Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

Genome: The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters

Matt Ridley

Language: English

Pages: 368

ISBN: 0060894083

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The genome's been mapped.
But what does it mean?

Arguably the most significant scientific discovery of the new century, the mapping of the twenty-three pairs of chromosomes that make up the human genome raises almost as many questions as it answers. Questions that will profoundly impact the way we think about disease, about longevity, and about free will. Questions that will affect the rest of your life.

Genome offers extraordinary insight into the ramifications of this incredible breakthrough. By picking one newly discovered gene from each pair of chromosomes and telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history of our species and its ancestors from the dawn of life to the brink of future medicine. From Huntington's disease to cancer, from the applications of gene therapy to the horrors of eugenics, Matt Ridley probes the scientific, philosophical, and moral issues arising as a result of the mapping of the genome. It will help you understand what this scientific milestone means for you, for your children, and for humankind.

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prehensile toes. It is mind-boggling even to try to imagine how that can be done — science still has only the vaguest clues about how growth and form are generated by genes - but that genes are responsible is not in doubt. The differences between human beings and chimpanzees are genetic differences and virtually nothing else. Even those who would stress the cultural side of the human condition and deny or doubt the importance of genetic differences between human individuals or races, accept that

in the face of what might seem overwhelming evidence of guilt; its ability to flush out the guilty just by the threat of its use; its amazing precision and reliability — if properly used; its reliance on small samples of bodily tissue, even nasal mucus, spit, hair or bone from a long-dead corpse. Genetic fingerprinting has come a long way in the decade since the Pitchfork case. In Britain alone, by mid-1998 320,000 samples of D N A had been collected by the Forensic Science Service and used to

to explain Charles Darwin's chronic illnesses. Darwin was bitten by the bug that carries Chagas' disease while travelling in Chile and some of his later symptoms fit the disease. If Darwin had been a woman, he might have spent less time feeling sorry for himself. Yet it is to Darwin that we must turn for enlightenment here. The fact that testosterone suppresses immune function has been 1 5 8 G E N O M E seized upon by a cousin of natural selection known as sexual selection and ingeniously

chemical that closely resembles dopamine (a dopamine agonist, in the jargon) is injected into their brains, they recover their natural arousal. An excess of dopamine in the brain, by contrast, makes a mouse highly exploratory and adventurous. In human beings, excessive dopamine may be the immediate cause of schizophrenia; and some hallucinogenic drugs work by stimulating the dopamine system. A mouse addicted to cocaine so badly that it prefers the drug to food is experiencing the release of

vulnerable to alcoholism and that many cannot now 'hold their drink'. A similar story is taught by a gene on chromosome 1, the gene for lactase. This enzyme is necessary for the digestion of lactose, a sugar abundant in milk. We are all born with this gene switched on in our digestive system, but in most mammals - and therefore in most people — it switches off during infancy. This makes sense: milk is something you drink in infancy and it is a waste of energy making the enzyme after that. But

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