Genes and DNA are in the center of attention nowadays. But it isn’t very long ago, nobody had heard of genes and DNA. Scientists had been working on heredity for a long time, but only in the 1990s the general public became more aware of the subject. At first, due to the possibilities of DNA tests in solving crimes and later on, because of publications about genes involved in certain diseases.

Whether you are born with red, blond, or black hair is written in your genes. (© tanyalittle – Fotolia.com)

Whether you are born with red, blond, or black hair is written in your genes. (© tanyalittle – Fotolia.com)

Frequently, headlines appear in newspapers and magazines about the discovery of a specific gene that is supposedly the originator of a certain disease (“New Alzheimer genes discovered”, “Scientists find autism gene”).

Most of the time, new knowledge about genes and heredity is published somewhat oversimplified. The impression is given our genes determine who we are. And more importantly: which diseases we will be suffering from. It seems the genes we inherit from our parents have an inescapable fate in store for us.

Nothing is more besides the truth. Genes need to be switched on or off to start chain reactions, which may lead to diseases. External events and free-willed behaviour are causing this switching off or on of genes.

Research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden recently revealed longevity depends for about only 25 percent on your genes; the other 75 percent is determined by the environment in which you live and by your lifestyle.

One gene is a little piece of the DNA molecule, which contains our hereditary information. One DNA molecule may contain many genes. In the past decades, biological science has been dominated by the quest to decipher the secrets of these genes.

At the beginning of the 21st century, scientists had more or less unravelled the complete human genome, our complete package of hereditary information. Had they assumed at first we would have a couple of millions of genes, in the end it seems the human genome only holds about 20,000 genes.

In the future, it may be possible to correct faulty genes. (© creative soul – Fotolia.com)

In the future, it may be possible to correct faulty genes. (© creative soul – Fotolia.com)

Aided by this new knowledge of our genes, researchers now try to discover where certain diseases originate. Nobody is perfect and everybody has an amount of defects in their genes. Those defects may cause problems in the functioning of our body, which can lead to diseases.

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if in the future we would know which defects in which genes may generate which diseases? And it would be even more tremendous of course if we would be able to repair those defect genes or replace them.


DNA © abhijith3747 – Fotolia.com


The book of life

It certainly is not true that you find yourself at the mercy of the genes with which you were born. By sticking to a healthy lifestyle you can exert a lot of influence on your genes.

Tricky business

When you carry a gene mutation that supposedly is involved in a serious disease, would you want to know that? Most people will impulsively say “yes”.

DetectiveDedicated detection

Small, icy rooms without heating and English pubs where the alcohol is flowing are ingredients not only for many detective stories, but also for the discovery of the DNA molecule.

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When an engineer would have to come up with a perfectly working human body, it would probably look quit different from ours. We came to be by trial and error.

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We all age. As a child, we love to age and can’t wait to finally become an adult. But when you are in your thirties, growing older is already associated with negative feelings.

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