As this is the very first blog post, let me tell you a little about what this blog is all about....
Here I will blog and discuss current issues, and ideas in modern genetics for a general audience. The core ideas I hope to discuss (using some of the exciting research that are coming out daily) are as follows:
First, I hope to help to clarify that in most cases there is not a
"Gene X for Disease Y (or behavior.. or anything else for that matter)"
no matter what you may hear on the news...
Instead I hope to blog about how most researchers are finding out how
"a variant of gene X influences disease Y".
Yes, things are sadly more complicated than we might like, most things that have a genetic basis (that is genes contribute to eye color, or to the possibility of getting a disease) have a complicated genetic basis. That is, these "complex traits" (in the lingo of genetics) have many genes that influence the outcome, and these genes interact with one another and the environment.
It is also usually not only the gene itself that is interesting, but different varieties of the gene that we each have (alleles in the lingo of genetics). We may all possess (largely) the same set of genes, but they all differ from one another due to small (and sometimes not so small) changes in the DNA for that gene. It is these varieties that can make life interesting for many, but in the case of some genes can contribute to someone getting sick or staying healthy, which may again depend on how these varieties of genes are themselves influenced by the environment. Genes gone wild indeed!!!
I also plan to delve into the sometimes impenetrable literature of Genetics to find examples that are not always covered by newspapers and other conventional media, but are none the less really cool. Sometimes this will be about interesting findings about people, but this will include some examples from all of those crazy little critters that we geneticists use ( "I have a fruit-fly... and I am not afraid to use it"). However I will always try to relate what these strange little animals, plants, bacteria and viruses can tell us about our own genetics
My audience: You!!! Maybe you have watched a few episodes of Nova or something on the discovery channel about genetics, but you don't really have a lot of scientific background. Or maybe you keeping hearing phrases like "personalized medicine" thrown around, and want to understand them better. This blog is for you!!
Genes gone wild... About the name: Yes.. this name is clearly a play on the late night commercials we have all endured, and perhaps the title has an associated element of tastelessness. However, it made you look!!!
Seriously though, I am also paying homage to one of my favorite columns/blogs at the New York Times by Olivia Judson, "The Wild Side" (http://judson.blogs.nytimes.com/), and also as a reference to the focus of this blog, namely that the effects of genes (and varieties of those genes that we each have) can really do wacky things in unusual contexts (much like those individuals on the aforementioned commercials during spring break).