley start to look as if you are much older then you are, or do you go through a process, like you look 20 and then 30 and then 40 etc.
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Children with progeria look actually completely normal when they are born. It is only at about 12-20 months of age that the kids begin to show the first signs of aging. It is a rapid course and the children begin to have elderly features shortly after that (hair loss, skin wrinkling, heart disease).
skylar, newton
What kind of education is required for your field of work?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: Many different people with varying educational background work in the field of genetics. My major career goal is to become a professor at a university and to carry out genetic research. Toward this, I obtained a college degree in Zoology, worked in research for a few years, and then went back to get Ph.D. However, I work with a lot of excellent scientists that have college degrees, M.D.s, Ph.D.s, and M.D./Ph.D.s. I think it really depends on your specific career goal.
Jean Marx Florida
Now it is 7:45 P.M. in India. My M.Sc. Biotechnology students are participating in DNA Day chat. What are your suggestions for building their career in Human Genetic research in Indian percepective?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Hello to India! Thank you for participating in the chatroom this year. I would encourage your students to figure out what about genetics interests them, whether it's working in a lab, or being in a clinic, or any of the other applications of genetics. It's important to get a good foundation of education in the field, but to definitely follow where your interests lie.
B.B.S.P.Nag, SMV Centre for Biotechnology, NAGPUR, INDIA
In the rat, is an xx chromosome a girl and xy a boy, or are these labels different for rats?
     Anthony Antonellis, Ph.D.: Yes, rats are similar to humans in that male rats carry one X and one Y chromosome, and female rats carry two X chromosomes.
Nicholas Brown Middle School
Is there a cure for progeria?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: There is no cure for progeria, though since the discovery of the genetic mutation that causes progeria in 2003, numerous advances have been made that have brought us closer to potential therapies. In fact, studies from our lab have led to a potential drug therapy in a drug called an "FTI" or a farnesyltransferase inhibitor. A clinical trial testing this drug in children with progeria is set to begin later this year actually!
carlos boston MA
What does it cost of having your DNA sequences to check and see if your related to someone
     Jean McEwen: There are a number of companies that now perform DNA ancestry testing. Prices vary, but generally run from about $100 to $650, depending on the complexity of the test.
Courtney Opich
Is there a gene for hearing loss?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: There are several hundred genes known to cause hereditary hearing loss. Hereditary hearing loss can be inherited as part of a condition that leads the individual to have other features besides hearing loss, or it can be inherited by itself, i.e. without any other features. Genetic testing is available for many different types of inherited hearing loss. If you, a friend, or a family member is interested in speaking with a health care professional about this, you can go to the National Society of Genetic Counselors website and search for a genetic counselor in your area. That site is
Mike from NJ
What are the symptoms of Progeria
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Skin wrinkling, hair loss, short stature, bone changes such as osteoporosis, and severe heart disease that leads to death in most cases at an average age of 12 or 13.
Hannah from Newton
Why is it so important to know what DNA is?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, Nick. DNA is an information molecule, and it carries information coded in digital form. It is the universal information molecule for all life on earth - from bacteria and worms to oak trees and human beings. DNA provides continuity of information between cells, between generations of individual organisms and between species across evolutionary time. By studying DNA we can learn how organisms grow and develop, how biological processes are controlled and even about the history of our species. Here at NIH we are interested in how DNA influences the onset, expression and treatment of disease, including the diseases that are the major causes of illness and death around the world, for example, cancer, heart disease, mental illness, infection and diabetes. Best -- Joe McInerney
Nick McAndrews, HFCHS, MN
Dear Dr. Capell, What is the average life span for kids with progeria? Is there any chance to live past adolescence?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Kids with progeria usually only live to an average age of 12 or 13, though it is variable. Some have died much earlier at 4 years or so. The oldest reported progeria patient was 26 years old when he died. It seems to depend upon the mutation that the patient has.
Juliana Newton, MA
What causes a still birth (death of baby at birth)? Is it hereditary?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Stillbirths have a number different causes, including enviromental, genetic, and factors related to the pregnancy. If the stillbirth is because a child is affected by a genetic condition, it may or may not be more likely to happen again. For example, children with an extra chromosome 18 or 13 (trisomy 18 or 13) are more likely to be stillborn, but, in most cases, this condition happens by chance. Most parents are not at higher risk of having another child with the same issue. In other cases, a stillbirth can be caused by inheriting genetic mutations from the parents. In this case, the parents are at increased risk of having another affected child. Genetic counselors can help parents sort out their risk for future children.
Heather,Erie One Boces
With the disease Progeria, does it mostly affect girls or boys or dose everyone have the same chance of getting it? how many people out of 100 get it how does it work.
     Brian Capell, M.D.: It seems to affect both boys and girls equally. It only happens in about 1 out of 4,000,000 births and there are only about 75-100 known cases in the world right now!
Andrea From Newton
Carla Easter, what do you wish to accomplish in the near future?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: I hope that my work at the Genome Institute will influence students like yourself to pursue careers in genomics and genetics and help the public better understand genetics and genomics.
Dara Brown Midde School
Does progeria limit how tall a person might grow?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Yes, children with progeria usually only grow to about 3 feet tall on average.
Ary newton
can people with progenia reproduce?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: No, children with progeria remain sexually immature despite the rest of their body aging so rapidly.
Helena Newton, MA
is talent genetic?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: It is likely that talent, such as singing or acting, has some genetic component. However, there have not been any specific genes identified to date.
David Furman Cape Elizabeth
How is it we know the gene for cystic fibrosis but don't know how to cure it? What is being done to find the cure for things that we know the genes for?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: We have been much better at identifying genes that cause hereditary conditions than finding a treatment for hereditary conditions. This is because the technology for identifying genes is much more developed than the technology for providing gene therapy. There are ongoing research studies looking at gene therapy for very specific conditions. But in general gene therapy is still in its early stages. Hopefully the technology will continue to develop and one we will be able to offer gene therapy for conditions that are inherited.
Brittany Campbell, Utah
What does it feel like to have progeria, do you feel as old as you look?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Yes, unfortunately for these children, they really do feel their aging appearance. For example, they have joints that ache due to arthritis and they feel chest pain due to their heart disease when the disease has advanced enough.
danielle newon ma
How many doctors are there answering questions now?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: We currently have about 8 experts in the room together all working to answer your questions. They have very different backgrounds, from genetic counseling, to public health, to molecular biology, and ethics. Keep the questions coming!
Julia from Newton, MA
How did Francis Crick and James Watson figure out the shape of DNA?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Utlizing data from x-ray diffraction experiments, physics, and chemistry in addtion to working with collaborators, they were able to integrate this information to figure out the shape.
Dara Brown Midde School
Do you think that at one point in the world, everybody will have the same DNA? If yes, why?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, Andy. The DNA in all people - in all other organisms on the planet - is esentially the same in terms of its chemical struture. Among human beings, the sequence of the DNA bases is about 99.9 percent idenitical - but given 3.2 billion bases that still leave alot of differences. Given that mutation is continual and that new combinations of genes are created by crossing over and sexual reproduction, it is unlike that there will ever be two people - except identical twins - alike, much less everyone in the world. Best - Joe McInerney
Andy Hidalgo, Los Angeles California
This might sound stupid, and it's sort of a controversial issue, but, IS there such a thing as a "gay gene"? There are lots of theories going on, but this one seems to be the most interesting, as I do see homosexuality running in families I know. Thank you.
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: This is not a stupid question. It is a complex one, however. All conditions have both genetic and environmental components. No specific gene or set of genes for homosexuality has been identified.
Frank , Laredo, TX
Do all of you work in the same lab or are you all from different labs?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Everyone in the chatroom now is from different parts of the Institute here. Some work in the Genome Technology Branch, others work in the Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications program, still others work in the clinial center. These different backgrounds reflect how diverse the field of genetics is.
Nick Newton, MA
Can you tell my students what base pairs have to do with children aging prematurely and why these base pairs affect this process of growth!
     Brian Capell, M.D.: It is actually really amazing because one single change in one single base pair, a change of a C to a T in a gene known as LMNA, is what leads to the very dramatic and devastating premature aging of progeria. This single change effects the protein produced by the LMNA gene, and this errant protein effects the structure of the nucleus in our cells. How these effects on the nulceus leads to what we see outwardly in a progeria patient is not known completely yet, but we are making progess all the time and hope that this knowledge will lead to a treatment or cure someday!
Mr. Patricks - Hyde Park Middle School - Las Vegas Nevada
Does skin color affect the types of diseases you can get?
     Jean McEwen: No--except maybe for diseases like skin cancer (in general, people with fair skin are more prone to skin cancer than people with dark pigmentation). It is true, however, that the part of the world where your ancestors came from may affect how genetically predisposed you are to getting certain diseases, because different populations have different frequencies of particular genetic variants that may contribute to some diseases. So while skin color itself has very little to do with what types of diseases a person might be predisposed to, it may have some limited relevance to the extent that it correlates in some cases, and tto some degree, with ancestral geographic origin. As a general matter, though, skin color alone is a very poor proxy for "race"(a largely social construct), which in turn is a very poor proxy for ancestral geography--the only thing that really matters for purposes of understanding differences among individuals in their genetic risk.
Julia Berger Tessa Turner, Spanish River
When someone has a second baby does the child get the same or different chromosomes as the first one?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Siblings share, on average, 50% of their genetic material. Each parent has 2 copies of each chromosome. They give one copy of each chromosome to each egg or sperm that they make. The egg and sperm that go onto be fertilized determine which chromosomes a child inherits. Therefore, siblings will share some of their chromosomes, but which ones is determined by chance.
Ish newton mass
What is a mutation?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: A permanent structural alteration in DNA. In most cases, DNA changes either have no effect or cause harm, but occasionally a mutation can improve an organism's chance of surviving and passing the beneficial change on to its descendants.
luis crooms academy sanford florida
What is the gene that cause progeria?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: It's called LMNA and it produces proteins that form the structural scaffolding of the nucleus in all of our cells.
Hannah from Newton
Do you like your job? If so, why?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Dear Rachell: Thanks for your question. I really like my job, which focuses on educating a broad range of health professionals about genetics and its role in health and disease. I get to work every day with very interesting content and with very smart people who are dedicated to their work and to helping others. One of the best things about my job is that I'm always learning new things about biology. Best - Joe McInerney
Rachell Douglas
I have AIDs. Will it pass on through my genes if i have kids?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: AIDs is an infectious condition. You cannot pass it on to your children through your genes. AIDs can be transmitted at delivery.
jonh thompson
Brian Capell: What do you like about your job and why?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: What I love most is being able to learn new things everyday about science, health, and disease. Being able to explore questions through experiments and to potentially be able to use this new knowledge to help people with sickness and disease is really the most exciting and rewarding part of science and medicine.
Natasza from Brown Middle School
What chromosome causes ADHD?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: This is a great question because we have reason to believe that ADHD has a genetic component. For example, attention disorders often run in families. At this point, however, we do not know of any specific gene or genes that cause ADHD. There is a lot of research going on to look at families that have ADHD and try to find genes that may cause it. Another thing to keep in mind is that ADHD is a very complex condition so there are probably envinronmental factors that contribute to it as well.
Chris Ernst I'm from North Las Vegas and from Hyde Park Middle School
Why isn't Rosalind Franklin give more credit towards our understanding of DNA??
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: You make a good point. Few people know about the contributions of Dr. Franklin. She did publish a paper about the structure at the same time as Watson and Crick. Unfortunately, Dr. Franklin died before the Nobel Prize was awarded and this the Nobel Prize cannot be awarded after someone's death.
What is the Human Genome project exactly?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The Human Genome Project involved three main goals. The first was to sequence all 3 billion base pairs in the human genome. The second goal was to identify all of the human genes. Finally, a goal was to make all of this information publicly available.
Lindsey, MN
Are there certain places n the world where progeria is more common?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Patients with progeria have been found all over the world and from every continent. Given our knowledge right now, it doesn't seem to be any more or less common in different parts of the world.
Nick Newton, MA
If you can describe DNA in one sentence, what would that sentence be?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Dear Rachell: Thanks for your question. DNA is the universal information molecule for all life on Earth and the information is encoded in digital form - A, T, C and G.
Rachell Douglas
Why are some people, "small people"? What is different in their DNA?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: We do not know at this point how many genes are involved in the determination of height. We do think that it is likely that there is more than one, and that the expression of those genes is influenced by a variety of environmental factors such as nutrition, disease, and access to healthcare.
Are Punnett squares as accurate in determining traits as they are easy to do?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: For Mendelian inherited traits (examples of Mendelian inheritance include autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive, and sex-linked genes) Punnet squares work pretty well. If the trait is due to the interaction of multiple genes, they are not very useful.
Pepe, Guadalajara

Information - Moderator Joining us now is Jeff Schloss, a National Human Genome Research Institute scientist who's an expert in technology development.

What is an example of a rare genetic disease?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: An example of a rare disease is Progeria, with an incidence of 1 in 4 million individuals.
sarah cisek, maryland
What is one of your experiments?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: An example of one experiment is using a process known as "site-directed mutagenesis" to change the amino acid sequence of a protein in order to see how these amino acid sequences effect the function of the protein. For example, by changing the sequence of the progerin protein (the protein mutated in progeria), and then using a process known as transfection to put these mutated forms into cells, one can observe the effects of these amino acid changes and what role they might play in the disease.
Rachell Douglas
Is DNA concept confined to our Earth only or is it present on other planets also?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thank you for your question, Neetu. We don't know for certain whether DNA is present on other planets, but we do know that the environments on other planets would make it hard for DNA to function. DNA is the information molecule for all life on Earth, but if there is life on other planets (an open question), it might be based on other systems. Best -- Joe McInerney
Neetu waghmare, SMVCBT, Nagpur, INDIA
Because I have both blonde hair and blue eyes are my genes completely recessive?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: The short answer is no. We inherit half of our genes from our mother and half of them from our father. All of us have traits that are inherited in different ways -- as a recessive trait, a dominant trait, and an X-linked trait. We used to think that hair color and eye color were inherited in a simple mendelian form, i.e. recessive or dominant. It turns out that they are probably inherited in a more complex way, as a result of more than just one gene. Hope this helps!
Laura and Brooke, Hopewell NJ
Brian Capell, what do you wish to accomplish in the near future?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: I'm hoping to complete my M.D.-Ph.D. degree in May 2009 and then begin my residency training after that (this is the further more specialized training that doctors due after medical school before they practice on their own). Once I'm done with everything I would like to continue working as a physician-scientist combining both basic science research and clinical medicine.
Dara Brown Midde School
Do different parts of the body contain different types of DNA?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: For the most part, all parts of the body -- all cells in the body -- contain the same DNA. There are a few exceptions. DNA is rearranged in some immune system cells, and is absent from red blood cells. But different genes are EXPRESSED in different cells. That's what makes them look, behave and function differently.
MEMS Middle per 4
Is it possible for the symptoms of progeria to show up at an age later then 12 or 13?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: No, the symptoms always show up by 2-3 years of age. There is another premature aging disease known as Werner syndrome however, that is somewhat like progeria and starts later with the symptoms often appearing in the teens and 20s.
skylar, newton
Will we ever be able to know what kind of kids we will have? Meaning their characteristics and personalities, or will we ever be able to pick?
     Jean McEwen: Through prenatal testing and preimplantation genetic diagnosis, it is now possible to find out many characteristics of one's potential future offspring, such as whether they have genes associated with certain (mostly rare) genetic diseases. However, we still understand very little about the contribution that genes make to behavior or complex personality traits. All of these kinds of characteristics are highly influenced by environmental factors, not just by genes, so it is very unlikely that there will ever be a simple genetic test that will be able to predict anything so complex with any degree of precision. Even if it someday becomes possible to do such testing, there are serious ethical issues associated with genetic testing for purposes of enhancement.
Tyler Franks, Pocono Mountain West
Is bi-polar disorder genetic?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Research on bipolar disorder suggests that there is a genetic component in some cases. There are environmental risk factors for bipolar disorder as well. We do not know specific genes that cause bipolar disorder alone, but we do know that having a strong family history of bipolar disorder increases your risk of developing the disease. Not everyone with a strong family history will develop disease. There is a lot of research going on to identify genes that contribute to risk for bipolar disease.
Jessica NC
What made you want to be a scientist? How old were you when you figured out you wanted to be a scientist?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: This might sound silly, but I had a substitute teacher in 5th grade, who brought into class a microscope that projected its image onto a screen so the whole class could look. (Okay, I just told you how old I am -- this was before cheap video cameras!) The teacher showed us live paramecia and I was hooked!
Mia Crooms AOIT Sanford
Is there any way to not get diabeties if it runs in your family, besides exercising and eating well)?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: At present, there is no specific genetic intervention that can prevent you from developing adult onset diabetes. Attention to environmental factors such as eating well and exercising are the current interventions to reduce the risk.
Michael New Jersey
If the cure for Progeria were to work, could you apply it to people without progeria, could it keep me looking 16 for the rest of my life??
     Brian Capell, M.D.: That's a great question! Right now we are trying to figure out what role the process that causes progeria might have to do with the way we all age. Currently there is some evidence that there might be some relationship. However, the way we all age is caused by many things, everything from our genes to our lifestyle (what we eat, whether or not we smoke, etc.), so it is unlikely that any treatment for progeria which would be treating the genetic mutation, would be able to keep people looking 16. Perhaps it may allow us to live longer or healthier though!
Mike Holt, Athens Michigan
Does DNA determine a persons fingerprints? If so why is it that everybody's fingerprints are different?
     Flavia Facio, M.S.: Fingerprints are determined largely by genetics, but not entirely. The environment in the mother's womb also contributes to an individual's fingerprints. That is why, for example, identical twins' fingerprints are similar, but not exactly the same.
sarah cisek, St. Paul's School for Girls
Can other living things beside people get progeria?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: No one has observed other animals getting premature aging diseases naturally to my knowledge. However, scientists have created many types of mice that do age prematurely due to a genetic mutation that they were given, such as the progeria LMNA mutation.
Nick Newton, MA
What do you have to do to become a genetic counselor? What level of education, and what is your day like?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: To become a genetic counselor, you need to pursue a Master's Degree in Genetic Counseling. There are a number of programs across the United States. You can learn more about genetic counseling if you go to the web site of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. A typical day for a genetic counselor varies depending upon their focus. If you are a genetic counselor in a clinical genetics setting, you see individuals and families and evaluate their family history and answer their questions about genetic risk, genetic testing and interventions.
Does DNA develop new genes over time?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, Nohemi. Mutation creates new variations of existing genes and crossing over and sexual reproduction create new combinations of genes. You might want visit Oak Ridge National Laboratory's site: Best -- Joe McInerney
Nohemi Clara, California
Can you change your DNA in order to prevent Diabetes?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Not at this time. The genetics of diabetes is complicated and involves both genetics and environmental factors such as diet.
Nicole, ,from Asheville NC
I have a question about trisomy 21. My understanding is that 3 versions of one chromosome is usually lethal, and that it's not lethal with the 21 chromosome because that's a smaller chromosome with less genetic information in it. Is there such a thing as trisomy 22, since that's the smallest chromosome of all?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Good question! You're right, having an entire extra chromosome is usually not compatible with life. Trisomy 21 is the most common trisomy seen in liveborn children, but, in theory, there can be an extra copy of any chromosome. Some children have been born with trisomy 22, but most of these fetuses are miscarried very early on in pregnancy. Those babies that survive early pregnancy usually die before or shortly after birth because they have many problems.
Geoff Ruth, SF, CA
Is being a scientist stressful?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: I think any career will have its stressful moments, though I think overall being a scientist is more exhilarating and exciting than stressful. Certainly when a particular experiment isn't going well it can be stressful, but when things work and go well, it is tremendously rewarding and totally makes up it!
Drew Johnson, GA
Can you create DNA?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: I've never done it myself, but people can synthesize DNA in the lab using a machine that does the chemistry. You type the sequence you want, into a computer, and the machine goes to work. We can also "create" DNA by doing recombinant DNA experiments that start with existing DNA molecules, and cutting-and-pasting those molecules to rearrange and re-join parts that originated in different places within an organism, or even from different organisms.
MEMS Middle per 4

Information - Moderator Wow, we are getting some great questions from you. We are trying to answer as many questions as possible. If you don't see yours answered right away, please check back later today. Also, you might want to scan the chatroom to see if a question like yours has been answered already because we try to give priority to questions that haven't been covered. Thanks!

Is eugenics true?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question. It is true that there was a movement called eugenics, but the movement was based largely on assumptions about biology, specifically genetics, that were incorrect. Best - Joe McInerney
JFK MIddle School - New York
How many years did you have to go to school?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Hi Evan. I went to college for 4 years and majored in Biology. Then I obtained a PhD in science after 5 years of laboratory research. I am now a genetic counselor which required 2 years of training to obtain a Master's degree.
evan wentzell florida

Information - Moderator Joining us now are two new experts: Jen Sloan, a genetic counselor at the NIH Clinica Center, and Bola Odunlami, a researcher in the National Human Genome Research Institute's Social and Behavioral Research Branch.

If someone has Progeria do you know right when they're born or do you have to wait longer?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: In some cases there are some signs when the baby is born, such as certain skin changes. However, in the vast majority of cases, the children look completely normal (even with normal hair!) and it is only around 12 months of age that the disease is first noticed when the hair starts to fall out and the children stop growing normally.
I was recently diagnosed with lymphoma in my thyroid as a result of Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Is lymphoma genetic? Should I worry about my daughter?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There may be a genetic component to Hashimoto's thyroiditis, but the connection to lymphoma is not yet clearly understood.
Mrs. Forman, Maryland
Jeff Schloss: Can you tell us about some of the technology used in the genetics field?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Let's talk about DNA sequencing and microarrays. For many genetics experiments we need to know the exact sequence of nucleotides in a relatively long piece of DNA. For that, we use DNA sequencing, either in a procedure that a scientist does with small test tubes and an electrophoresis apparatus, or with a machine that automates the step. If we need to know a lot of short sequences, we can use gene "chips" that are about the size of a dime, packaged in a plastic cassette -- this is called a microarray.
Rebecca, Chicago
Why are parts of DNA labeled with letters and what do the letters stand for?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Dear Moriah: Thanks for your question. The letters stand for four of the major parts of the DNA molecule: A=adenine; T=thymine, C=cytosine and G=guanine. It's just easier for us to use the letters when we talk about DNA or work with models of the molecule. Best - Joe McInerney
Moriah MA
How do you define "success" as a scientist?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: There are many attributes of a successful scientist. Contributing to the scientific knowledge base through your research is usually the main measure of success for scientists, though the most successful scientists also are great teachers and mentors to the next generation of scientists and health professionals.
Rachel, nj
If hair is dead, how does it carry genetic information?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Good question. You phrased it carefully and that's the key. Hair "carries" genetic information, but that information is no longer being used. But it's still there, because we can recover it to identify the person the hair came from.
justine heritage, St. Paul's School for Girls
Would it be possible to genetically alter the genes of men to make them the perfect boyfriend or husband?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: I wish! Right now I don't think there is a way to genetically alter the genes of men to make them perfect. A "perfect" husband or boyfriend is somethiing subjective that will change from partner to partner. Thanks for your question. Bola
Virshayna Crooms AOIT
Can someone have more than the right amount of chromosomes?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Yes, a person can have more (or fewer) of the correct number of chromosomes. The correct number is 46. Down syndrome is an example of having an extra chromosome - chromosome 21. Other examples of conditions that have more than the right number of chromosomes include Klinefelter syndrome (47,xxy) and Trisomy 13 and Trisomy 18.
Nathan Newton MA
Is there anyway to slow down the aging for people who have progeria?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: Up to this point, there has been no way to slow down this process in progeria patients. It is hoped that an experimental drug trial in children with progeria using a class of drugs known as farnesyltransferase inhibitors or "FTIs" might offer some hope for these patients and slow this aging process. This trial is set to begin later this year.
Natasza from Newton
What do M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N stand for?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: MPH stands for Masters Degree in Public Health. CGC stands for Board Certified Genetic Counselor FAAN stands for Fellow of the American Academy of Nursing.
Gene Falk, CA.
Do you think that one day we will be able to have surgery or treatment that will allow us to remove genes that cause us to have diseases in the future?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Humans have about 25,000 genes and need all of these genes to develop and grow correctly. Genetic disorders or diseases with a genetic component are usually caused by mistakes in genes. Removing a gene or multiple genes would disrupt the function of cells and organs and not necessarily treat a genetic disease.
Cassandra Henkell from Swannanaoa North Carolina
Whats the best part about being a scientist?
     Brian Capell, M.D.: For me it is definitely the excitement of learning new things about biological processes that might in some way be able to help people with sickness and disease.
Dara Brown Midde School
If there is a disease that "runs in your family?" How increased is your chance of getting this disease? Pancreatic Cancer runs in my family. What are the increased chances of this type of cancer?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Adult onset diabetes runs in my family, which means that I have more than one close relative who has been diagnosed with that disease. Diabetes is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. I have a greater risk of developing diabetes than if I did not have a family history of diabetes, but we do not know a specific gene that causes diabetes so I cannot take a test to get my specific risk. Pancreatic cancer is similar. There are a couple of genes that are known to increase risk for pancreatic cancer, but they are not applicable for all families. The best approach to determine your own risk for developing pancreatic cancer is for you or your parents to talk to a genetic counselor. He or she will take your family history and determine if you are at increased risk and if there is a genetic test that would be appropriate for you to take.
Evan, Newton, MA
Do you believe in the theory of evolution?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question; I get this one a lot, and I'm answering it as an individual and not as a representative of NIH. I do not "believe" in the theory of evolution the way one "believes" in things that one takes as a matter of faith. I accept that evolution is a valid view of life on Earth because the evidence is overwhelming that all life on Earth is related by descent with modification from a common ancestor. Best -- Joe McInerney
What does DNA look like?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: We can't see single DNA molecules with our eyes. In a very high powered microscope it looks like a dark line against a light background, depending on how it's been prepared. When we purify DNA, it looks like a clear gel, and when it's dry it looks like a stringy white power. If you're asking what the structure is, it's usually described as looking like a ladder that's been twisted (double helix). The rungs are the nucleotide "bases" and the uprights are the sugar-phosphate backbone.
MEMS Middle per 3
Are all diseases based on DNA disorders or chromosomes from your parents or from another family member?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: All diseases have a genetic component. Some diseases are caused by an extra or missing chromosome that can occur spontaneously in a person and is not inherited from their parents. In some families, chromosome disorders are inherited from parents and other generations. Other genetic conditions such as single gene genetic disorders (cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia) are inherited from your parents, but may also run in a family.
ish newton mass
Do your genes control your ability to process information thoroughly?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Your genes are responsible for controlling most of your physiolgical functions. In addition to what your genes do, we also have to consider the environment and the things we are exposed to and the things we learn. We are still trying to understand how much of who we are is due to our genes and how much is due to our environment.
Lappi; Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY
What are the ethical,legal,and social implications of the human genome project?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: We are not aware of all the ethical, legal and social implications of the Human Genome Project. Some implications that we are aware of are: 1. discrimination 2. privacy 3. protection against stigma 4. decisions around genetic testing and counseling 5. making sure that individuals have access to accurate information on genetics As we learn more information from the Human Genome Project, we can determine other ethical, legal, and social issues and address them.
Maya Troeger Los Angeles CA
Why do we have sequences of amino acids similar to other animals?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: The genetic code is the same for all organisms. All organisms on Earth have the same nucleotides (A, C, T, G) composing their DNA. Therefore, the codons code for the same amino acids in all organisms.
Lappi; Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY
What type of bonds hold the two strands of DNA together?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Hydrogen bonds hold the strands together. These are considered to be relatively "weak" bonds. They can be broken by heating, so it's possible to "melt" double-stranded DNA literally by heating. You end up with two single-stranded DNA molecules.
Morgan Beverly Hills High
After all of your DNA studies, which point of the argument do you side with more - nature or nurture?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, Lillian. My view is that the nature/nurture debate is unhelpful. All traits are influenced by biology and the envirnoment. Sometimes the effect of genes is more pronounced, while at other times the effect of the enviroment is more significant - and the situation can change as the environment changes. Best - Joe McInerney
Lillian Lugo, Paterson, NJ
Does DNA copy itself? If it does, how many times a day?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: DNA does copy itself. The number of times it is copied depends on how often the cell needs to divide. Cell division is preceded by DNA replication.
erin, alara, and eleanor Spanish River High
What are oncogenes?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Oncogenes are genes that are involved in causing cancer.
Lappi; Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY
what happens during newborn screening? what is newborn screening?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Thanks for your question Colleen. Newborn screening involves collecting a blood sample from the heel of a baby around 24 hours of life. The sample is sent to a laboratory where the blood sample is tested. The purpose is to see if the baby has a genetic disorder, usually an inborn error of metabolism. In most states there are about 25-30 disorders that can be detected by newborn screening. You can visit this website for more information about what is tested in your state For most conditions on newborn screening there are treatments and early identification can prevent some medical complications.
Colleen im from L.a CALIFORNIA
What is the most harmful substance to DNA?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Hmm. Not sure about "most" harmful but radiation is very harmful. It can break the strands. Many cells can achieve some amount of repair, but if too many strands are broken the repair mechanisms will be overwhelmed. Radiation can also cause changes in the base sequence (mutations).
Dara Brown Middle School
Why don't I look like anybody in my family, when my brother is practically a photocopy of my mom?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: Siblings share 50% of thier genes. You get a copy of each gene from your mother and another from your father. The gene that gets expressed happens by chance. It is just by chance that your brother seems to have gotten a lot of genes expressed from your mother.
Chloe, Ma
Do some genetic diseases have a greater chance of being transmitted to a child? Is there a way of determining this?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Yes, some genetic diseases have a greater chance of being transmitted to a child. This depends on how the condition is inherited (autosomal recessive, autosomal dominant, X-linked). There is genetic testing available for some but not all genetic conditions. This can help to determine if a pregnancy or child is affected.
Karen, Newton, MA
How does temperature affect DNA structure?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Elevated temperatures will disrupt the bounds in the DNA and will cause it to denature (strand separation).
Lappi; Clarkstown North High School, New City, NY
Why is sickle cell anemia so important?
     Kate Reed, M.P.H., Sc.M.: Sickle cell anemia is important for a nubmer of reasons. First, sickle cell anemia is a serious disease that affects approximately 1 in 400 African-Americans as well as individuals of all ethnic backgrounds. It is caused by having mutations in both copies of the gene associated with sickle cell disease. Sickle cell anemia causes painful episodes because, under stress, blood cells take on a sickle shape and can get stuck in such a way that blood cannot flow correctly, which causes pain. Second, individuals who live in countries in which malaria is prevelent are less likely to be infected if they carry one copy of the mutation associated with malaria. This helps to explain why sickle cell disease is so common in the population; there is an advantage for having the mutation.
Donald Muepo,Los Angeles
Will cystic fibrosis ever disappear simply through evolution?
     Joe McInerney, M.S.: Thanks for your question, Gina. We cannot know what direction human evolution will take or in what environmental situations cystic fibrosis (CF) will be expressed in the distant future. Because CF is a recessive trait, however, many of the CF alleles in the population are in carriers and can continue to combine in affected individuals. In addition, mutation might continue to create new genetic variants that contribute to CF. Best - Joe McInerney
Gina Sofia, Texas
What do you think is the most bnefical part of your job?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: I enjoy working with scientists from other disciplines. I am trained as a social scientist and I explore the ethical and social implications of the Human Genome Project but I work with experts in the fields of psychology, public health, biology, chemistry and health communications.
Rachel Besser and Lauren Chieffo
Is there an obesity gene?
     Vivian Ota Wang, Ph.D.: Although there have been some genes identified that contribute to obesity, genes alone do not fully explain obesity because it is a complicated disease caused by a combination of several genetic, environmental and behavioral factors.
Jesus Rios LV

Information - Moderator We have another expert joining the chatroom. Please welcome Vivian Ota Wang, an expert in the ethical, legal and social implications of genetics research.

Why is the shape of the DNA ladder an actual ladder and not another shape?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Asking "why" something in Nature is the way it is, isn't really productive. (Why is there air?) But we can sometimes understand what are the implications of the way it is. The ladder structure of DNA gives the opportunity for one molecule to act as a template for the other. This is how DNA replicates (is copied).
nathan, bradford
Do you think alchoholism is genetic, if so how could it be treated?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Thanks for your question. People with alcoholism could have underlying psychiatric disease such as depression. We know that psychiatric diseases (depression, biopolar etc) have a genetic component. So it is possible to see many people with alcoholism in a family. We still have more research to do since there are likely many causes of alcoholism.
Michelle, Georgia, and Rachel: Pope H.S., GA
Will scientists be able to recreate genomes of ancient, extinct animals? How?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: That is a great question. Based on the sequences of modern day animals, scientists can get an idea of what the genomes of ancient organisms may have looked. Scientists have also beeen able to isolate DNA from ancient species like the wooly mammoth. The re-creation of a species would be quite difficult and we do not posses the techniques to do this, currently.
Alma Caso, Texas
IF cloning becomes possible in the future do you think that the world will accept or rejec it??
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: It is hard to determine if the world would accept cloning if it becomes possible. I hope we can address the social, ethical and legal implications when technology enables us to clone individuals. Information from research a on ELSI will help us assess the public's perception of cloning.
britt and montie
What progress has been made in genetic research on Cystic fibrosis ?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Since the discovery of the gene for cystic fibrosis by Dr. Francis Collins in 1989, research into cystic fibrosis has been extremely active. Efforts have concentrated on the genetic basis of the disease, and on possible treatments such as gene therapy.
Will it be possible to make genetically altered mosquitos to prevent malaria?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: This is currently being explored. Scientists have been reseaching the possibility of genetically modifying mosquitos that would no longer be able to be infected by the malaria parasite. Scientists are also genetically modifying male mosquitos that are sterile and no longer able to fertilize the female eggs.
Marisa Beck Chase Helschien

Information - Moderator Joning us now in the chatroom is Pnina Laric, who is an expert on scientific careers and training here at the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Can sunlight alter your DNA?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Yes! The UV rays in sunlight can alter your DNA and cause skin cancer. Always wear your sunblock!
Veronica i'm from Los Angeles, California
What is "bio"technology?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Some people consider biotechnology to be the use of biological organisms (bacteria or eukaryotic cells -- plants, animals and people are eukaryotes) to produce stuff, like drugs, proteins or other chemicals. Other people use a broader definition, that includes recombinant DNA, use of devices to run DNA and protein assays such as microarrays and DNA or protein sequencing, etc.
Alex Marton, Los Angeles CA
I'm looking forward to having a career in this field. Can you tell me what it's like to work with tiny DNA?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: It is great to work with something that is so small yet so cool! Understanding what our DNA does is one of the best jobs in the world. The field of genomics has many, many applications.
holla @ yo grl. spanish river.
What happens when someone has more or less than 46 chromosomes?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: It depends on whether it is an entire extra or missing chromosome or a piece of a chromosome. For example, having an extra chromosome number 13 or 18 is very serious causing severe neurologic, respiratory and other problems. And of course having an extra chromosome number 21 is Down syndrome. On the other hand having a missing X chromosome may cause mild learning issues, short stature and infertility.
Avi Brown Middle School
1 what is karyotyping? 2 how does it work?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Thanks for your question Shelby. Karyotyping is the medical term for looking at a person's chromosomes. Usually a blood sample is collected and sent to a laboratory that specializes in cytogenetics (study of chromosomes). The blood cells are grown in the laboratory, stained with a dye and looked at under the microscope. This allows the laboratory to count the number of chromosomes and look at their structure. Most humans have 46 chromosomes but extra or missing can cause a genetic disorder. For example, an extra chromosome 21 is one cause of Down syndrome.
shelby james los angeles ca
is skin cancer genetic?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: All diseases have a genetic component including skin caner. There are rare genetic disorders where people have problems repairing sun's damage to their DNA.
vernie, la
How do you suggest someone in middle school who's interested in science get started?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: At this point, stick with taking the science clases offered at your school, and plan to continue that track in high school. You might want to look into summer programs if that's of interest to you as well. But generally, use this time to learn about the specific areas in science you are interested in so that you can focus on those as you get older.
Naomi, Newton
How many nucleotides are in DNA?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: You've asked two different questions. There are 4 different bases in normal DNA, that are nucleosides whose names are abbreviated as A, C, G and T. In the human genome, there are about 3 billion bases if you go from the beginning to the end. But each of your cells has a copy of that from mom and another from dad, so each cell actually has 6 billion bases!
Would changing the DNA in food cause a problem or genetic change in the future generations of the consumer?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: We are not sure how genetic engineering of food affects humans. The more immediate concerns regarding genetically modified foods are related to its impact on the environment e.g will other crops get affected by it?
What was the first comercial genetically engineered product?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: It was the 'flava sava' tomato.
Marisa Beck Chase Helschien
Are there any summer programs my students could attend to get hands-on experience with Genomics/Biotechnology?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: The National Instiututes of Health offers a summer program for students. To find out more, visit the website for trainig opportunities ( In addition, the NIH also has many programs that it suports through its many extramural programs. You can visit the National Human Genome Research Institute's website ( to connect to some of the summer programs that our grantees support.
Mr. Emens, Crooms Academy, Sanford, FL
When was the NHGRI estalished?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The NHGRI was established as a center in 1989 to lead the NIH's role in the Human Genome Project. In 1997 it became an Institute.
Emerson CA
Is it possible to "turn on" genes in our chromosomes that are currrently not be expressed?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: Yes. This often happens when signaling molecules, such as hormones, or even medicines and drugs, tell the cell to turn a gene "on" that was previously "off".
Tyler Kimmel, PMWHS
When do you perform a genetic test?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There are a number of instances where a genetic test may be performed. These include carrier testing to see if a person carries a recessive gene such as for cystic fibrosis. Genetic testing is also used for diagnosis, for example, chromosome analysis for diagnosis of Down syndrome. Newborn screening is another example of genetic testing that is done to identify infants who have a genetic condition such as PKU that can be treated with dietary interventions. Prenatal screening and diagnosis are other examples of genetic testing. Increasingly, presymptomatic and predictive genetic testing is being used to help people know if they are at increased risk for developing a disease such as breast cancer.
Kari, LA
Where do you go to get a degree in Genetics.
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: There are many academic institutions that offer degrees in genetics. I got my PhD from the Department of Biology at University of California, San Diego. My research was focused on the molecular genetics of bacterials plasmids.
Max, Holy Family Catholic High School
How is linkage used to make gene maps?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Step one: cross two animals that have different and easily recognized phenotypes (characteristics). Record the phenotypes in all the offspring. Step two: do a DNA experiment that tracks which sets of DNA markers move together in the various offspring. Step three: correlate the DNA map with the phenotypes, and you'll be able to build a map that shows which phenotypes correspond to which chromosomal locations.
Muhammad Al Jafar, Lebanon
How do you get down syndrome if nobody in your family had it? Is it possible for a baby to get down syndrome if its mother goes on an airplane while pregnant?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Down syndrome is usually not inherited in families. Humans have 46 chromosomes and a person with Down syndrome most often has 47. The extra chromosome is chromosome 21. The extra chromosome is caused by random error when the egg cell is dividing called non-disjunction. The extra chromosome is present before the egg is fertilized so environmental exposures such as flying on an airplane are very unlikely to cause Down syndrome.
Hannah, Ma
How small is DNA?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Very small! Sorry, I couldn't help it... The diameter of a DNA molecule is about 2 nanometers. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter. A human hair is 100,000 nanometers across.
Julie, Newton
I'm currently in the biotech program at my school. How will this help me if I want to work with DNA as a possible future career?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: Studying biotechnology is a great way to prepare yourself for working with DNA! You can study DNA in many different capacities. For example, my master's degree is in biotechnology, and I have worked with DNA sequencing, microarray technology (a way to measure gene expression), and the business and legal aspects of DNA/genetics. Keep studying, you're doing great!
Calculator Man, Spanish River High School
Do you think genetics will lead to a longer life expectancy?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: The information we learn from the Human Genome Project will help us learn more about how our genes and environment interact and inform disease risks. We can hopefully utilize this information to create appropriate interventions and policies that leads to longer life and better quality of life.
Jill, MN
Is our DNA similar to an ant's DNA?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Chemically it's exactly the same. Of course the sequence is different, or we'd be walking around with antennae.
Avi Brown Middle School
do you enjoy your job? i am planning to become something like you because i admire you
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: I hope you become a scientist. We need more scientists with novel ideas. I really enjoy what I do and the people I work with.
vernie from los angeles
what are the most effective treatments for sickle cell anemia. Also, is DNA therapy an option to cure this anemia yet or will it be in the near future?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Treatment for sickle cell disease currently includes medicine for pain control, broad spectrum antibiotics, medications for high blood pressure, and emergency transfusions. Researchers are currently working with animal models such as the mouse on ways to impact this disease using genetic medicine.
colby presque isle maine (near canada)
Who are the winners of the HIgh school essay contest?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The winners of the ASHG DNA Day essay contest will be announced today at 2pm (EST)...stay tuned!
Sohale Sizar from Philadelphia
is there a gene for alcoholism and an addictive personality?
     Vivian Ota Wang, Ph.D.: Personality traits (like addictive personality) and alcoholism are caused by a combination of genetic, environmental, and behavioral factors. Genetic factors have been indirectly inferred in twin and adoption studies especially for addictive personality. Just keep in mind that knowing about the genes will only tell you one piece of the story.
lauren guntner, st pauls school for girls
where can i celebrate dna day!?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: DNA Day can be celebrated anywhere! Online, in a classroom, some even celebrate by making food that looks like DNA!
Conor, Maine
Do animals get the same diseases we can get or different diseases that we cant get?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Both. Some diseases in animals are very much the same, and that's why we're able to use animals to understand how the diseases "work" and possible ways to cure them. But animals may be subject to different infections, for example, than people are.
What are some of the complex diseases for which genes have been discovered?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: The most challenging diseases for researchers and medical doctors are complex diseases. These are the leading causes of death in our time, and include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, stroke. Specific genes have been discovered for all of these complex diseases.
Tara, North Carolina
How do you know what primer to use when you want to sequence?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: In the case of DNA sequencing, typically, the segment you want to sequence is placed within a vector. A vector is a carrier for the DNA that can be copied. The segment is placed within the region of the vector containing a sequence that is already known. The primers are constructed that allow the segment placed in the vector to be sequenced. The use of these vectors and their universal primers makes the process of sequencing more efficient.
Jessica, The Netherlands
Have you ever gotten bored looking at DNA?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: Well, if you consider that all DNA looks the same, sort of a white stringy substance, than sure, from afar it can seem boring. But in reality, DNA is one of the most exciting things out there! All DNA sequence holds the secret to life. DNA tells us what makes you different from me, and what makes us the same. It even tells us why some dogs are small and some dogs are big! (This was a recent discovery by an NHGRI researcher published in Science magazine earlier this month.)
What is the difference between human DNA and DNA of other animals? Does it look different? Does it still have the nitrogen bases, etc?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Chemically, they're identical, including the nitrogen bases. But the sequence is different, so that's what makes animals different from each other.
Karen, Newton
Is there a certain gene that causes cancer?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Thanks for your question Lisa. There is not one gene that causes cancer. Most cancers are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. There are about 25,000 genes in the human genome. Many of these genes are involved in the regulation of how cells grow. If these genes become altered in a cell, the cell growth can become unregulated and this can lead to cancer.
lisa HF
If DNA is extracted from a person's hair and you wanted to try to match it to a person would you need a sample of their DNA from their hair or from any part of their body?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: DNA from any part of your body would work.
lizzie, new jersey
Is being right-handed or left-handed inherited?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Left handedness runs in about 8% of families. An adoption study suggests a genetic rather than environmental influence.
Why would you volunteer to do this?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: I am happy to share my experiences with you and other students. There is so much that we need to learn about genetics and we hope to share information as we acquire it.
What do you think DNA would taste like?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: Chicken. Just kidding! I have no idea. What do you think it would taste like?
What is a phenotype?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: Phenotype is the physical representation or appearance of the genotype (the information encoded by your genes). For example, having brown eyes would be the phenotype of the gene/genes that code for brown eyes.
Libby, HFCHS, Victoria, MN
One student just asked about where to go if they want to study genetics... a listing of all the genetics grad school programs can be found here:
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Thanks for the information Kenna!
Kenna Shaw- Bethesda, MD
Is it true that a boy would get more traits from his father than mother?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Because boys get their Y chromosome from their mom and their X chrmomosome from their mother, they are getting DNA from both but different genes from each. It is hard to say how many more traits are on the Y chromosome versus the X chromosome it's hard to say if more traits are coming from their father versus their mother.
Youssef Newton Ma
The question that arose today is about so-called "Junk DNA". What is its purpose and how does it benefit a species from an evolutionary perspective? Do all organisms possess it?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: It seems that all organisms have "junk" DNA. Some have a LOT and others have much less. We're not completely sure what it does. But some scientists point out that "junk" isn't the same as garbage. Junk is what you keep in the attic, just in case you need it. We think that's what's going on with so-called junk DNA - that it acts as storage for pieces of genes that aren't being used, but could be used if it rearranged and new genes were formed that gave a selective advantage to those cells. Also, as we learn more about functions of DNA other than genes, we'll probably reduce the amount of DNA that's considered to be "junk." For example, there are replication signals and undoubtedly signals in DNA that specify how DNA is arranged within the nucleus (this appears to be non-random).
What are the better sources the general public can access if it wants to learn about genetic studies?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Since we come from the National Human Genome Research Institute, we recommend using the site as a reputable site to learn about genetic studies under the research section. Another especially important resource is the Genetic and Rare Disease (GARD) Information Center that is funded by NHGRI and the Office of Rare Diseases, NIH.
Serena Yee, St. Ignacious Prep
how is your day when you have to answer all these questions about DNA, do you get a lunch break?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: The day is quite fun answering all of these great questions. Keep them coming! And yes, we get a lunch break, we have enough experts answering questions for everyone to take a breather now and then!
Jade Navato HPMS
What are the other ways of testing for a genetic diseases other than karyotpying? Which way is most accurate?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Other ways of testing for a genetic disease include: DNA analysis for a specific genetic condition such as cystic fibrosis and metabolic genetic testinga used in newborn screening. The type of genetic testing used depends on the indication. For example, karyotyping is used when a chromosomal condition such as Down syndrome is suspected.
Katie Krueger, St. Ignacious Prep
What courses of study should my students take when in college and graduate school to prepare for going into a field of DNA studies?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: Hi Mr. Patricks It's a good idea for students to have a broad level of education background in studying genetics. Classes like biology, genetics, and chemistry are basics, but students might also want to explore classes related to computer science, biochemistry, physics, and even public health. All are important pieces of the field in genetics and can help students learn where their interests lie.
Mr. Patricks - Las Vegas Nevada - Hyde Park MS
How many years does it take you to become a scientist?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: You are a scientist right now! Anyone who likes to examine the world around them and ask questions about why things are the way they are is a scientist. Often, if you want to study a particular area of science in detail, like genetics and DNA, more study is required. (You want to know as much as possible about the subject, right?) This can be formal study (college, graduate and Ph.D programs), individual study (learning on your own from books or the internet), or practical study (working in a laboratory). Learning is a lifelong process!
Paola from Texas
What are the major steps involved in DNA replication?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: In order to replicate DNA, the DNA double helix must be unwound and then DNA strands are copied resulting in exact copies of the DNA.
katie, nj
Can you talk about the interaction between genetic counselors, researchers, other genetics professionals, and the general medical community?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Good question. I think what you are asking is how the genetics community interacts with the general medical community. Genetic specialists help to educate other physicians about genetics by giving talks and publishing papers. I think this is important because genetic testing will be more common in clinical practice. There is an organization called NCHPEG whose goal it is to help with educating the medical community about genetics
D. Wilkin, Los Angeles
Does DNA still function after someone dies?
     Jeff Schloss, Ph.D.: Immediately after someone dies, many of the functions in their cells continue for a little while. Soon they'll run out of oxygen and nutrients and the enzymes, etc. will stop working. The DNA itself remains "functional" to the extent that, if you purified it out of the cells, it could still be used as a substrate for DNA polymerases (such as for PCR).
Allie Hyde
What made you decide to have the career you do?
     Adebola Odunlami, M.P.H.: While in college I got a chance to work in South Africa evaluating support programs for women who are affected by HIV/AIDS. This experience led to my interest in public health research. I went on to pursue a Master in Public Health and concentrated on social determinants of health. I learned about the Human Genome Project(HGP) during my graduate studies and decided to work at NHGRI to build on my knowledge on social determinants of health and conduct research on the ethical, social, legal implications of HGP. From my work at NHGRI,I am now interested in pursuing a doctoral degree in health communications.
terry, palo alto
Is it possible to have a trait your parents don't have?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: Yes, it is. Eye color is a good example. If your parents each have brown eyes, it is possible for you to have blue eyes. This is because your parents each have a recessive gene for blue eyes that they each passed on to you.
can DNA be seen under a microscope?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: The DNA molecule cannot be seen under a light microscope, but it can be seen with a powerful electron microscope.
MEMS Middle per 3
Is it possible to cure nurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There is currently no cure for a neurodegenerative disease like Alzheimer's. We are able to treat the symptoms to slow the progression of the disease. Research is continuing in search of a cure.
Pinaki Basu
When did DNA day begin?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: DNA Day began in 2003 as a celebration to the completion of the Human Genome Project and the anniversary of the description of the double helix in 1953. This is the 5th DNA Day and definitely the best one by far!
Humphrey-Jordan MS
What role does DNA play in any mental illness, such as being bipolar, or having schizophrenia?
     Vivian Ota Wang, Ph.D.: Mental illnesses are complicated and are the result of a combination of several genes and environmental and behavioral factors. Some researchers have been able to identify that the combination of some genes, gene products (e.g., biochemical markers, environmental factors and behaviors (e.g., parenting styles) are associated with some mental illnesses like bipolar and schizophrenia. Just remember that knowing about one piece of information such as the DNA does not fully answer the complete picture.
Diana from Texas
Do simple organisms like worms have DNA similar to people?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: Yes, the worm, known by its Latin name C. elegans in biology, is one of the model organisms we use to study human DNA. In fact, of the 5000 best known human genes, 75% are very similar (have close analogues) to worm genes.
Libby, HFCHS, Victoria, MN
Do your genes define your personality?
     Vivian Ota Wang, Ph.D.: Genes alone do not define your personality. Personality traits are a combination of several genes and environmental and behavioral factors.
Ana and Michelle from Texas
What does it take to become a forensic scientist- especially one who works in the field?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: A strong background in science and good communication skills would be recommended. There are many programs around the country that train individuals in the techniques utilized in forensic inverstigation. In addition, there are many different specialties in forensics and knowing what you are interested in help dictate the additional of skills you will need .
Morgan Springer, St. Paul's School for Girls
Is it possible to genetically alter a fetus to have a certain hair color, eye color, height, weight, etc.?
     Jennifer Sloan, M.S., Ph.D., C.G.C.: Thanks for your question Nate. At this time it is not possible to genetically alter a fetus to have certain traits such as blue eyes. It is interesting to think about why someone would want to do this and the implications for society. Traits such as eye color, hair color, height and weight make our society diverse.
Nate Glover
Is any research being done with IRNA and Huntington's Disease?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: In 2005, an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science reported that researchers used the mouse model for Huntington Disease and were able to use the RNAi for therapy. The mice who were treated had improved behavior. This treatment has not yet been tried in humans.
Dorothy Schuler
I have a genetic skin disorder called Recessive Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. Have you ever heard of this disorder and can you tell me anything about the genetics of the disease, such as current research of gene theraoy, what chromosome is affetced, etc?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: There are three types of Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa. Two forms are recessive and one autosomal dominant in inheritance. I suggest that you seek out genetic counseling with a genetic counselor, nurse and medical geneticist to help answer your questions. You may also want to check the Dystrophic Epidermolysis Bullosa Research Association of America
Megan, Coral Springs High
About how many letters are there in a human genome (all 46 chromosomes)?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: There are 3.2 billion base pairs in the human genome.
Alex Ehrlich, Crawfordsville, Indiana

Information - Moderator Some students are asking that their question be answered. We are doing the best we can to answer all of your questions as fast as we can, so if you don't see your's answered by the time you class is over, check back later in the day.

How many questions do you answer in a year? Do you ever get tired of answering the same question over and over again?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: This is the one day that we get the chance to answer questions like this. Usually we're able to answer about 700-800 questions in a day (which is roughly one question per minute!). The chatroom is great fun, and we encourage creative and thoughtful questions, as we can't quite get to all of them. Keep sending your questions!
Taylor Voges Las Vegas ,NV
What shape is DNA?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: DNA is a double helix. Think of DNA like a twisted ladder. The two beams, or the long pieces on the sides of the ladder, are twisted around each other. (These correspond to the phosphate-group backbones in DNA.) The steps of the ladder (or the four DNA base pairs- A paired with T, and G paired with C) are the steps of the ladder that hold the two beams together.
Luke oczkowski, St Joes High School

Information - Moderator Barbara Fuller, J.D., is now in the room and would love to have questions related to the ethics, social and legal implications of genetic research.

Information - Moderator Gary Temple, M.D., one of our senior reseachers, is now online and taking your clinical questions.

Can you change your physical fitness?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: This is good example of where the environment plays a more dominant role than your genetics.
David Nunn, Bristol TN
Why can't RNA undergo self replication?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Actually, some RNAs can replicate. RNA viruses can replicate the RNA that is their genetic material.
Surabhi Pitale, SMV Centre for Biotechnology, India
Is handwriting genetic?
     Vivian Ota Wang, Ph.D.: Handwriting is a complicated behavior that is the result of a combination of genes, environmental and behaviors factors such as a person being able to coordinate their muscles and dexterity of their fingers, vision, and practice to list a few. Knowing the genetic piece only tells you only a part of puzzle.
Terry, Palo Alto
Are there treatments for Cri-du-chat syndrome? What is the life expectancy?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: No specific treatment is available for this syndrome. Children born with this genetic condition will most likely require ongoing support from a team made up of the parents, therapists, and medical and educational professionals to help the child achieve his or her maximum potential. With early and consistent educational intervention, as well as physical and language therapy, children with cri du chat syndrome are capable of reaching their fullest potential and can lead full and meaningful lives.
Caroline, Cape Elizabeth Maine
What are the factors that determine an allele to be dominant or recessive?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: Whether an allele is dominant or recessive can be determined by many factors, including factors related to a gene's expression and transcription and its translation. In addition, the ability of a protein to be expressed may be dependent on other physiological factors.
Rohan Thaware, SMV Centre for Biotechnology, Nagpur India
Can dialysis alter genetic information?
     Dale Lea, R.N., M.P.H., C.G.C., F.A.A.N.: No, dialysis does not alter a person's genetic information.
Maria (Texas)

Information - Moderator Mary Schueler, Ph.D. from the Genome Technology Branch is entering the chat room to answer basic science questions.

How long is the average human DNA strand?
     Carla Easter, Ph.D.: If we were to isolate all the DNA from one of your cells, it woudl stretch six feet.
josh from holy family catholic high school
Can you discuss the importance of learning biology and genetics in high school?
     Pnina Laric, M.S.: Sure. Think of it this way: biology and genetics continue to shape our world more and more every day. Even people who have never studied biology and genetics have heard of words like 'genes' and 'genetics' and 'DNA'. So if someone studies biology and genetics in high school, they will be more informed about the world around them, and they will understand many of the new and exciting discoveries being made every day that directly affect our lives.
D. Wilkin, Los Angeles
Do you have to take any special classes to have the job that you have? How long did you have to go to school for this particular job?
     Sarah Harding, M.P.H.: That's a great question. I work in the education branch here at NHGRI and went on after college to get a master's degree in Public Health Genetics. Many of my colleagues have their Ph.D.s in various topics, others have their law degrees or medical degrees, depending on what their interests are.
AudryeRose Gilbert HPMS

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Posted: April 25, 2007