Tag Archives: Genetics

Eliminating race from human genetic analysis

A set of researchers are asking their colleagues to step forward and discontinue the use of racial classes while researching and studying human genetics.

“It is time for biologists to find a better way,” concludes the opening section of a recently distributed paper in Science, “Taking Race Out of Human Genetics,” written by Drexel School of Public Health‘s Michael Yudell, the University of Pennsylvania’s Dorothy Roberts and Sarah Tishkoff, and the American Museum of Natural History’s Robert DeSalle.

Yudell and his co-authors point to evidence from phylogenetics and population genetics “that racial classifications do not makes sense in terms of genetics.” While making use of simple biological strategies, the co-authors contend that commonly described racial groups “lack clear-cut genetic boundaries.”

The race concept has no place in human genetics. Image from Genetic Literacy Project.
The race concept has no place in human genetics. Image from Genetic Literacy Project.

One clear hindrance with utilizing race as a differentiating element in contemporary biology and medicine is that “racial assumptions are not the biological guideposts some believe them to be,” the co-authors mentioned.

Moreover, they indicate how the ongoing utilization of race in genetic research has fueled racist ideals, so much so that leading biologists were pressured, in 2014, to refute claims about “the genetic basis of social differences between races.”

Additionally, it’s vital to not mistake ancestry for the race concept, the co-authors point out.

“Ancestry is a statement about an individual’s relationship to other individuals in their genealogical history; thus, it is a very personal understanding of one’s genomic heritage,” they said. “Race, on the other hand, is a pattern-based concept that has led scientists and laypersons alike to draw conclusions about hierarchical organization of humans.”

As such, the group of specialists believes that race has to be phased out from genetic studies and deliberate language such as “ancestry or population” used to describe the grouping for research.

Such an attempt would permit for less uncertainty over all research and additionally “send out an important message to scientists and the public alike: historical racial categories that are treated as natural and infused with notions of superiority and inferiority have no place in biology.”

Yudell, as a call to action, says that it’s “time that scientists find a way to resolve to improve the study of human diversity.”

The myth of the Neanderthal baby

Would you be willing to carry and birth a Neanderthal baby, should the opportunity present itself? This is the question news outlets around the world were asking after an interview with Harvard geneticist George Church.

The story goes that Church and his team were looking for an “adventurous woman” to be a surrogate mother to a cloned Neanderthal baby. He is quoted in The Daily Mail as saying, “Now I need an adventurous female human.”

Would you want a small version of him in your house? Image from Creative Commons.
Would you want a small version of him in your house? Image from Creative Commons.

Church explained that much of the science involved in such an endeavor is actually quite feasible. Sequencing the Neanderthal genome would be the first step, and that was accomplished back in 2010.

He also mentioned that cloning a Neanderthal might benefit society by increasing genetic diversity. Continue reading The myth of the Neanderthal baby

Voting: Nature or nurture?

When it comes to where people acquire their political beliefs, political scientists have analyzed many possibilities that might factor in, such as household income, gender and church attendance. It has long been thought that a person’s political ideals are something that comes mostly from their parents, friends or other environmental factors. However, there have emerged an increasing number of studies that suggest genetics may have an underlying role in both voter turnout and the way people vote. Continue reading Voting: Nature or nurture?

Mammoth-like Jurassic Park could be in the future

Two separate research teams have plans to resurrect a woolly mammoth. These teams have plans to clone a woolly mammoth in the next 5 years if everything goes as planned. It is just a matter of time before a woolly mammoth could be walking the face of the Earth once more. Continue reading Mammoth-like Jurassic Park could be in the future