Saturday, February 20, 2016

Tips on How To Ace the First BIO 30 Exam

Illustration: Vincent Kua Lunario
They say that “firsts” are always the happiest and most exciting— first love, first kiss, first year in college, first baby, first salary; basically all other things you have tried or have gotten for the first time. But the questionnaire in BIO 30 begs to disagree.

We’re not here to say or create an impression that every BIO 30 exam is something to fear about. However, it is definitely something you have to prepare for, like any other exams you’ll take in UP (Who says exams in UP are a piece of cake, by the way?).

From chromosomes to genotype to phenotype to test and hybrid crosses, you’ve probably heard a lot from upperclassmen who survived BIO 30 already or from those fanboys and fangirls of the course taking it for the nth time that the test is really a “test of patience” because it is quite long and difficult.

We do know by now, you are almost reaching the finish line in reviewing the coverage for your first exam in Genetics. Yet still, we would like to extend our hands to remind you of the things that you already know but tend to forget and care less about due to the pressure you and your peers are putting on yourselves. So, here are the five ordinary yet powerful tips on how to pass and hopefully help you ace the most-awaited and most-talked about Dr. Mendioro’s first BIO 30 examination:

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

In my human genes: history, identity, fate

Written by Jae Joseph Russell Rodriguez (Ribozymes)

Three months ago, I found myself on the shores of Brač, an island off the coast of southern Croatia. While it was the perfect time of the year to enjoy the Mediterranean summer in such a historic place, my reason for taking the long journey was more professional than leisurely. I came as the only Filipino delegate to the 9th International Society for Applied Biological Sciences (ISABS) Conference. It was a week-long scientific meeting with a tripartite theme of anthropological, forensic, and medical genetics. I personally would like to think that my participation marked my transition, from a more forensic background during my master’s to a possible PhD track on anthropological genetics. It was an excellent venue for interaction among students and scientists from these three allied fields. New friends, delightful wine, sand, sun, and the Adriatic Sea, but most rewarding were the excellent and most up to date discussions on human DNA and its applications. I briefly summarize here my musings with the Philippines always put into context.

In our DNA is information. Within the variability in nucleotide sequence are the nuances of how we should develop, how we should look like, and how certain functions are carried out in our cells. In addition to these are archives of information that allow us to peer back into our history as a species, to look at the unique fingerprints of our identity, and possibly even to gaze into the fates our bodies are in store for us. While simply knowing these things hold us in awe, human genetics has the immense potential to benefit humanity, and in particular to serve Filipinos in many ways more than what we can imagine.

Digging up the past through anthropological genetics

In our DNA is a story. It is a story of how our species connects with our 7 million year old ancestor we share with are closest cousin, the chimpanzee. Through genome sequencing technology we know that we share about 94 percent of our DNA with chimps, greater than the proportion they share with either gorillas or orangutans. Perhaps, knowledge of our genomes may also help us to deal more kindly with one another. Despite all our differences in color (be it skin, creed, or political), we humans are about 99 percent alike in our DNA.

It is also a story of how our ancestry goes back to the African continent. The DNA in our mitochondria due to its strict maternal inheritance can be traced to a single woman nicknamed mitochondrial Eve that lived in Africa about a hundred thousand years ago. Likewise, the Y-chromosome of males, passed on from father to son, converge to a man which also lived in Africa, and we call him Y-chromosomal Adam. However, this is not to say that this “Adam” and “Eve” were the first and only humans when they were alive, neither they had even met and overlapped lifetimes. The Y-chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA are just but a tiny proportion of the entire human genome. That they are transmitted down exclusively uniparental lines enables geneticists to study them without the complications of recombination. Yet, in our 22 autosomes are patches of ancestries shuffled through several thousand generations. While such massive genome-wide information demands more complicated analyses, it is a treasure trove of richer and more complete accounts of our history.