A conference titled "Human Genetics, Environment, and Communities of Color: Ethical and Social Implications" and a workshop symposium titled "Human Genetics and Environmental Justice" were held by West Harlem Environmental Action, Inc., with cosponsorship by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), the Community Outreach and Education Program of the NIEHS P30 Center for Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University, New York, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The conference and symposium took place at Columbia University in New York City on 4-5 February 2002. Expert panels composed of public health practitioners, genetic researchers, ethicists, lawyers, social scientists, and community organizations were assembled to explore how genetic research will affect communities of color, specifically in environmental health research. The goal of the conference was to educate participants on the science and ethics of genetic research and to explore the potential benefits and pitfalls of genetic research vis-à-vis new trends in environmental health research, specifically with reference to communities of color. The goal of the symposium was to discuss the major perceptions and concerns for community-based environmental justice advocates and other communities of color regarding environmental health genetic research. The conference and symposium drew more than 300 participants and articulated important perspectives on the opportunities and challenges for environmental justice advocates and other communities of color posed by rapid advances in environmental health genetic research and toxicogenomics.
The completion of the International HapMap Project marks the start of a new phase in human genetics. The aim of the project was to provide a resource that facilitates the design of efficient genome-wide association studies, through characterising patterns of genetic variation and linkage disequilibrium in a sample of 270 individuals across four geographical populations. In total, over one million SNPs have been typed across these genomes, providing an unprecedented view of human genetic diversity. In this review we focus on what the HapMap project has taught us about the structure of human genetic variation and the fundamental molecular and evolutionary processes that shape it.
For almost 15 years, genome research has focused on the search for major risk factors in common diseases, with disappointing results. Only recently, whole-genome association studies have begun to deliver because of the introduction of high-density single-nucleotide–polymorphism arrays and massive enlargement of cohort sizes, but most of the risk factors detected account for only a small proportion of the total genetic risk, and their diagnostic value is negligible. There is reason to believe that the complexity of many “multifactorial” disorders is primarily due to genetic heterogeneity, with defects of different genes causing the same disease. Moreover, de novo copy-number variation has been identified as a major cause of mental retardation and other complex disorders, suggesting that new mutations are an important, previously overlooked factor in the etiology of complex diseases. These observations support the notion that research into the previously neglected monogenic disorders should become a priority of genome research. Because of the introduction of novel high-throughput, low-cost sequencing methods, sequencing and genotyping will soon converge, with far-reaching implications for the elucidation of genetic disease and health care.
An astonishing amount of behavioral variation is captured within the more than 350 breeds of dog recognized worldwide. Inherent in observations of dog behavior is the notion that much of what is observed is breed specific and will persist, even in the absence of training or motivation. Thus, herding, pointing, tracking, hunting, and so forth are likely to be controlled, at least in part, at the genetic level. Recent studies in canine genetics suggest that small numbers of genes control major morphologic phenotypes. By extension, we hypothesize that at least some canine behaviors will also be controlled by small numbers of genes that can be readily mapped. In this review, we describe our current understanding of a representative subset of canine behaviors, as well as approaches for phenotyping, genome-wide scans, and data analysis. Finally, we discuss the applicability of studies of canine behavior to human genetics.
Evidence is emerging of a growing societal consensus about appropriate and inappropriate uses of genetic information. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 provides new legal protections to Americans by prohibiting the discriminatory use of genetic information by health insurers and employers. Additionally, the United States military recently created new policies for fair use of genetic information in the determination of benefits for servicemen and servicewomen leaving military service. Although critical issues remain, such as the potential for genetic information to be used to deny people other forms of insurance, and how the military will use genetic medicine overall, significant progress has been made.
To honor James F. Crow on the occasion of his 95th birthday, GENETICS has commissioned a series of Perspectives and Reviews. For GENETICS to publish the honorifics is fitting, as from their birth Crow and GENETICS have been paired. Crow was scheduled to be born in January 1916, the same month that the first issue of GENETICS was scheduled to appear, and in the many years that Crow has made major contributions to the conceptual foundations of modern genetics, GENETICS has chronicled his and other major advances in the field. The commissioned Perspectives and Reviews summarize and celebrate Professor Crow’s contributions as a research scientist, administrator, colleague, community supporter, international leader, teacher, and mentor. In science, Professor Crow was the international leader of his generation in the application of genetics to populations of organisms and in uncovering the role of genetics in health and disease. In education, he was a superb undergraduate teacher whose inspiration changed the career paths of many students. His teaching skills are legendary, his lectures urbane and witty, rigorous and clear. He was also an extraordinary mentor to numerous graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, many of whom went on to establish successful careers of their own. In public service...
Notch is a receptor that mediates cell–cell interactions in animal development, and aberrations in Notch signal transduction can cause cancer and other human diseases. Here, I describe the major advances in the Notch field from the identification of the first mutant in Drosophila almost a century ago through the elucidation of the unusual mechanism of signal transduction a little over a decade ago. As an essay for the GENETICS Perspectives series, it is my personal and critical commentary as well as an historical account of discovery.
A dog’s craniofacial diversity is the result of continual human intervention in natural selection, a process that began tens of thousands of years ago. To date, we know little of the genetic underpinnings and developmental mechanisms that make dog skulls so morphologically plastic. In this Perspectives, we discuss the origins of dog skull shapes in terms of history and biology and highlight recent advances in understanding the genetics of canine skull shapes. Of particular interest are those molecular genetic changes that are associated with the development of distinct breeds.
Investigations of the legacy of natural selection in the human genome have proved particularly informative, pinpointing functionally important regions that have participated in our genetic adaptation to the environment. Furthermore, genetic dissection of the intensity and type of selection acting on human genes can be used to predict involvement in different forms and severities of human diseases. We review here the progress made in population genetics studies toward understanding the effects of selection, in its different forms and intensities, on human genome diversity. We discuss some outstanding, robust examples of genes and biological functions subject to strong dietary, climatic and pathogen selection pressures. We also explore the possible relationship between cancer and natural selection, a topic that has been largely neglected because cancer is generally seen as a late-onset disease. Finally, we discuss how the present-day incidence of some diseases of modern societies may represent a by-product of past adaptation to other selective forces and changes in lifestyle. This perspective thus illustrates the value of adopting a population genetics approach in delineating the biological mechanisms that have played a major evolutionary role in the way humans have genetically adapted to different environments and lifestyles over time.
Wilhelm Weinberg (1862–1937) is a largely forgotten pioneer of human and medical genetics. His name is linked with that of the English mathematician G. H. Hardy in the Hardy–Weinberg law, pervasive in textbooks on population genetics since it expresses stability over generations of zygote frequencies AA, Aa, aa under random mating. One of Weinberg’s signal contributions, in an article whose centenary we celebrate, was to verify that Mendel’s segregation law still held in the setting of human heredity, contrary to the then-prevailing view of William Bateson (1861–1926), the leading Mendelian geneticist of the time. Specifically, Weinberg verified that the proportion of recessive offspring genotypes aa in human parental crossings Aa × Aa (that is, the segregation ratio for such a setting) was indeed p=14. We focus in a nontechnical way on his procedure, called the simple sib method, and on the heated controversy with Felix Bernstein (1878–1956) in the 1920s and 1930s over work stimulated by Weinberg’s article.
A biologia molecular contribuiu decisivamente para os avanços na produção do conhecimento em genética humana, possibilitando aos cientistas e pesquisadores conhecer e manipular o corpo humano e as doenças genéticas sob a inédita perspectiva biomolecular. Esse conjunto de mudanças tecnocientíficas não se limitou ao campo da pesquisa, repercutindo na economia com a criação de uma indústria de biotecnologia, nas políticas de saúde, na produção e distribuição do novo conhecimento e na mobilização de pacientes. A partir da segunda metade dos anos 1980, analistas dos ESCT preocupados com as mudanças em torno da saúde, denominaram esse conjunto de mudanças de biomedicalização. Inspirado nessa abordagem, o objetivo deste trabalho será analisar o lugar dos laboratórios públicos de pesquisa na constituição desse processo, sinalizando para as singularidades do fenômeno no Brasil e avaliando a percepção de pacientes e familiares diante dessas mudanças. A metodologia de pesquisa apoiou-se principalmente nas observações de laboratório, realizada em quatro laboratórios do Centro de Genética Humana (CGH), entrevistas semiestruturadas com pesquisadores do Centro, acompanhamento de sessões de atendimentos aos pacientes do CGH e visitas a centros de atendimento a crianças especiais. A pesquisa acompanhou parte da descrição de uma nova doença genética denominada síndrome S. e o cotidiano de atividades de dois laboratórios dedicados aos estudos da síndrome da distrofia muscular e à elaboração de terapias para a doença. Na elaboração da síndrome S....
A recent paper by Deelen et al. (2014) in Human Molecular Genetics reports the largest genome-wide association study of human longevity to date. While impressive, there is a remarkable lack of association of genes known to considerably extend lifespan in rodents with human longevity, both in this latest study and in genetic association studies in general. Here, I discuss several possible explanations, such as intrinsic limitations in longevity association studies and the complex genetic architecture of longevity. Yet one hypothesis is that the lack of correlation between longevity-associated genes in model organisms and genes associated with human longevity is, at least partly, due to intrinsic limitations and biases in animal studies. In particular, most studies in model organisms are conducted in strains of limited genetic diversity which are then not applicable to human populations. This has important implications and, together with other recent results demonstrating strain-specific longevity effects in rodents due to caloric restriction, it questions our capacity to translate the exciting findings from the genetics of aging to human therapies.
My research seeks to aid in developing approaches to prevent breast cancer. This research evolved from our early empirical studies for discovering natural compounds with anticancer activities, coupled with clinical evaluation to a genetics-driven approach to prevention. This centers on the use of comparative genomics to discover risk-modifying alleles that could help define population and individual risk and also serve as potential prevention drugable targets to mitigate risk. Here, we initially fine map mammary cancer loci in a rat carcinogenesis model and then evaluate their human homologs in breast cancer case-control association studies. This approach has yielded promising results, including the finding that the compound rat QTL Mcs5a's human homologous region was associated with breast cancer risk. These and related findings have the potential to yield advancements both in translation-prevention research and in basic molecular genetics.
This article explores the sociopolitical backdrop of genetics research during the politically turbulent decades of the mid-20th century that saw the persecution, displacement, and relocation of unpopular minorities in both the United States and Europe. It explores how geneticists in the United States accommodated these disruptions through formal and informal émigré networks and how the subsequent war affected their research programs and their lives. It does so by focusing on the career and life of geneticist Masuo Kodani, who, as a Japanese American, found himself conducting unexpected cytogenetics research in Manzanar, a “relocation center,” or internment camp, located in the California desert, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war, Kodani's subsequent career continued to be shaped by his experiences as a Japanese American and by the specific skills as a cytogeneticist that he demonstrated at a critical period in the history of 20th-century genetics. His many relocations in search of employment culminated in his work with the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission on human chromosomes, for which he is best known.