Saturday, July 12, 2014

Four articles about genes

Article: Genetic link to autism found, known as CHD8 mutation

The mutation is found in 15 of 6,176 children with autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, there are some physical (facial) abnormalities. Obviously, this is a very minor cause of autism spectrum disorder.

On the other hand, it may point to other mutations that may cause other variations in the disorder.

Article: Chimp intelligence 'runs in families,' environment less important
The role of genes in human intelligence or IQ has been studied for years, but Hopkins' study is among the first to address heritability in cognitive abilities in nonhuman primates. Studies have shown that human intelligence is inherited through genes, but social and environmental factors, such as formal education and socioeconomic status, also play a role and are somewhat confounded with genetic factors. Chimpanzees, which are highly intelligent and genetically similar to humans, do not have these additional socio-cultural influences.
Take home thought: humans have more "plasticity" that chimpanzees. Our larger, and more highly developed, brains allow for more learned behavior, more "space" for nurture to influence development.

This is only reasonable. If you believe in evolution, and let your eyes sweep across the vast array of behaviors in the animal kingdom, you would realize that most behaviors among animals are "hard-wired." That is, animals do what they do because they are programmed by genetics to it.

Birds may learn the songs of their species, but only within tight boundaries. It is the difference between speaking or writing haiku and the vast expanse of actual human communication.

It is difference between birdsong and human songs and singing.

Article: How coffee protects against Parkinson's
A specific genetic variation discovered by researchers protects against Parkinson’s Disease – especially for those who drink a lot of coffee. Neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's have a complicated background where both genetic factors and exposure to environmental factors are involved.
Coffee, is there anything it cannot do?

Article: Size of the human genome reduced to 19,000 genes
How nutrients are metabolised and how neurons communicate in the brain are just some of the messages coded by the 3 billion letters that make up the human genome.

"No one could have imagined a few years ago that such a small number of genes could make something so complex."

"The physiological and developmental differences between primates are likely to be caused by gene regulation rather than by differences in the basic functions of the proteins in question."

For the most part, each gene produces a protein. Most of the proteins are enzymes, catalysts involved in metabolism. The research found about 12,000 different proteins made by the human genome. The article did not say anything about the remaining 7000 genes; they may be the regulatory genes.

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