These three things have been said to go faster than light, but do they? Find out in this episode of What The Physics?!
Hookworms once sapped the American South of its health, yet few realize that they continue to afflict millions.
NASA is partnering with the European Space Agency to launch a space telescope to investigate the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Google and Cancer Treatment Centers of America.
From the palm trees that once flourished in Alaska to titanic eruptions that nearly tore the Midwest in two, discover how forces of almost unimaginable power gave birth to North America. With the arrival of the first draft of the human genome, a whole new chapter on genetics, health and nutrition will be written.
This is an achievement nothing short of astonishing when one considers that the complete sequence of the human genome consists of 3.2 billion letters and is so enormous that it can only be published in data bases on the Internet.
It has been estimated that it would take more than 75,000 pages of a newspaper just to print the full sequence!The entire sequence of the human genome is expected to be completed by 2003 yet this will only signal the beginning of increased activities into identifying specific functions and interactions of genes in an effort to unlock the enormous potential of genetic information.
Research on the human genome has been painstaking and exacting, requiring an in depth knowledge of cell function and reproduction.
The following paragraphs very briefly and simply review current understanding of the structure and function of various aspects of the human genome.2. UNDERSTANDING DNA2.1 DNA structure and functionCells are the fundamental units of all living systems. We are all made up of billions and billions of cells, but each has the information necessary to make a new entire human. This is possible because all of the information and instructions needed to make a human are encoded in a single group of molecules called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). In humans, and all higher species, a DNA molecule consists of two strands of DNA, which wrap around one another to resemble a twisted ladder (Figure 1). The sides of the ladder are made up of sugar and phosphate molecules (deoxyribose) while the rungs consist of chemical compounds called bases.DNA encodes an information language made up of just 4 letters, which are termed chemically, bases. In the DNA molecule the two strands are mirror images of each other because each base in one strand is matched to a specific partner on the opposite strand. Adenine (A) is paired with thymine (T), and guanine (G) is paired with cytosine (C).All of the information needed for a cell to function or reproduce is encoded in the sequence of these four bases.
For example, the small genomes from bacteria have approximately 600,000 DNA base pairs (bps).
The human genome has about 3 billion base pairs.While genes get a lot of attention, the actual workhorses are the proteins. It is made up of ribose (a sugar) and phosphate molecules with one of the four chemical bases attached to each ribose chain. The sequence of bases on mRNA but here consisting of uracil, adenine, guanine and cytosine is the same as the section of DNA that was used to create it. If the DNA molecules in just one human cell were stretched end-to-end they would be approximately 2 molecules wide and 5 feet long. This DNA is arranged in 23 units or chromosomes, each chromosome occurs as a pair of 2 with one chromosome donated by each parent. In the simplest terms, a gene corresponds to a section of the DNA molecule that codes for a protein.
In the human genome the genes are spread throughout the various chromosomes, and although all 3 billion bases of the human are now known, scientists do not yet know precisely all the genes. This information is the basis of ongoing research.Research using the knowledge from the Human Genome Project will ultimately enable scientists to understand the functions of human genes and the laws that regulate how they are turned on and off. This knowledge in turn will provide them with information on how genes and nutrients interact and the effect of individual genetic differences on diet, nutrition and health. For example, the actual way in which some nutrients such as those from milk, fruits and vegetables, produce desirable changes in metabolism is largely unknown, which is why dietary recommendations are still so frustratingly vague. The study of nutrigenomics can help to identify these effects and help to understand why certain ingredients and foods are of benefit to health. POTENTIAL BENEFITS OF RESEARCH INTO GENES4.1 More nutritious foodsResearch into the functions of genes will help to identify just how diet affects gene and protein functions and why individuals vary in their response to nutrients and diets. We all know that even when people are eating the same diets, some will become overweight, some develop heart disease and some develop allergies while others do not.


Specific foods with beneficial properties (functional foods) could then be developed to help optimise the health of each individual according to its genes.
This may seem far in the future, but we already eat foods according to our genetic differences.
Women know that they need to eat foods with more iron than men do and the difference in iron requirement is due to their genetic difference. As we understand more about the other differences between men and women and between all of us, we can provide the knowledge to individuals so that they can choose foods that are most appropriate for them. For example, knowing how individuals develop allergies would lead to foods not simply to avoid allergens but foods that prevent people from even developing allergies in the first place.One of the most intriguing areas of research, that will eventually help everyone, is understanding the processes of ageing and diseases of the elderly. Scientists have found that about half of the diseases that come with ageing have a genetic component.
Genetic research will help to understand why certain bacteria (for example lactic acid bacteria), have beneficial properties such as enhancing immune functions, assisting digestion and improving intestinal comfort. A greater knowledge of the types of beneficial bacteria and the way in which they act in the digestive tract to provide protection from other bacteria can also improve our ability to minimise harmful bacteria and foodborne illness. For example, vitamin and mineral needs vary between individuals and by age, condition, health, etc. The effects of consuming phytochemicals, such as isoflavones and other flavonoids, or even starch, differs from person to person. Sodium increases blood pressure in some people but not others and the ability of dietary fibre to reduce cholesterol is also subject to genetic influences.The time is approaching when it will be possible to use genetic testing to screen for the risk of various diseases and to determine an individual's ideal health promoting diet. It will become commonplace for health care professionals to deliver tailor-made drug advice based on an individual’s genetic information. Better knowledge on the functions of genes and their variation does not mean that we have to measure someone’s genes to allow them to take advantage of this knowledge. By the same token, a person won’t need to know their genetic variations in order for them to select diets that improve their health. These raw commodities can be selected for optimal levels of various nutrients or to make processing easier, or more economical, or safer or even more nutritious. In fact, commodities will be selected to have better nutrients and better processing and safer and better flavour and more value. As a simple example, potatoes with higher levels of starch could be developed that when processed into potato chips or french-fries, would absorb less fat offering the choice of a low fat potato chip. Fruits and vegetables that have delayed ripening properties could be grown so that they can be transported more easily with less damage and arrive in stores fresher and tastier.Many genes contribute either directly or indirectly to the flavour of a plant. Scientists can identify and study the genes responsible for flavour and aroma and use the information to improve the taste of foods.Improved food safety is a key area that will benefit from research into genes. Fast and sensitive techniques are being developed to identify unwanted food-poisoning bacteria and other contaminants in foods. Using techniques developed via genetic research, it will be possible to study the physical, chemical and microbiological responses of various foods during processing, transport and storage. These techniques can also be used to screen large numbers of people for the presence of such genes.
Once high-risk individuals are identified, measures can be taken to help prevent the disease or detect it early when treatment methods are most effective. This principle has already been the basis of life saving treatments of humans with a rare genetic disease phenylketonuria (PKU).
Individuals with this disease cannot metabolise the amino acid phenylalanine so, for them, the amounts of phenylalanine normally present in foods is toxic. These people nevertheless now live full lives because special foods have been designed and produced just for them with no phenylalanine.5. ETHICAL, SOCIAL AND LEGAL ISSUESThe huge potential offered by genome research is tempered by the ethical, legal and social challenges that must be addressed. Privacy of information on an individual’s genetic profile by groups such as employers, insurance companies, schools and adoption agencies must be absolute to preclude genetic discrimination. Several companies in the United States have banned the use of DNA testing in job applications in an effort to address this concern.Some countries, such as Iceland and Estonia are taking a bold approach to develop genetic databanks of the whole population. Coupled with other data such as health statistics, this information has potential benefits in helping governments to determine future health policies and funding. A proper balance between individual privacy and the fair use of genetic information must be identified.


In some countries, this may be covered by anti-discrimination regulations although the scope of such coverage has not yet been tested in the law courts.The question of ownership of genetic information and technologies derived from genetic research is yet another area that requires deliberation and international debate.
The area of patenting in human genome research is still being addressed.There are no easy answers to the above questions. Ethical, legal and social issues pose challenges as research into the human genome progresses. A great deal of work has already and still needs to be put into discussions and provide information to address these concerns and to foster public understanding of the technology so as not to slow scientific progress. One of the challenges will be to balance the multiple benefits that can be derived from the technology with careful protection from genetic discrimination.6. THE WAY AHEADThe importance and complexity of the interaction between food, genes and health poses a huge challenge to the future development of products, especially in the area of foods and food ingredients. Research in this area will enable the identification of new targets for pharmaceuticals and the discovery of new compounds. At the same time, these new technologies will spark profound ethical and human rights challenges. To derive the long-term benefits from a new technology such as this, society must balance the benefits with current scientific limitations and social risk. As with any new technology, the public must be educated about gene technology so that they can make informed choices.Reviewed by Prof Dr. The patterns reflect the location and amounts of the base pairs – adenine and thymine, and guanine and cytosine. Differences in the size and banding patterns allow scientists to distinguish individual chromosomes.
This type of analysis, called karyotype (Figure 2), has been used to identify major chromosomal abnormalities, such as Downs Syndrome.Most changes in DNA however are too subtle to be detected by this technique.
A new and more powerful analytical technique called microarray analysis offers researchers the benefit of being able to examine thousands of genes simultaneously. A fluorescent label is then attached to the cDNAs (C) and the cDNAs are allowed to mix with the DNA spots on the array (D). The cDNAs with a sequence that matches the sequence of one of the gene fragments stick to the fragment like glue and the cDNA with a sequence that doesn’t match is washed away. A computerized detector is used to measure the amount of fluorescence associated with each spot (E). The brighter the fluorescence, the more copies of the gene were expressed in the original cell. The patterns of light that emerge from the array represent a snapshot of the genes that were active in the cell at a single point in time.
Examination of the microarray results from different cells exposed to different conditions at different times will help scientists understand the basic genetics of normal and diseased cells.
This technique has the potential to screen people for a specific gene, mutation or any combination of genes. This technique takes advantage of the fact that DNA can be induced with specific chemicals to reproduce itself. By exposing a DNA sample to specialized enzymes and other chemicals, it can be induced to copy itself. The process can be repeated over and over to increase the amount of the DNA many millions of times in a matter of hours. This allows for example to trace and reconstruct human evolution from the earliest hominids to the most modern homo sapiens sapiens. For example, discrimination against people who have, or are likely to develop, an inherited disorders.
The karyotype can be used to map gross abnormalities Messenger RNA (mRNA): RNA that serves as a template for protein synthesis.



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