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Genetic Disorders

Manipulating life

Author(s): Anjani Khanna
Issue Date: Nov 15, 1994
ONCE scientists learnt that the complexity of life is determined by a single molecule-the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) molecule-they have been striving to unravel its structure and molecule carries the code of life in the from of millions of genes.

Genetics and the great Faustian pact

Issue Date: Oct 15, 1994
IN SHAKESPEARE'S The Tempest, Prospero describes Caliban as "a devil, a born devil, on whose nature nurture can never stick". In modern terms, what Prospero means is that Caliban is a knave and that he can't help being one -- his genes determine his character.

Rogue genes induce brain disorders

Issue Date: Mar 15, 1994
LONG perplexed by the causes of more than a thousand brain disorders, neuroscientists are now increasingly finding that genes are often the culprits. Delving deep into the brain's molecular structure, scientists have identified the genetic defects that are responsible for 40 disorders of the nervous system and have a good idea of where the flaws for several other afflictions lie (Science, Vol 262, No 5134).

The ethics of genetic combinations

Issue Date: Feb 28, 1994
SINCE ancient times, we have been aware of several basic ideas of heredity. Plants and animals with superior characteristics were isolated and multiplied. Human mating practices were restricted to exclude incest, as well as matings outside specific defined groups.

It's mama's fault

Issue Date: Feb 15, 1994
PEOPLE who suffer wild swings of moods -- from ecstatic highs to melancholic lows -- have their mother to blame. At least this is what researchers at Johns Hopkins Hospital, USA, suggest: Every woman on a sprawling family tree they have drawn up passes this disorder, called the manic-depressive psychosis, to her children, but no man suffering from it does.

Is violent behaviour hereditary?

Issue Date: Oct 31, 1993
VIOLENT aggression in humans may be because of a genetic defect, a recent Dutch study suggests. Han G Brunner and his colleagues at the University Hospital in Nijmegen report that a change in the gene coding for an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) may be responsible for unprovoked, aggressive outbursts displayed by certain males in a Dutch family that the researchers have been studying for the past ten years (Science, Vol 260, No 5115).

Is it a gene defect?

Issue Date: Oct 31, 1993
PEOPLE with strong body odour may probably be carrying a faulty gene, according to researchers from London's St Mary's Hospital Medical School. The researchers say they are close to nailing the gene defect because of which the carriers cannot process a chemical called trimethylamine, a product of digestion that smells of rotting fish. As a result, the chemical shows up in sweat, urine and the breath of such people.

Older than age

Issue Date: Oct 15, 1993
SCIENTISTS have discovered a gene that could make a person more prone to developing Alzheimer's disease -- a brain disorder that induces premature senility -- after the age of 65. The suspected gene codes for a protein that transports cholesterol through the bloodstream and researchers have found abnormally high levels of the protein in the brains of Alzheimer's patients (New Scientist, Vol 139, No 1887).

Paralysing gene

Issue Date: Sep 30, 1993
Paralysing geneUS SCIENTISTS have homed in on a gene defect linked to a debilitating nerve disorder known as Lou Gehrig's disease (Cambridge University Alumni Magazine). The disease, a celebrated victim of which is physicist Stephen Hawking, the author of A Brief History of Time, gradually paralyses its victims by killing off the nerve cells that control muscles. While the researchers found only a fraction of Lou Gehrig victims had this genetic mutation, they believe insights obtained from this discovery could shed some light on other cases.

Are your organs in the right place?

Issue Date: Aug 31, 1993
IF YOUR heart is in the wrong place, perhaps a gene is responsible for it. Researchers have recently identified a gene that plays a major role in deciding whether the internal organs in mice should be assigned to the right or left of the body and this has initiated the search for similar genes in human beings (Science, Vol 260, No 5108).
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