Cracking the Code of Life Reflection

DNA, (deoxyribonucleic acid) is a double-helix shaped molecule that contains information about a person’s genetic information (hair color, height, skin tone, etc.) Knowing a person’s DNA genome sequence would be a breakthrough in science, in fact, this is what the documentary, Cracking the Code of Life was about.

11622986115_182e7f9e2e_b.jpg

The movie covered two main groups that were involved in researching genetic codes, both racing to be the first to decode a full human genome. One of the groups, The Human Genome Project, was funded by the government and was devoted to decoding nitrogenous base pairs in order to provide information for genetic testing. The opposing group, Celera, is a private research company that also shared the motivation to decode a full human genome, but intended on selling the researched information for a profit.

The rigorous competition resulted in  quicker progress among both companies. Craig Venter, the face behind Celera, was able to find a much more efficient way of decoding genes than the techniques used in the Human Genome Project. Geneticists from the Human Genome Project used a technique called Gene mapping, where the geneticists would manually identify and write each nitrogenous base by hand, which was a very monotonous and time consuming process. On the other hand, Craig Venter was able to contact a company that created a machine that virtually decoded the genes. In response, the Human Genome Project decided to use more advanced technology to speed up their decoding process as well. I do not want to give away which company was able to finish decoding a full human genome first…you must watch the movie yourself to find out who wins! 🙂

Another feature of this movie is the exploration of various genetic diseases. The movie interviewed various families with members who have genetic disorders. Some of the disorders and diseases mentioned were Tay Sachs and Cystic Fibrosis. Genetic Disease, Tay Sachs slowly destroys a baby’s brain and may lead to blindness, deafness, muscle weakness, seizures, and is often very fatal. The movie told an in depth, heart wrenching story of a child with Tay Sachs disease.  Seeing the families situation of having a child with Tay Sachs made me think about how genetic testing could have prevented this. The movie also gives an overview of Cystic fibrosis, a fatal genetic disorder which affects the lungs and causes respiratory problems.  A woman named Toni Robbins has the disorder, except a mutation in her DNA was able to fight Cystic Fibrosis and ultimately saved her life. Toni Robbins’s situation made me intrigued to know if there was a possible cure to other genetic disorders by manipulating DNA similar to Toni’s.

Although limitless information about genetic testing may be beneficial, ethical issues also surface about manipulating Human DNA. Many may agree that understanding and then changing genes may be advantageous and lead to healthier people, however, modifying genes (even for benefit) does seem a bit unnatural. Personally, I believe that genetic testing should be made accessible to the public, but information about altering a human genome should be used very, very carefully.

Overall, I enjoyed watching Cracking the Code of life and am interested to if genetic testing becomes more commonly used in the near future. I also highly recommend watching the movie, when watching, I suggest you decide what your stance is on genetic testing and genetic modification!

Advertisements

Strawberry DNA Extraction

An ATTEMPT at extracting DNA from a strawberry.

This experiment was very fun! Although the end result was not what I was hoping for, I still found the process of DNA extraction very interesting. Science is absolutely unpredictable, so while studying science, one must be prepared for any and all errors. The DNA was expected to be tightly coiled when the Isopropyl alcohol was added, but when I tried to pick up the DNA strand, nothing was found. Possible human error could have occurred when I was measuring the liquids. Other error could have occurred in the straining process. From talking to other classmates, many suggested that I do the same procedure but use a cheesecloth instead of a strainer. The cheesecloth could have been more successful by allowing more DNA strands to seep through, while keeping out unwanted material.

I plan to revisit this investigation, keeping all of the possible errors in mind. Stay tuned to see if the next attempt has a different outcome!

Genetics Round Up!

Over Thanksgiving break, we were all asked to create a family pedigree that included our family’s health history. Thanksgiving was the perfect opportunity to not only catch up with family but to find out a little bit about what health problems our relatives have.

The family pedigree was a start to our new season, Genetics. We used interactive 3 dimensional Z Space desktops to learn about Gregor Mendel’s studies of pea plants. Mendel used pea plants to observe because they have easily distinguishable traits. He was able manipulate the pea plants reproduction by using a paintbrush to cross pollinate the flowers himself. The traits he studied included: tall versus short, purple versus white, and having the peas green or yellow. Through this study, we found out that each parent passed down 1 allele/factor to the offspring, two copies of information are carried in each trait. Mendel’s Law of Segregation supports that the joining of two gametes produces a new plant with two copies of information. Mendel’s Law of Dominance supports that the dominant trait will show through if a dominant allele is present. A recessive trait will only be visible if the organism has a homozygous recessive genotype. Mendel’s Law of Assortment supports that individual alleles must be split up, but can be passed down separately.unnamed-3.jpg

After knowing a background of how traits are passed down, we made a paper DNA model. The creation of the DNA model represented DNA replication. The ligase, an enzyme that binds the DNA, was represented by the glue. The scissors that split the two pieces of green paper, represents the enzyme helocase, which splits open and unwinds the DNA. The DNA polymerase adds each nucleotide and was represented by the action of us writing in each letter (A, C, G, and T). We also now understand that DNA is built from bond 5 to 3, but is read from 3 to 5. The repetition of writing and cutting really helped each of us grasp the process of DNA replication.unnamed-1.jpg

Genetics has been a season that each of us have been waiting for, and we all have had so much fun so far! Next week, we will be exploring different genetic disorders. I am very excited to continue this season of Genetics!