Archive for the ‘DNA’ Tag
That is the wisdom of nature, reflecting outside what is created within. We are spirit, have a soul and live in a body. It is in our spirit that we have meaning and purpose in life. At the deepest level, our spirit gives us meaning and purpose and our spirit enables us to love one another, our self and God. It is through our spirit that we have communion and fellowship with God. Our spirit gives us intuition between right and wrong.
Our spiritual health will have a significant impact on our emotional health which will have a major influence on our physical health. The inter-connection between the spirit, the soul and the body is certainly a complex connection; nevertheless, the connection is very real. We pray that God may prosper in all things and be in health, just as our soul prospers. This is an indication of the importance of attending to matters of the soul as it relates to being healthy.
Our soul is what gives us our personality and it is through our soul that we live out our relationship with God, with other people and with our self. Our soul has three major components—mind, will and emotions. Our mind has a conscious part and a subconscious part. The conscious mind is where we do our thinking and reasoning. The sub-conscious mind is where we hold our deep beliefs and our attitudes. It is also where we have our feeling, our emotions and retain our memories. Our will is what gives us the ability to make choices. Through a very complex way, our mind, our will and our emotions are connected to the body through our endocrine, nervous and immune systems. The mind and body communicate constantly. What the mind thinks, perceives, and experiences is sent from our brain to the rest of the body.
It is by our body that we function. It is comprised of organs and cells which consist of protein carbohydrates and fats. Our body contains our nervous system with nerves and the brain. It is through our bodies that we connect to the physical world with our five senses. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. The human body is unique, the most complex organism in the world, and that complexity and uniqueness speak volumes about the mind of its Creator. Every aspect of the body, down to the tiniest microscopic cell, reveals that it is fearfully and wonderfully made.
The human brain is also an amazing organ. It has the ability to learn, reason, and control so many automatic functions of the body such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and to maintain balance to walk, run, stand, sit, all while concentrating on something else. Computers can outdo the human brain in raw calculating power, but are primitive when it comes to performing most reasoning tasks. The brain also has an amazing ability to adapt. When people put on glasses that make the world seem upside down, their brains quickly reinterpret the information they are being given to perceive the world as “right-side-up.” When people are blindfolded for long periods of time, the “vision center” of the brain soon begins to be used for other functions. When people move to a house near a railroad, soon the sound of the trains is filtered out by their brains, and they lose conscious thought of them.
When it comes to miniaturization, the human body is also a marvel. For instance, information needed for the replication of an entire human body, with every detail covered, is stored in the double-helix DNA strand found in the nucleus of each of the billions of cells in the human body. A system of information and control is represented by our nervous system, so compact in comparison to man’s clumsy inventions of wires and optical cables. Each cell, once called a “simple” cell, as small as it is, is a tiny factory that is not yet fully understood by man. As microscopes become more and more powerful, able to magnify smaller and smaller fields, the infinite vistas of the human cell begin to come into focus.
Consider the single fertilized cell of a newly conceived human life. From that one cell within the womb of mother, develop all of the different kinds of tissues, organs, and systems, and they all work together at just the right time—amazing! An example is the hole in the septum between the two ventricles in the heart of the newborn infant that closes up at just the right time to allow for the oxygenation of the blood from the lungs which is not used in the womb.
Further, the body’s immune system is able to fight off so many enemies and restore itself, from the smallest repair; even down to repairing bad portions of DNA, to the largest repair; mending of bones and recovery from major accidents. There are diseases that will eventually overcome the body as we age because of man’s fall into sin and the resulting curse, but we have no idea exactly how many times our immune system has saved us from death that would surely have occurred without it.
The functions of the human body are also incredible. The contrast of being able to handle large, heavy objects and yet to be able to carefully manipulate a delicate object without breaking it is also amazing. We can shoot a bow and arrow, repeatedly hitting a distant target, peck away quickly at a computer keyboard without thinking about the keys, crawl, walk, run, twirl around, climb, swim, do somersaults and flips, and perform “simple” tasks such as unscrewing a light bulb, brushing our teeth, and lacing up our shoes, again without thinking. Indeed, these are “simple” things, but man has yet to design and program a robot that is able to perform such a vast range of tasks and motions.
The function of the digestive tract, the liver and other major organs, the longevity of the heart, the formation and function of nerves and of blood vessels, the function of the lymphatic system, the cleansing of the blood through the kidneys, the ability of the reproductive system to create cells able to mate up with another cell from the opposite gender and produce a cell with twice as many chromosomes, the complexity of the inner and middle ear, the sense of taste and smell, and so many other things we barely understand—each one is a marvel and beyond man’s ability to duplicate fully.
Truly, we are fearfully and wonderfully made. How grateful we are to know God created man in His own image.
Each day is a journey, and the journey itself is home. What does family mean? Is it the people whose genes you share? Is it the people that you grew up with? Is it the people who love you unconditionally in spite of your faults and flaws? Family for me has been an evolving idea. We need a sense of belonging somewhere. So often we get tied up in believing that one day we will find that magical person or place that will give us a sense of belonging.
There is no “arriving” because every day is a new adventure, and each moment brings its own tiny revelations of what family, home, and belonging mean. We don’t get to choose what family we’re born into, but we do get to choose how we see each situation. I’ve only just begun to learn that life itself is home. Every person we meet, every place we go, every encounter we have holds a lesson, a piece of the puzzle—a piece of ourselves—that shapes and reflects who we are.
We don’t always get to pick who and what we encounter, but we can decide how it will affect our lives. When we stop expecting our lives to be a certain way, we find that there is nothing missing, even when it seems as though we’ve missed out on what so many others have had. Our lives are as complete as we want to see them.
I am finding that home is not the idea I originally held. It is in the people I grew up with. It is in the people whose DNA I carry. It is in each person who has loved me and every person I have loved. It is in every place that has taken my breath away.
Home is in each moment I’ve remembered to be grateful for every step of my journey.
You may think you know yourself like the back of your hand, but unless you’ve been DNA tested, there’s probably a lot you don’t know about yourself. Within each of the 50 trillion cells in your body rests the microscopic DNA that programs your entire being; your hair color, your height, your freckles or lack thereof, your likelihood of developing cancer and whether or not you can taste cilantro. Nevertheless, few people in their lifetime have actually unlocked this information via DNA mapping. For starters, it used to be quite expensive. Some might not even realize they have access to this information, while others simply might want to know what their DNA has in store for them as life unfolds.
Crushing these barriers is Anne Wojcicki’s 23andMe, a $99 DNA testing kit that requires just a few milliliters of spit. That’s it, no blood tests or pesky skin pricks. Eight weeks after mailing the kit back, you’ll receive a full genetic report that outlines your health risks and ancestry. During those two months, the scientists in 23andMe’s lab extract DNA from the cells in your spit and amplify the DNA so they have enough to work with. From there, the DNA is genotyped, yielding your unique report of what makes you, you. To get the full picture of their ancestry, though, women need to have their father or brother take the test; while everyone has mitochondrial DNA, paternal DNA is passed along through the Y chromosome, which women don’t have.
Thus far, more than 200,000 users have been genotyped via 23andMe, and 90% of those have opted to participate in the company’s research efforts. Each survey question counts as a data point, and to date, 23andMe has collected more than 100 million data points, with 2 million more coming each week. The company’s in-house research has studied life-threatening sarcomas, Parkinson’s disease and diabetes, as well as lighter topics; unibrows and why Shar-Pei dogs are so wrinkly.
With an eye toward revolutionizing health care, the company raised 50 million dollars last year to drop the price of the kits from $999 to $99 and dramatically grow its database. In her blog post about the price drop, Wojcicki writes, "This change is not just about a new price point for personal genetic testing. It is about an ambitious plan that could transform medicine for generations to come."
Would you do the test, if it revealed that you have an increased risk for Parkinson’s disease or lung cancer? People have strong opinions either way, but knowledge is power. It is very holistic to empower people with their genetic information. You, the individual, don’t have a voice in the system. You’re talked about as a human subject, with no agency in the health care system. You’re simply told what you’re going to get, and it’s often dictated by your insurance company.
The industry is filled with really, really good people who want to make a difference in health care, but the system is set up in such a way that we really don’t have optimal health care. Take Type 2 Diabetes, for example. It’s a preventable disease, but no one makes money until you actually develop diabetes and need to buy insulin and testing strips. The system is set up so they make tons of money once you’re diabetic, but if you don’t develop diabetes, no one makes money. This is a fundamental flaw in the system.
Because your genotype outlines your risks for developing various diseases and disorders, health care could one day focus on prevention. Patients would rather prevent a disease than treat it effectively, but in today’s system, doctors are taught how to treat various conditions, not prevent them altogether. Public should be empowered with their genetic information. It is really important information about your health, really fascinating information about your ancestry, and the aggregate data of having millions and millions of people together will create this incredibly powerful database that’s going to filter back to you and give you more information about you and make you healthier.
Interestingly, health care reform has piqued insurance companies’ interest in prevention, because understanding your genetics could keep you healthier and prevent complications and costly side effects. But while insurance companies may want this information, it is firmly protected by federal law, and that the information in essence, your identity, should be controlled by the individual at this point in time.
Though 23andMe has been around since 2006, its growth and database have skyrocketed since the $99 price point was introduced. With more people in the database, the company can provide a fuller user experience and tell you more about what your genes mean. What company is really focused on is growth right now. As the customer base grows, so too do the volume of emotional stories. 23andMe saved many lives and having your genetic information will revolutionize things for you.
Wojcicki has a degree in biology from Yale, her father is a particle physicist, and she grew up on Stanford’s campus, going to particle physics meetings and listening to people who want to challenge Einstein’s theories. The particle physicist community is a really fabulous community, and they’re really about the pursuit of science for the sake of science and pursuit of truth. It’s not a commercial entity, and I have a huge respect for them because they’re really passionate about what they do.
The Molecular Biology of Intelligence:
There have been several examples where one specific gene has been linked to loss of function or disease. Sickle Cell Anemia, Hemophilia, and Phenylketonuria are examples of a mutation in a single gene causing loss of function of a protein that leads to disease. However, intelligence is not dimorphic, there is a broad range of intelligence and there are several genes that govern general intelligence. These multiple-gene systems are often referred to as quantitative trait loci, which can, contribute interchangeably and additively like probabilistic risk factors.
Historically, genetics has utilized mutants to identify the location and function of genes. Due to the slow reproductive rates of humans and obvious ethical issues, it is much harder to identify, isolate, and study human mutations. One of the few chances scientists had to look at gene mutations affecting intelligence was in the case of Pakistani families isolated in Yorkshire. For social reasons, the Pakistani families interbred and as a result the homozygosity of the group increased. This means that there were more cases of two recessive mutated alleles occurring that were once covered up by a dominant wild type allele. As a result, there was a very high proportion of the group that had microcephaly compared to the rest of the population. Microcephaly is a condition which leaves the patient with an abnormally small head and brain. The physical size of specific regions of the brain can have tremendous effects on an individual’s general intelligence. One gene that was linked to the smaller brain size in the microcephaly patients was named microcephalin. This gene was determined to be active only during the fetal stages of development.
Another gene linked to smaller brain size is found in nearly all members of the animal kingdom. The Asp gene is responsible for forming spindle fibers during cell division. The spindle fibers act to separate homologous pairs of chromosomes so that there will be genetic material for both of the daughter cells. In the Pakistani patients that had microcephaly, half of them had two defective copies of the Asp gene. When both copies of the Asp gene are defective, spindle formation and chromosome separation are substantially slowed. This results in much slower growth of the brain, a smaller brain, and therefore a much lower general intelligence.
In addition to the rare opportunity to study field mutation in Yorkshire, quantitative trait loci studies have isolated insulin-like growth factor-2 receptor (IGF2R) as a gene on chromosome 6 which is linked to intelligence because it has, been shown to be especially active in brain regions most involved in learning and memory. Of the two alleles that are possible, it was found that a group of children with high intelligence quotient had twice the frequency of one allele as compared to the group of children with low intelligence quotient. More studies are needed to show the direct role that this gene plays in determining intelligence, but it is important to note that genes determining intelligence do exist and can be passed on to offspring.
Biological engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US have discovered that the gene that causes Huntington’s disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, damages brain cell function by upsetting the on-off switching patterns of other genes. This detection will lead to ways of reinstating normal gene expression that can be used in treatments to slow or stop the evolution of the disease in early stages. The earliest phases of Huntington’s is most interesting, because that’s when there is large anticipation that one could either slow down or stop progression of the disease, and allow people to live healthy lives much longer. By the time there is much more severe neurodegeneration, it’s improbable that one would be able to turn round the damage.
Huntington’s disease is a deadly neurodegenerative disorder. It is a genetic disease that characteristically hits in midlife and causes progressive death of specific areas of the brain. Most of the injury is to the basal ganglia, a part of the brain that is responsible for many functions, including intentional control of muscles and habit configuration. The gene for Huntington’s disease, which was discovered about 20 years ago, codes for a mutant protein called “huntingtin” that collects in cells. The mutant gene contains many extra repeats of DNA sequences, but until this study, how such extra length produces the symptoms of Huntington’s was a complete mystery.
DNA carries directions for making proteins that do the work of creating and controlling cells. A process called transcription uses a special group of proteins to “read” the directives in the DNA. But a transcription protein can’t read a DNA instruction if the matching section of DNA is blocked. This is how genes can be “switched on and off,” forming complex pattern of gene expression that makes certain the correct instruction is transcribed at the right time for a healthy organism to grow and live. One way of blocking access to genes is to attach methyl groups to the related sections of DNA. There are genes that do this as a method to control when other genes are switched on and off.
Recently scientists comprehended that DNA methylation patterns aren’t fixed during embryonic development, but can change during an adult’s lifetime. In fact, it is an active process involved in a wide range of normal cell behavior.
Fraenkel and colleagues measured changes in DNA methylation patterns in cells from the brains of mouse embryos with early stage Huntington’s disease. The cells were from the striatum, which is the largest part of the basal ganglia. The striatum is the center for planning of movement and is severely affected by Huntington’s disease. The researchers found cells with normal forms of huntingtin protein had a different methylation pattern to cells with mutant forms. Some extended part of DNA had lost methylation, while others had gained it. They noted that most of the sites involved were in regions of the genome that control the switching on and off of neighbouring genes responsible for the growth and survival of brain cells. It seems like the mutant form of huntingtin exclusively targets genes involved in brain function disruption in those genes that explain the brain-wasting symptoms characteristic of Huntington’s disease, including early changes in cognition.
Noticing the differences in methylation patterns, the team identified many of the proteins that would bind to the sites involved, including Sox2, and other genes known to control genes involved in brain cell growth and behavior. The question is how the changes to methylation actually produce the disease symptoms. These findings points to new treatment targets. One could imagine that if one can figure out, in mechanistic detail, what is causing these changes in methylation, one might be able to block this process and restore normal levels of transcription early on in the patients. Team is also finding out whether patterns of methylation change as the disease progresses.
In November 2012, researchers at the University of Montreal identified and “switched off” a chemical chain that caused neurodegenerative diseases such as Huntington’s disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and dementia.
One of my favorite adults to spend time with as a child was my grandfather. I followed him downhill to the barn, across the pasture, into the garden, inside the chicken house. He talked and I listened. One of the life lessons I learned from him is that even if you live to be 110, its brief. What kind of footprints do I want to leave here on this Earth?
Those who are critically ill or terminally ill teach us so much about life and death. The trick is whether or not we want to listen. We must train ourselves to ‘be present’ to them, really hear them, and honor the wisdom their suffering is teaching us. We can become so caught up in our day-to-day survival modes that we miss golden opportunities to make a difference to someone else in our path. When we stop and make the time to be still and listen to our heart, our spirit, speak to us in meditation as we seek to hear The Spirit, we find we are more aware of our purpose in being here.
It’s not all about our accumulations, for the dying teach us that we take none of them with us. It’s not about how big our house is, but did we care for the homeless? It’s not about how expensive the restaurant is where we make reservations, but do we care about those who are hungry? It’s not about how perfect our lawn looks, but did we play ball with the children and grandchildren and make memories for them out there? It’s not about how toned and beautiful our bodies look, but have we compassion for those in the nursing homes, now weak and fragile, or those in pain as broken bones mend, or those weaker from disease?
The only thing we take with us, if you will, is the Love woven into the DNA of our souls of how we have treated one another. Have we been strong enough to forgive those who wounded us and too, to forgive ourselves for holding onto that memory or for wounding another? Shall we remember the healing comes in forgiving and releasing and moving forward? The hope is that we do not strive to be remembered for all we donated in dollars to a well-deserved recipient and a bronze plaque in our honor nailed to a wall. But let us be remembered for how we have unselfishly, quietly, humbly, served one another and our precious Earth.
Let us be very bold and live our authentic lives fearlessly! Don’t try to be someone else. Be You!! Let’s not wait thinking that someday we will be better. Choose to remember how precious and dear each day’s gift to you is. Embrace your God-given talents and your dreams and live sharing your gifts with all around you!
Who will marvel at your golden footprints when you are gone? Who?
How yeast cells reverse aging? The gene Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists found can double yeast lifespan when turned on late in life. Human cells have a finite lifespan. They can divide only a certain number of times before they die. However, that lifespan is reset when reproductive cells are formed, which is why the children of a 20-year-old man have the same life expectancy as those of an 80-year-old man. How that resetting occurs in human cells is not known, but Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists have now found a gene that appears to control this process in yeast. Furthermore, by turning on that gene in aged yeast cells, Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists were able to double their usual lifespan.
If the human cell lifespan is controlled in a similar way, it could offer a new approach to rejuvenating human cells or creating pluripotent stem cells, says Angelika Amon, professor of biology and senior author of a paper describing the work in the June 24 issue of the journal Science. If Massachusetts Institute of Technology biologists can identify which genes reverse aging, they can start engineering ways to express them in normal cells,” says Amon, who is also a member of the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Lead author of the paper is Koch Institute postdoc Elçin Ünal.
Scientists already know that aged yeast cells look different from younger cells. Yeast has a normal lifespan of about 30 cell divisions. Those age-related changes include accumulation of extra pieces of DNA, clumping of cellular proteins and abnormal structures of the nucleolus; a cluster of proteins and nucleic acids found in the cell nucleus that produce all other proteins in the cell. However, scientists aren’t sure which of these physical markers are actually important to the aging process. Nobody really knows what aging is. It is known all these things happen, but scientists don’t know what will eventually kill a cell or make it sick.
When yeast cells reproduce, they undergo a special type of cell division called meiosis, which produces spores. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology team found that the signs of cellular aging disappear at the very end of meiosis. There is a true rejuvenation going on. The researchers discovered that a gene called NDT80 is activated at the same time that the rejuvenation occurs. When scientists turned on this gene in aged cells that were not reproducing, the cells lived twice as long as normal. They took an old cell and made it young again. In aged cells with activated NDT80, the nucleolar damage was the only age-related change that disappeared. This suggests that nucleolar changes are the primary force behind the aging process.
The next challenge, says Daniel Gottschling, a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, will be to figure out the cellular mechanisms driving those changes. Something is going on that we don’t know about,” says Gottschling, who was not involved in this research. “It opens up some new biology, in terms of how lifespan is being reset.”
The protein produced by the NDT80 gene is a transcription factor, meaning that it activates other genes. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers are now looking for the genes targeted by NDT80, which likely carry out the rejuvenation process. Amon and her colleagues are also planning to study NDT80’s effects in the worm C. elegans, and will also investigate the effects of the analogous gene in mice, p63. Humans also have the p63 gene, a close relative of the cancer-protective gene p53 found in the cells that make sperm and eggs.