Genome sweet genome

// 15 June 2008

Staircase in Vatican MuseumAccording to AFP, researchers at Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC) in the Netherlands have mapped the full genetic sequence of a woman for the first time.

A statement issued by LUMC said, "[She]’s the first woman in the world and the first European whose DNA sequence will be made public".

Gert-Jan van Ommen, head of the team that carried out the study, added, "The sequencing of a woman[’s DNA] allows a better understanding of the X-chromosome" (the gene thread associated with female characteristics).

Four other human genomes have been mapped previously – all of them men. Van Ommen said, "It was time, after the sequencing of four men, to balance the sexes". (Via The Great Beyond).

Wikipedia: "In biology the genome of an organism is its whole hereditary information and is encoded in the DNA"

Image via Wikimedia Commons, used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation license.

(Cross-posted at bird of paradox)

Comments From You

genital warts // Posted 15 June 2008 at 10:14 am

There is an interesting study of genome in women’s health so I would like to share with you the link where you can download it

Steph Jones // Posted 15 June 2008 at 12:25 pm

The question that immediately comes to mind, though Helen, is for what purpose? I am more than a little suspicious of what reasons there may be for doing this? Is it just to understand more about the human body, or will we see yet more ‘bad science’ that perpetuates more stereotypes and conformity based on ‘gender’?

Helen G // Posted 15 June 2008 at 12:45 pm

Steph: My pessimistic side says that any useful information will be patented with a view to selling it at extortionate cost; my optimistic side says that, at the least, maybe we’ll learn a little more about the nature of gender.

Mainstream medical opinion about my particular condition seems to suggest that it may, in fact, occur in the womb – but there has been far too little research to say conclusively. But, given that my life has been stood on its head by my transsexuality, I suppose I’d just like to think that maybe one day I will understand a little better exactly what caused it. And maybe genetic research will help in that process.

But, as I say, mostly I suspect it’ll just be another money-maker for multinational drug companies.

Anne Onne // Posted 15 June 2008 at 1:07 pm

It’s about time they mapped a female genome, seeing as how half the population isn’t male.

The difficulty with science is that we’ve already found all the conditions that have a simple high correlation between cause and effect. The rest are an infinitely woven mesh of biochemical interactions, so much so that pretty much anything we do or are exposed to has an effect. To which extent we will seek to pin the blame for a condition on people’s actions worries me, because the patriarchy does tend towards blaming women. On the other hand, pinning it all on genes worries me more, because it’s both and neither. I would just hope for reasoned, nuanced discourse on the role both genes and environment play (since the environment affects the expression of the genes, their mutations etc), but I fear it will go the bad science way.

Steph Jones // Posted 15 June 2008 at 1:24 pm

Of course, Helen, its also more than possible that it won’t hold any clue to the nature of your transsexuality, my transsexuality, or anyone else’s. In fact, I wonder whether the answers will only be found, if they are to be found, by examining the transsexual body. As we know, there has been some research in this area already but the complexity of variables makes it hard to draw any objective conclusions, I feel.

Part of a concern that this also leads me to, is that the patriarchal medical establishment have been trying to find and isolate a ‘gay gene’ for years and years, and I am definately suspicious of the reasons often mooted for doing so.

Part of me hopes that if such a ‘reason’ for being gay/lesbian/trans existed, then it would hope to remove discrimination, especially that which is religiously-based and concrete the notion that we are all simply part of nature’s diversity and should be accepted as such. The other part of me worries that it becomes a devisive means of identifying who has a gay/lesbian/trans genetic disposition, and forms opinion that we are then, as some would wish, ‘proof of non- normality’, ‘freaks of nature’. That could further pathologise us.

Likewise, I may be over-reacting, but as soon as I read that article, I already started to gloomily predict the onslaught of the spin-off of ‘pop-scientific research’ that that merely tries to re-enforce the notions of ‘men are better than women at this’, ‘women are better than men at this’, because ‘look, we’ve proved that the genetic make-up says so’?! I think that could be very worrying

Personally, I’ve always considered my transsexuality to be caused, in part, by hormonal abnormalities during my early development in the womb. The only possible indication I have of this is that my mother did some investigations of her own a few years back and discovered that a number of drugs she was administered at the time of expecting me, were later withdrawn for having been linked to damage to male foetuses. Whether any future studies provide hard evidence to that effect we’ll see I guess.

JaneL // Posted 15 June 2008 at 6:45 pm

Leaving asside motives of financial gain and the rather frightening things like patenting of genes etc, I’d say the value of sequencing the genome isn’t what it tells science about men or women, but that it’s essentially laying out the blueprints of human evolutionary history. It is, in the basest and most literal way, what makes us humans, rather than antelopes or starfish. And that’s quite astonishing and beautiful and makes me feel awed and rather sentimental that I’m alive now, in this century where scientists can do things like that.

We don’t need the whole genome to study the biological basis of sex and gender, because like everyone learnt in school we only need the single pair of sex chromosomes. The other 42 autosomes are as likely to come from our mothers as our fathers and are as likely to be inherited by ours sons as our daughters.

And of course, for women, one of our X chromosomes always comes from our dads. And every man has one, it’s just they also have a Y chromosome.

It’s just that there’s no such thing as ‘the female genome’ vs ‘the male genome’. Since half our genetic material comes from each parent all genomes are equally ‘male’ and ‘female’, if that’s the way you’re going to think about it. It’s just that depending on whether the individual has their father’s X chromosome or their father’s Y chromosome, their genes will code for a male body or a female body.

This isn’t The Female Genome, it’s a woman’s genome.

My worry though is that this sort of research as it progesses gets hijacked by people looking to legitimise types of racism. Also, some form eugenics becoming a fashionable mode of thought again.

Alicia // Posted 15 June 2008 at 7:23 pm

“The sequencing of a woman[’s DNA] allows a better understanding of the X-chromosome” – what, the men’s X-chromosomes weren’t good enough? This is interesting to me purely because it hadn’t occurred to me that the human genome project would have a gender bias. I thought they were sequencing human genomes, not male. Is there an even gender division with the other animals that have had their DNA sequenced?

Shea // Posted 16 June 2008 at 2:48 am

Can I be the sole pedant here and say this actually doesn’t tell us a great deal? This is a map without the labels, we are still far, far off knowing where the genes are located, their functions to be determined and control elements identified etc. The genome project will still be expanding in 2053.

Can I second the comments of JaneL above, theres no such thing as a “female” as opposed to “male” genome. The difference is a single sex chromosome.

But I agree with the patenting aspect, theres big money to be made in the DNA sequencing klondike. Mr Craig Venter must be rubbing his hands in glee.

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