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Capsule Reviews

The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess, The Forever Fix, Connectome, and DNA USA

By | March 1, 2012

image: Capsule Reviews

The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess: Race, Religion, and DNA

by Jeff Wheelwright
W.W. Norton & Company, January 2012

How could the life of a beautiful young Hispano woman living in Colorado’s picturesque San Luis Valley be cut short by a genetic mutation that is characteristic of Jews? The quest to answer this question is at the heart of The Wandering Gene and the Indian Princess, a new book by science writer Jeff Wheelwright.

Twenty-eight-year-old Shonnie Medina died of breast cancer in 1999. She was Hispano, an ethnicity comprising both Spanish and Native American ancestors. But Medina’s fatal mutation, called BRCA1.185delAG, had been passed from generation to generation of Jews for 2,500 years. In The Wandering Gene, Wheelwright delves into the genetic history of Medina and her family, and in doing so expands the story to a wider exploration of how science defines race and ethnicity.

The book traces the migration of the ancient BRCA1.185delAG mutation through the original Hebrew tribes of the Middle East, to medieval Spain, over to colonial America, and eventually into the Medina family’s genes.

The Forever Fix: Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It

by Ricki Lewis
St. Martin’s Press, March 2012

The story of another young person burdened with faulty DNA provides the focal point for a look at a different intersection of genetics and modern life: gene therapy. Author and geneticist Ricki Lewis tells of Corey Haas’s remarkable recovery from the brink of blindness in The Forever Fix. In 2008, a legally blind 8-year-old Haas—who was born with a single gene mutation that causes a condition called Leber’s congenital amaurosis type 2 (LCA2)—received an experimental therapy that was supposed to correct his defective RPE65 gene, which prevented his eyes from using vitamin A to send visual signals to his brain.

Just days after his gene therapy session at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Haas’s vision began to clear. His eyesight, which had gotten progressively worse since he was born—heading for complete blindness by adulthood—returned.

Haas was instantly transformed into gene therapy’s savior. The field was badly in need of a success story after well-publicized failures, such as the death of teenage liver disease patient and gene therapy recipient Jesse Gelsinger. Lewis adeptly traverses the highs and lows of gene therapy and explores its past, present, and future through the tales of those who’ve tested its validity.

Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are

by Sebastian Seung
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, February 2012

Going beyond the influence of genes on our health and personalities, MIT neuroscientist Sebastian Seung introduces us to the Connectome. The connectome, christened only within the past decade, refers to a comprehensive map of the neural connections in an individual’s brain. And Seung holds that it, and not DNA, is the key to our identities.

The sheer size of a connectome dwarfs that of the genome, with a million times more connections than the number of nucleotides in a human genome. Add the propensity for the brain and its multitude of neural connections to change frequently, and it’s no surprise that the connectome remains mysterious.

Seung gives us a glimpse of the limited earlier approaches—19th-century phrenology and connectionism among them—that preceded connectomics, and he predicts that the burgeoning new field finally has the tools to decrypt the brain. One can’t help but be reminded of the early days of genomics, when researchers were picking away at the codes of simpler organisms while the ultimate goal of understanding the human equivalent loomed overhead. Connectome hints at some of the technologies and methods that could finally make teasing apart the human brain, and possibly even the mind and personality, a reality.

DNA USA: A Genetic Biography of America

by Bryan Sykes
W.W. Norton & Company, February 2012

DNA USA cracks open the old maxim that America is a “melting pot,” revealing that the real melting occurs deep within the genes that converged on the country from three great continents. University of Oxford geneticist Bryan Sykes imagines this dramatic confluence of genetic material as a grand symphony, and his story takes place in three movements.

In the first movement, Sykes portrays America’s genetic bedrock, as he considers the character of DNA from the country’s original inhabitants and the genes of its settlers, Europeans (including Spanish Catholics bearing Jewish genes), Africans, and Asians. In the second, the score builds to a crescendo as these varied genetic elements collide and swirl to compose the DNA of modern Americans. And in the third and briefest movement, Sykes reaches his coda by exploring how the ancestral seeds within American genomes belie the artificial divisions we’ve created for ourselves.

Sykes introduces us to leading researchers, average Americans with interesting ancestries, and even celebrities, as he travels the country rooting out the melody of America’s genomic song.

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Comments

Avatar of: Ed Rybicki

Ed Rybicki

Posts: 82

March 9, 2012

When I read the description of "DNA USA", I could not help but be reminded of a friend in Brazil. He has an Italian name, but tracks most of his ancestry to Syrian immigrants - with at least some Jewish components, and some African ancestry as well. Strikes me we could all wish for the same - to banish any concept of ethnicity except that of your country.

Avatar of: alexandru

alexandru

Posts: 1457

March 9, 2012

In 2009 I sent to ESRC
British organization first two stanzas in translation from my poem The Genetic
War. I stop the translation because ESRC was not interested of my artistic
creation.

There are three
genders in the world

Which manages the
words foretold:

The Masculine is
proud and power

Because he is
speaking from a tower;

The Female is the
organic governor,

She is the nice,
the fast and honour;

The Neutral is
like nobody on the maps

Because Its engine
is disconected from driven parts.

It doesn’t look to
be present in the mailing,

It is only waiting
for the fault signaling.

 

Genetically there
are two gender’

Separated from the
beginning by the Father

And put down, by
soft install,

In the egg of man
and the egg of girl.

The Neutral is not
insight of them,

It looks like an
ancient totem.

In fecundation,
when we combine X and Y,

There is a
combination which only private eye

Give us the real
decodification,

Which is different
from the synthetic installation.

 

This poem is based on
theory of Adam mtDNA inheritance and Paul, Hebrews 4.12-13.

I have developed five years ago a new
theory on the paternal mitochondrial DNA inheritance that brings scientific
arguments and *new perspectives regarding the nature and origin of
biological information*. Based on Adam mtDNA heritage, observed only at the
puberty only in *born boy's* seminal liquid (not in vitro made), I have
developed a new bio-communication theory, Mitochondrial Adam DNA data
transmission theory - ISBN 978-606-92107-1-0, in addition to “Eve mtDNA theoryâ€쳌:

Abstract: Brain
and soul storming - The necessary and sufficient processes to a well
function of the human body are meticulous arranged by specific organizational
cells, so called process biomanagers, using interconditioned procedures,
transmitted through three ways of communication: chemical or “protein channelâ€쳌,
electrical or “ion channelâ€쳌 and mitochondrial or “EMF wireless channelâ€쳌. The
third type is out of the visible and measurable spectrum and raises a new
challenge to the scientists. For this type of bio communication we bring a new
theoretical hypothesis, based on the managerial multidisciplinary analysis of a
cybernetic model proposed by us, by simulating the human body function with the
virtual computerized system based on the management of its total knowledge and
its perfect quality way of function. The main bricks used for this virtual
construction are: the brain, as main bioprocessor, and Eve mtDNA and Adam
mtDNA, as bio-antennas. This assembly of the total knowledge, build with “brain
reasoning, biological feeling, and unlimited soul feelingâ€쳌, is called by us
“main decision triangle, IQ-EQ-CQâ€쳌. The main principle of the management of the
total knowledge imposes us to not neglect any information produced by man
during the time, even if it seems creasy at the beginning. Because in the
natural fertilisation the spermatozoids are naturally equipped with the
paternal mtDNA (a veritable main bio-GPS), we consider that the paternal
mitochondria DNA have a very important role in the evolution of the human being
life quality and we have developed a new hypothesis, “Adam mtDNA theoryâ€쳌, in
addition to “Eve mtDNA theoryâ€쳌.

Keywords:
brain, mitochondria, maternal, paternal

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

March 9, 2012

When I read the description of "DNA USA", I could not help but be reminded of a friend in Brazil. He has an Italian name, but tracks most of his ancestry to Syrian immigrants - with at least some Jewish components, and some African ancestry as well. Strikes me we could all wish for the same - to banish any concept of ethnicity except that of your country.

Avatar of:

Posts: 0

March 9, 2012

In 2009 I sent to ESRC
British organization first two stanzas in translation from my poem The Genetic
War. I stop the translation because ESRC was not interested of my artistic
creation.

There are three
genders in the world

Which manages the
words foretold:

The Masculine is
proud and power

Because he is
speaking from a tower;

The Female is the
organic governor,

She is the nice,
the fast and honour;

The Neutral is
like nobody on the maps

Because Its engine
is disconected from driven parts.

It doesn’t look to
be present in the mailing,

It is only waiting
for the fault signaling.

 

Genetically there
are two gender’

Separated from the
beginning by the Father

And put down, by
soft install,

In the egg of man
and the egg of girl.

The Neutral is not
insight of them,

It looks like an
ancient totem.

In fecundation,
when we combine X and Y,

There is a
combination which only private eye

Give us the real
decodification,

Which is different
from the synthetic installation.

 

This poem is based on
theory of Adam mtDNA inheritance and Paul, Hebrews 4.12-13.

I have developed five years ago a new
theory on the paternal mitochondrial DNA inheritance that brings scientific
arguments and *new perspectives regarding the nature and origin of
biological information*. Based on Adam mtDNA heritage, observed only at the
puberty only in *born boy's* seminal liquid (not in vitro made), I have
developed a new bio-communication theory, Mitochondrial Adam DNA data
transmission theory - ISBN 978-606-92107-1-0, in addition to “Eve mtDNA theoryâ€쳌:

Abstract: Brain
and soul storming - The necessary and sufficient processes to a well
function of the human body are meticulous arranged by specific organizational
cells, so called process biomanagers, using interconditioned procedures,
transmitted through three ways of communication: chemical or “protein channelâ€쳌,
electrical or “ion channelâ€쳌 and mitochondrial or “EMF wireless channelâ€쳌. The
third type is out of the visible and measurable spectrum and raises a new
challenge to the scientists. For this type of bio communication we bring a new
theoretical hypothesis, based on the managerial multidisciplinary analysis of a
cybernetic model proposed by us, by simulating the human body function with the
virtual computerized system based on the management of its total knowledge and
its perfect quality way of function. The main bricks used for this virtual
construction are: the brain, as main bioprocessor, and Eve mtDNA and Adam
mtDNA, as bio-antennas. This assembly of the total knowledge, build with “brain
reasoning, biological feeling, and unlimited soul feelingâ€쳌, is called by us
“main decision triangle, IQ-EQ-CQâ€쳌. The main principle of the management of the
total knowledge imposes us to not neglect any information produced by man
during the time, even if it seems creasy at the beginning. Because in the
natural fertilisation the spermatozoids are naturally equipped with the
paternal mtDNA (a veritable main bio-GPS), we consider that the paternal
mitochondria DNA have a very important role in the evolution of the human being
life quality and we have developed a new hypothesis, “Adam mtDNA theoryâ€쳌, in
addition to “Eve mtDNA theoryâ€쳌.

Keywords:
brain, mitochondria, maternal, paternal

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