GeneSoc features Genetics in the Electromagnetic Spectrum

The UPLB Genetics Society illuminates the science of light and genetics as we celebrate BIO 30 Week 2017 with the theme “Sun-kissed genes: Perceiving Genetics in the Electromagnetic Spectrum,” this April 3 to 7 at the Wing C lobby of the Institute of Biological Sciences of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (IBS-UPLB).

The electromagnetic spectrum is composed of electromagnetic (EM) radiations which have varying wavelengths, frequencies and energy. It includes radiowaves, microwaves, infrared radiation (IR), visible light, ultraviolet (UV) light, X-rays and gamma rays. These electromagnetic radiations have various impacts on the growth and development of many organisms, which can be molecularly elucidated.

Studies related to these radiations are continuously emerging in the 21st century, divulging the drawbacks and benefits of each in many organisms.

For instance, a study by Silva and his colleagues in 2001 focused on the effect of gamma rays on the growth of rice seedlings. They found out that introducing gamma rays reduces the presence of oxygen free radicals responsible for cell damage, improving rice health and grain quality.

Another study on EM radiation, specifically X-rays, was conducted by Nowosielska and her group in 2012. They tested the effects of X-rays on innate tumor reactions in mice, discovering an enhanced expression of anti-inflammatory genes which have anti-neoplastic and tumoricidal functions.

In 2010, Rastogi, Kumar, Tyagi and Sinha studied UV radiation-induced DNA damage and the respective DNA repair mechanisms utilized by the cell. They found out that UV can cause various mutagenic and cytotoxic DNA lesions such as thymine dimers. These lesions can be repaired by the organisms’ innate DNA repair mechanisms such as SOS response and photoreactivation. They also found that UV can modify nitrogenous bases, resulting to deleterious gene products.

Another study found out that visible light and UV enhances the expression of heat shock protein 70 (hsp70) genes in Euplotes focardii, a psychrophile. Heat shock proteins act as molecular chaperones, aiding in protein synthesis and folding, as well as protein transport. These proteins also contribute to the cells’ resiliency to environmental stresses.

Aside from these four electromagnetic raditations, infrared, microwaves and radiowaves have also been the subject of many genetic researches. In 2015, Miao and Hayashi studied infrared laser heat shock and its effect to tracheal development in Drosophila. They found out that heat shock genes are stimulated by one to two hours of exposure to IR. They also observed that Drosophila fibroblast growth factor (FGF) caused changes in the migration and branching patterns of the tracheal system. From these results, they concluded that infrared affects temporal gene expression of the Drosophila embryo.

Rockefeller University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute also studied the advantageous effects of radio waves in mice. They have found out that radiowaves stimulate insulin production as ferritin was detected upon exposure to this EM radiation. Ferritin is responsbile for opening ion channels that regulate genes coding for insulin production, leading to increased insulin levels and decreased blood sugar levels in the bloodstream of mice.

Microwaves, however, were discovered to have a negative effect on yeast and bacteria. Dardalon and his colleagues observed that this EM radiation is responsible for some nuclear reversions, cytoplasmic mutations and mitotic recombinations which can affect cellular pathways and enzymatic activities, leading to abnormalities in cell growth and development

There are still many avenues for research on the effects and relationships between the electromagnetic spectrum and genetics. And this year, The UPLB Genetics Society is excited to cover the current discoveries in our exhibit.

The celebration of BIO30 Week 2017 will also include a Thanksgiving Mass, Exhibit and GENEWS Launching, BIO 30 Quiz Contest, Digital Collage Contest, GeneSoc Orientation, Print-All-You-Can and the 3rd BIO 30 tutorials.