Mendel’s Garden #2: The Best of Genetics Blogging

Welcome to Mendel’s Garden #2! Can you feel the excitement? The anticipation?

Learning about genetics is no longer a pastime limited to the lab bench. As we continue to gather knowledge about the genetics of all the organisms living on Earth, we’re realizing how much more we have yet to learn. And even though we have gone beyond the Central Dogma of Biology, it’s still a solid foundation on which to build.

Today’s Mendel’s Garden will be divided into the the three main parts of the Central Dogma – DNA for basic genetics research, RNA for beyond the genetics lab, and protein for practical genetics applications in everyday life.

DNA – Basic Genetics Research

Bora aka Coturnix at A Blog Around The Clock tells us about genes involved in regulating the circadian clock of Drosophila. The newest one is called JETLAG following a previous one named TIMELESS. Who says scientists aren’t clever with words? Regardless, scientists are definitely adept at finding ways to occupy their time (har har) with some measuring the expression of clock genes in trees. Yawn. (Just kidding!)

Ricardo Azevedo at Redundantia ad absurdum isn’t sleeping, though. He’s too busy “discussing” C. elegans dev bio with Salvador Cordova, a believer in intelligent design (ID) creationism, in particular redundant vulval development mechanisms. What’s the big brouhaha? Salvador believes redundancy provides evidence for ID creationism. Ricardo, obviously, isn’t buying any of it until someone shows that redundancy is an impossibility under natural selection.

Another Salvador Ricardo should get along with is at Viva La Evolucion. Salvador Almagro shows us how some eukaryotes evolved by engulfing others via endosymbiotic processes. Talk about big fish cells eating little fish cells.

Continuing with our study of cells, Alex Palazzo at The Daily Transcript tells us about a recent Nature manuscript that used yeast to examine gene expression. Check out which genes and resulting proteins were “noisier” than the others and why this is important..

RNA – Beyond the Genetics Lab

Out in the wild where butterflies flit to-and-fro, members of the butterfly species, Heliconius heurippa are amazing researchers who found that they’re actually a hybrid between H. cydno and H. melpomene. The hybridization of plants is a commonly observed phenomenon but hybridization in animals is very rare. GrrlScientist at Living the Scientific Life writes up the story of scientists as nature detectives as they discover the hybrid daughter species of butterflies and continue along the trail by crossbreeding wild specimens and analyzing their DNA in the lab.

If Florida panthers could hybridize as easily as the butterflies, they probably would have done so in order to increase the population’s genetic diversity. Sandra Porter of Discovering biology in a Digital World tells us how despite disagreement among population biologists on whether the Florida panthers needed “new blood” or new genes, the Florida panthers did finally met some Texas cats and we hope they’ll live happily ever after.

Tara Smith at Aetiology has also been spending some time thinking about animals in the wild. She wrote about the chimpanzee origin of HIV-1 and reminds us that the transmission of the simian immunodeficiency virus into the human population is probably an ongoing process.

And also out in the wild where humans flit to-and-fro, Razib of Gene Expression uses the example of human height to demonstrate how changes in the mean height of a normally distributed population with the same standard deviation can actually result in substantial differences, probably much more than you’d expect, between the two populations. He relates it to microevolutionary processes and says the discussion a “quick primer on the abstract background to quantitative genetics.” I suspect it will make you want to learn more.

In the wilderness and human civilization, bacteria coexist with us and other animals. Jason Bobe at The Personal Genome teaches us about our friendly neighborhood micro-organisms roaming our bodies both inside and out.

Protein – Practical Genetics Applications

Joe Kissell at Interesting Thing of the Day loves his kitty so much that he’s willing to endure allergies to the cat protein Fel d 1. Luckily for him, transgenic pets will soon be available: hypoallergenic cats and glow-in-the-dark zebra fish too (cleverly named GloFish). Learn more about some concerns surrounding designer pets.

Another pet lover, Paul Decelles, at The force that through…, talks about the study of Batten disease in both humans and Tibetan Terriers. If anything, you have to go see this post just for the darling puppy picture. Awwww.

Pets are a great stress reliever but so is alcohol. ;) RPM at evolgen explains how–using the example of genes in grapes used for producing wine–traditional methods of crossing plants are not quite so different than current genetic engineering except for the time involved. (There’s that clock ticking again, maybe I should have made the theme for this Mendel’s Garden something to do with time.)

Beyond pets and wine, however, there’s the very real world of genetics as it applies to human health. Marie Godfrey of Genetizen talks about the benefits and risks of agreeing to allow Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, to use individual genetic information for research.

Research on human diseases is very much alive in the Philippines and Grace of Filipina Soul, who also writes b5media’s Flu Patrol blog, contributes two very readable pieces on Filipinos in genetics research: familial hypercholesterolemia and maple syrup urine disease.

Translating research into tangible benefits for the average consumer, Elissa Levin of DNA Direct Talk shares her presentation to the Secretary’s Advisory Counsel on Genetics, Health, and Society. For anyone who has questions on the wisdom of making genetic tests widely available to the general public, this post is a must-read.

In fact, genetic testing for breast and ovarian cancer is available at DNA Direct (disclosure: they are a sponsor of Genetics and Health). Trisha at Ideas for Women talks about the recent preliminary study that showed women with mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes may be at greater risk of developing cancer if they’ve received chest X-rays. Trisha asks, “Preliminary research results and the media – more harm than good?

I’d like to think that learning more about genetics can only be good although being able to understand the information is extremely important. Check out my top 10 reasons why you should care about genetics if you’re in any doubt. After reading this issue of Mendel’s Garden, I’m sure you’d agree that genetics couldn’t be any more interesting and diverse.

For the next issue of Mendel’s Garden, check the Mendel’s Garden blog to find out who will be hosting or go straight to the Blog Carnival submission form which is available 24/7.

Thanks to all the participants and readers!

Photo credit: NCBI Molecular Biology Review.

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    • Paul Decelles

      Great job and a wonderful theme as well! The next edition of Mendel’s Garden will be hosted over at Viva La Evolucion. Submit articles through the Carnival website or by contacting Salvador through his blog.

      Updates and the schedule of future editions are periodically posted at the Garden’s blog site at where you can also post comments and suggestions for themes.

    • Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Paul: Thanks! I hope I didn’t make any egregious mistakes in writing up the summaries of the posts. :P

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    • Jon

      The only thing that spoils this wonderful entry is the horrid advert that you have going on the top right of this blog – commercial crass, otherwise good.

    • Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Jon: Thanks for your comment. Glad you like my work! I do not hide the fact that this blog is sponsored by ads so that I can pay my bills. If anyone would like to sponsor me anonymously, I’d be happy to remove all traces of advertisement. :D

    • ruth

      aw, shucks, i missed participating in this one. you did a great job, hsien! i love the way you linked the posts together!

    • Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      ruth: Thanks! Maybe next time when I host I’ll send you a special reminder. ;)

    • Larry Moran

      I’m a little surprised that a site specializing in genetics and molecular biology would promote the incorrect Watson version of the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology.

      The correct Crick version is, “The central dogma of molecular biology deals with the detailed residue-by-residue transfer of sequential information. It states that such information cannot be transferred from protein to either protein or nucleic acid” Crick, 1970.

      What you and NCBI are showing is the pathway of information flow, or what Crick referred to as the sequence hypothesis. This confusion has led to all kinds of problems in the scientific literature. About once a year we are treated to the overturning of the Central Dogma (Watson version) yet the real Central Dogma (Crick version) persists in spite of exaggerated claims of its demise.

      Don’t you think it would be helpful to point out the real meaning of the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology as described by its late discoverer?

    • Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Larry: Thanks for pointing this out. If this were a post focusing on the central dogma, perhaps I would go into the specifics of the debate. However, it was simply a metaphor/tool to highlight the wonderful posts featured in this issue of the Mendel\’s Garden blog carnival. I hope readers who are interested in learning more about the central dogma will follow your link.

      Also, might I point out that this blog focuses on the generalities of genetics as it relates to human health and is not intended to be a primer or dissertation on molecular biology. My overarching goal of Genetics and Health is to educate non-experts on what the genome revolution means to them.

      Thanks again for taking the time to leave a comment.

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    • Linu

      Wondering why that a site specializing in genetics and molecular biology would promote the incorrect Watson version of the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology

    • Hsien Hsien Lei, PhD

      Linu: Please see my response to Larry Moran above. Thank you.

    • health

      I love to read your blog.

      believe me the best part of doing this community/support site is to get to know people like you and many other members from all around the world and to see their views and learn from them.


    • Ibs diet

      Earlier my belief was just around that genes just identifies your physical features, and mental structure but after going through your blog it seems lot more vast and diverse….Tough to understand some terms but its interesting anyway.

    • Narconon Drug Rehab

      Genetics is a field where we need to ask ourselves a lot of questions before having the courage to present to the world, our marvelous discovery because some genetic discoveries have moral dilemmas that need to be solved one way or another before releasing a product on the market.



      As a fresh user i just want to say hello to everyone else who uses this board B-)

    • Maura

      Sorry to bother you here — but there are few genetics and micro/genetics blogs where I can answer hunt. Can someone here comment on reasons that a human with a form of Kleinfelter’s Syndrome beyond 49,XXXXY can survive? I see understnad that XXXXY can survive? I have been searching for a documented case of a Trisomy 51,XXXXXXY I have been unsuccessful. Additionally, I see documentation on individuals with49,XXXXX, but not on 50,XXXXXX or 51,XXXXXXX.

    • Orderyarripsy

      I’m new there
      Nice forum!

    • Neoglessine

      Your web page does not correctly work in safari browser

    • Futon Chair

      Wow never knew that could happen…genetics is crazy

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