"It is true, and thus the question of whether it is sad or happy has no meaning whatever."
Bernhard Schlink

Science is best when discussed: leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Genes Make You and Break You 

In keeping with my general dislike of popular science journalism, I really hate the way media portray discourse in science as "debate." There is no evolution debate in science, only in politics. There is controversy when, say, scientists fake results and claim to have cloned people, and there are debates about the ethics of an experiment, but there is no debate over the material of science. An experiment is done properly and replicated (i.e., is believable) or it is not.

The other thing there are in science are lingering questions: areas where we just don't know enough to say much of anything meaningful. Sexuality is one of those areas. A fairly small UCLA study suggests that 'extreme skewing' of X-chromosome inactivation in mothers may be linked to having gay sons. Mothers who had multiple gay sons were found to be more skewed towards one chromosome than were mothers with one or no gay sons. This is of course made more interesting by previous studies suggesting other active roles in determining sexuality.

Telling you who you like fucking isn't the only thing you genes do. The SRY gene, best known for its critical role in making embryos develop as males (forming testes, etc.), seems to also support neurons in the substantia nigra, which is a key area for motor control that gets destroyed in Parkinson's Disease. This finding could help explain why men are so much more prone to Parkinson's than women: the relevant areas of the brain are dependent on sex-specific hormones to survive. Females seem to have a different mechanism for supporting this system.

The Y chromosome also could come in handy for nabbing crooks: UK research suggests that, at least in the UK, Y-chromosome analysis could give good odds on a person's last name. This sounds a lot like bullshit to me, considering the different ways in which people have gotten their names (particularly in the US). Also, I still don't like the idea of the gub'men keeping my genes on file and rounding me up every time someone who may be related to me knocks over a 7-11.

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