Letter to the Editor

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Re: ‘What’s in Your DNA?’

To the Editor:

While the prospect of a “free” 23andMe DNA test might help to draw students to the biology department’s “Personal Genomics and Medicine” course, The Sun’s coverage of this attraction raises far more questions than answers. The March 25 article states that the course aims to “demystify genetics and genetic science.” I’d argue that currently available genetic tests like 23andMe actually do the opposite. Instead of simply revealing a genetic blueprint to the user, direct-to-consumer genetic tests are riddled with social, political and ethical questions, turning the results into more than objective “data.”

The article briefly raises the question of privacy, but this is not enough. How are these technologies regulated? Who owns the data, and what can they do with it?

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Reptile Expert Discovers a Toothy Truth

Utilizing tpsDig, a landmark scaling software, D’Amore was able to map out the shape and size of each Nile Monitor tooth on a coordinate plane. This new measuring method allowed him to contribute numeric data to an area in which qualitative descriptions were coming up short.

Pg-8-Science

Cornell Volunteers Travel to Colombia to Promote Higher Education in Biology

Over winter break, eight Cornell volunteers collaborated with seven students from the Universidad del Magdalena in Santa Marta, Colombia, to teach biology to Liceo Samario high school students. For some time, Prof. Timothy DeVoogd, psychology, has been trying to create international experiences for Cornell students in the sciences. He realized that one way to promote students’ international involvement might be to work with peers in Latin America over winter break. DeVoogd proposed the idea to Carlos Coronado, director of International Relations at the University of Magdalena. Coronado then found a public high school in which 80 percent of its students come from families below the Colombian poverty line, DeVoogd said.

Different concentrations of solute added and subsequent rates of freezing.

Student Spotlight on Kieran Loehr ’20: Researching Optimal Cooling Methods

While cryogenics is often depicted as a scientifically fictitious, Hollywood creation, Kieran Loehr ’20 and peer researchers in the lab of Prof. Robert Thorne, physics, are collaborating to make bio preservation an easy and affordable process. According to Loehr, freezing humans to be resuscitated in 100 years is not a foreseeable feat, but improving freezing techniques for commercial use, like sperm and egg cryopreservation and biomaterial storage for research purposes, is the lab’s primary goal. “Tissues, which are composed of membrane bound cells, are particularly delicate and the harsh process of freezing can cause them to rupture and incur damage,” Loehr said. This happens when the molecules of a slowly cooling liquid rearrange into rigid, crystalline structures and disrupt cell membranes. However, according to Loehr, “if the rate at which the freezing process takes place is increased to 600,000 kelvin/sec, biological damage can be avoided due to glass formation.” Glass is a term used to describe a frozen solid composed of molecules that are arranged as if in liquid state.

Image of skeletal muscle fibers that have been generated in vitro using a novel 3-D encapsulation method. Magenta=myosin heavy chain; Turquoise=actin; Green=Lamin B1; Red=DNA

New Frontier in Nucleus Capabilities

From middle school biology we were always taught that the nucleus is the “control center” of the cell, similar to how the brain is the control center of our own bodies. At first glance this makes a lot of sense, considering the nucleus contains DNA — the genetic code of life — and a good amount of the machinery that is required to transcribe this code into the proteins that make up our being. Despite this seemingly intuitive role of the nucleus, a recent study conducted by the Prof. Jan Lammerding, biomedical engineering, and post-doctoral fellow Tyler Kirby, suggests the nucleus may also act as a “mechano-sensor” in the cell. A mechano-sensor is a component of the cell that responds to physical stimuli in the environment of the cell, such as touch, charge, or temperature. Previously the role of mechano-sensor was credited entirely to cell membrane proteins.