Weston Middle School

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Weston, Massachusetts
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Heredity and Genetic Engineering/Biotechnology

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The study of heredity is the study of how traits- for height, hair color, features, and all the other thousands of things that mark who we are, are passed from generation to generation. Plants and animals carry a double set of genes, half from each parent, which are endlesly reshuffled with each reproductive cycle. Many cytoplasmic organelles, such as mitochondria and chloroplasts, carry their own genetic information.

Because gene expression is controlled by proteins(histones), it has been found that life history events, such as nutritional events, can also have hereditary effects.

Biotechnology/Genetic Engineering:

Mankind has used biotechnology for thousands of years, to make important food stuffs such as beer, bread, cheese, and medicine. In recent years, however, advances in DNA sequencing and genetic manipulation have enabled manipulation of the genome itself, harnessing microorganisms to manufacture proteins such as insulin and other hormones, and to genetically modify the genetic makeup of plants and animals to meet human needs. As this technology develops, it offers both great potential benefits and ethical dilemnas.

Below: The Russian Royal Family, the Romanovs, about 1913. The Tsarevitch, Alexi (bottom left) had a genetically inherited disease, hemophilia. His mother's attempts to treat his disease through the faith healer, Rasputin, had political results which weakened the Tzar's government and contributed to the Russian Revolution.

His remains were discovered in 2007 and identified through DNA testing based on mitochrondrial DNA.

Links

Introduction to Genetics

University of Utah Genetics Lesson Plans

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Revised June 2008 by Jonathan Dietz, dietzj@mail.weston.org