By Bryan Sykes
The inside of tale of the Y chromosome's deadly flaw, as advised through one of many world's top geneticists.
Male reproductive fragility has been the topic of a lot hugely publicized contemporary study. Is it attainable, requested the New York Times, that males face extinction? Bryan Sykes examines the validity of those stunning experiences, concentrating on the defining attribute of fellows: the Y chromosome of their DNA. Guiding his readers via chapters like "The Blood of Vikings" and "Ribbons of Life," Sykes masterfully blends ordinary historical past with medical truth, elucidating the biology of sexual replica, glossy genetics, and evolutionary biology. He finds that, whereas the Y chromosome makes man's lifestyles attainable, it additionally consists of inside it the seeds of his destruction. well timed and interesting, this significant paintings covers a wealth of debatable issues, together with even if there's a genetic reason for male greed, aggression, and promiscuity; the prospective lifestyles of a male gay gene; and what, if whatever, should be performed to save lots of males from a sluggish, yet definite, extinction.
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The art, the skill, comes in dropping the cells from just the right height, with just enough force that the chromosomes are scattered - but not too far. Too brutal a treatment now will fling the chromosomes all over the slide; too gentle a touch and the chromosomes will be tightly bunched, lying in a tangled heap. I take the glass slide and gently blow across it. A thin layer of condensation settles briefly on its surface. Immediately I let one drop fall from the pipette. It spreads across the surface of the glass slide.
Although the genetics is more complicated, it is comparable to the situation in humans where red hair and freckles go together. The fly results made no sense until the chromosomes were brought into the picture. By degrees, the scientists in Morgan's team realized that, when they saw features being inherited together more often than expected, the genes which controlled them, the genetic instructions that gave the eyes their colour and the wings their shape, must both be contained within the same chromosome.
I know very well the enormity of the technical achievement of the Human Genome Project in deciphering the whole sequence, the millions upon millions of smaller sequences that had to be overlain and stitched together to give the final unimaginably long sequence. I was used to describing the genome in metaphors of vast distances - pointing out, say, that if all our DNA stretched from London to San Francisco, a typical gene would only be one inch long. But here, as I peer through the microscope, what strikes me is how very small my chromosomes really are; and how unimaginably 43 ADAM'S CURSE compressed the two metres of DNA which each cell contains must be to be crammed into this tiny genetic bouquet.
Adam's Curse by Bryan Sykes