Wednesday, March 30, 2005

New Results in Genetics

In the 1800s, Mendel‘s studies of pea plants led him to assert some basic laws of heredity that were the foundations of modern genetics. These laws are still taught today in beginning genetics classes. There is a short explanation of his pea plant experiments here. The Mendel Museum has a nice website that gives a lot of information about his life and his work (a lot more than just pea plants and genetics).

In a recent issue of Nature, a group from Purdue University led by geneticist Robert Pruitt published some results that contradict Mendel’s laws. A summary is given here. In short, they found that occasionally some plants didn’t inherit traits from their parents as would be predicted by Mendel. Instead, they showed traits of their grandparents. If true, that could mean there is another mechanism that transmits genetic information from the preceding generation. Sometimes this information can override normal inheritance or genetic mutations. If that mechanism could be understood and controlled, it could offer a new avenue for therapies to treat genetic diseases.

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