By Joshua Nicholson
Is the Holy Grail all it’s hyped up to be?
Human genome sequencing, which has been dubbed the “Holy Grail” of biological research, has received worldwide acclaim, but not without criticism.
National DNA Day, April 25, has caused many to wonder whether the Human Genome Project has produced the answers that researchers hoped for.
The DNA Day events, which were held in Baytree Conference Room D, provided several answers to the proposed question. Dr. Karola Stotz’s talk, scheduled for 4 p.m. on May 10 in the Cowell Conference Room, will also attempt to do so.
In an email to City On a Hill Press (CHP), Stotz referenced her paper “2001 and All That: A Tale of A Third Science.”
“The factors that interactively regulate genomic expression are far from mere background conditions or supportive environments,” she wrote.
Stotz’s thesis, which addresses “molecular epigenesis,” describes networks of genome regulation that specify the physical structure of a gene and the range of its products.
The Human Genome Project, thought of as the “Book of Life” by many genome scientists, has received much criticism.
This debate over preformation and epigenesis, or “nature versus nurture,” has been around for hundreds of years. Before scientists uncovered the secrets of DNA, many believed that it was our blood that dictated character traits.
Robert Kuhn, Ph.D. and UCSC staff member who runs the UC Santa Cruz Genome Browser at genome.ucsc.edu, said that the browser is a “new tool for bench scientists [in which we can] leverage information from different genomes.”
As for phenotypes being attributed to genetics alone, Kuhn said, “No responsible scientists believe genes to be completely causal of phenotypes.” He described the relationship between gene and phenotype like a gradient in which certain genes are more effective than others. This gradient assigns an equal role to the environment as it does to genes.
Dr. Wendy Rothwell, a UCSC biomolecular engineering lecturer who recently taught a class titled “The Human Genome,” said that genes “play a fundamental role in biological processesâ€¦ understanding what they do leads to a better understanding of how life works.”