Tuesday, March 25, 2014

It's 'genetic' (or not)

TAG of the Week:


Review the two research articles examining disease and well-being
1) the association between genetic variation and obesity
2) the association between genetic variation and pair-bonding behaviors

Please choose one of the following and comment:
1. You can share the new, 'surprising' information you learned
2. Ask a question that needs additional clarification,
3. Share a news link relevant to the discussion. 
4. Reply to another student's comment.

81 comments:

  1. I was extremely surprised to find out that studies are being done that associates pair-bonding with different alleles and increased susceptibility for offspring for certain mutations. I find it fascinating that something as variable as the way you communicate with your partner could significantly alter your offspring so significantly. Now that these factors are being studied I feel as though scientists can open a lot of controversial but interesting doors to explain different diseases and phenomena with regards to human behavior and mutations. I believe that people may reject many of the associations at first since they do seem so different from typical scientific studies of human DNA. With time, I believe a lot of insightful information can be found and examined further, these studies seem both extremely interesting and promising.

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  2. I think that genetic variation in pair-bonding activity is extremely interesting. Humans are social creatures, and bonding with other humans is necessary to our physical and mental survival. I found the study by Walum et al. to be very thought provoking. I had never heard of ARP (arginine vasopressin), and its effects on proneness for monogamous behavior in males before. This new research has the potential to change the way we think about pair-bonding behavior, but I think there is also potential for this information to be taken out of context, as was seen in the news clip we watched in class today. Newscasters named the gene the “monogamy gene”, and were interviewing people to see if they would want to get their boyfriend or fiancé tested to see if they possessed this gene. I agree with the psychotherapist that was interviewed on the subject, who said that just because you have the gene does not mean you will cheat, and just because you do not have the gene does not mean that you won’t. It is extremely important for the public to understand the uses and meaning behind these genetic breakthroughs, so that they are able to interpret the information correctly.

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    1. I agree with Rebecca. I think there is such a difference with what media reports and what is actually being researched in the scientific community, and how easily taken out of context. I think with something as personal as pair-bonding, there are a great deal of outside factors that can influence whether or not having ARP affects whether or not a partner will cheat. I would be interested to see a large cohort conducted where people who vary in those alleles are studied over time in order to determine if they are statistically more likely to cheat on their partner.

      In addition, the obesity article links an association with certain genetics that can make a person more susceptible to obesity. Although both of these topics are intriguing, as I read them I can't help but to wonder if these associations are true, what is the goal of this type of research? What do genomic and genetic counselors/researchers hope to use this information for? As some others have commented in their posts, once people learn that their might be genetics to "blame" for their obesity or lack of pair-bonding, they may be less likely to believe that lifestyle can influence or override those genetics. It's possible that they might even feel that they can't change their fate.

      As we read more of these types of studies, I'm interested to learn what types of positive aspects these researchers will use this type of information for. I'm interested to know how people would react if they found out that they have these susceptibilities, and if they would change their lifestyle for the better or for the worse. Is the ultimate goal, for example with obesity, to find a genetic susceptibility so we can perform a type of gene therapy or minimize the effects of it?

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  3. The association between genetic variability and obesity is interesting. The past couple of years there has been new research on this coming out, but I'm not sure how I feel about it. Once people can attribute a problem to genetics, it's almost like they have something to fall back on and push the blame off themselves. I truly believe in a holistic person, and I think genetics can have an impact, but lifestyle can have more of an impact. If there are these predispositions and genes for obesity, I'm sure there are people in other parts of the world that have them, but for some reason the "American" diet and lifestyle takes over. I also think that connecting obesity with genetics would cause big changes in healthcare. If it's connected to genetics, people could try and lobby that problems caused by obesity (heart troubles, example) should be covered in full because of genetics, this would cause a big movement of money, and I'm not quite sure if our economy is prepared for that right now. This reminded me of an article I just read here:
    http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/03/18/fried-food-genetic-obesity/6566407/
    This article links fried food to obesity, and says that it can be worse for people who are predisposed. But my real question is, why are people even eating fried food in the first place? This brings me back to the western diet. To combat the obesity problem, we need sweeping social and environmental changes because realistically, I'm not sure how well genetic approaches could succeed.

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    1. I really liked your response! Very insightful!

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    2. I also agree

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    3. I also agree with you Amanda. I think that finding a link between obesity and genetics could have negative impacts from a public health standpoint. If a "treatment" were made available for obesity after a link to obesity were discovered, it could cause people to forego a healthy lifestyle for an easier treatment of obesity. This would shift healthcare from an emphasis on prevention to an emphasis on treatment, the opposite direction that that should be moving in. Practicing a healthy lifestyle would improve the health of our country, and help the country financially.

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  4. I found both the article and our class discussion of the role of genetics in pair-bonding in males. While the study was surprising to read about at first, I don't feel that it's so far-fetched. Since the human species evolved, males have always had the biological goal to reproduce as much as possible, where as women are more selective because they carry the child. Because of this, males would have faired better from an evolutionary standpoint if they were less monogamous. Finding a gene that connects to this evolutionarily beneficial behavior really does make sense.

    However, I don't believe this gene is end all, be all of pair bonding in humans. As the woman from the video we watched in class today said, this gene-behavior association is just that--an association. Carrying this specific allele doesn't mean that you're destined to never truly bond with a partner, just as not having this allele doesn't mean you're in the clear. Rather, it's a combination of genetic and environment factors throughout your life that impact your behavior and personality.

    This topic really piqued my interest and I hope to learn more about this in the future as genomic research advances.

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    1. I completely agree with what Lindsey has already covered regarding the topic of genetics and pair-bonding behavior. One topic that may have been misconstrued in the news report in class was the fact that this genotype is a polymorphism and not a mutation. The fact that this is a polymorphism makes it seem more commonplace, therefore offering assistance in counteracting the deterministic misconceptions surrounding genetic variations. In addition, although the study proves convincing, I think we must also acknowledge the study population: Swedish, Caucasian adults born between 1944 and 1971. The limited scope of the study population does raise some questions, as does the way these results were misconstrued on that newscast. I found it very odd that the researchers decided to use rodents rather than a more closely related animal such as a primate. So, I found a similar study implemented in 2013 that researched the same genotype in chimps, and "the overall results [of that study suggested...] that the AVPR1A gene influences the sensitivity in perception of socio-communicative cues by male but not female chimpanzees," which basically mirrors that of those in our research paper. I guess I just found it interesting that the results of our assigned reading haven't been completed forgotten and to this day scientists continue to try to build upon this puzzling genomic discovery

      Article: http://www.nature.com/srep/2014/140120/srep03774/full/srep03774.html

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  5. The relationship between genetic variation and obesity is easy to understand, yet difficult to apply to your own life. A person can be genetically predisposed to be obese, but that sounds like a sorry excuse because genetics can only go so far when it comes to being healthy and how one can control their life. Sure, one can have the genes that is more sensitive towards obesity, but our actions is what ultimately switches those genes on or off. It just seems like a justification or designated scapegoat if someone is obese. It doesn't make sense for only people who are genetically predisposed to be obese to watch what they eat; everyone should be doing that already. It is interesting that there is an obesity gene, if you will, but that doesn't determine anything. Your actions and some controllable environmental factors can trigger the gene to be expressed or not.

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    1. I think Samantha makes some good points in her post. We know obesity has to do with a mixture of socio-behavioral, environmental, and genetic factors and I do agree that at times people can use genetics as an excuse for certain behaviors for example this can happen with alcoholics. It is important to recognize that genetics do play a role in weight but our choices and behaviors also do too and can overcome our genetics. I do believe the same applies to the finding of a pair bonding gene - we should not let men use this as an excuse to be unfaithful but also know having that this gene is not an absolute predictor that the male will be a cheater.

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    2. I would say I agree with both Samantha and Lauren. Genetics are simply one piece of the puzzle that makes up a person. Yes, it does have influences, as people differ in their metabolism rates, bone structure, etc. A healthy lifestyle is vital, and we know that diet and exercise can have huge impacts on our future.
      Even so, it is not always so easy to just “be healthy”. Sure, everyone in this class is well educated, and we know that we should be eating healthy and exercising regularly (whether or not we actually do that is a different story). Unfortunately, some people do not know the proper way to take care of themselves, whether they were brought up in a home that ate fast food 7 times a week, or live in a neighborhood where they feel too unsafe to go outside and exercise all the time. There are other disparities that may prevent people from living out a healthy lifestyle. Genes are one aspect that contributes to the possibility of obesity, but also environment and things like that. Working to control what we can control is crucial, as well as spreading knowledge for those who may not have the same knowledge base that we do.

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  6. I think the association between pair-bonding and genetic variability is very interesting. I was surprised after reading the article, and finding out that pair-bonding behavior in males can be linked to a particular allele of a gene. It seems far-fetched though, to think about this as a monogamy gene, as they were calling it on the Today Show, because that makes it seem like only this gene alone is responsible for monogamous men. It is easy for someone who doesn't understand genomics to think this means that if men don't have this gene, they will be unfaithful in relationships and if men do have it, they are going to be faithful - without taking into account the effect of environmental factors, choice, etc. It is still really intriguing though. Even things we don't think of as being genetic per se may be very well linked to our DNA.
    I am particularly interested in the link between the pair-bonding gene allele and autism. People with autism spectrum disorders have impaired social skills and do not bond in the same way that individuals without autism do, so it would make sense to be due to a mutation somewhere in the genome. I know that autism is a very complex disorder whose etiology is not well known, so it would be interesting to find out what other genes play a role in autism, and how methods we've learned about in the past already such as gene therapy could play a role in treatment of the disorder.

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  7. I really like Amanda DiMeo's response to the topic. I also really like Samantha Huang's response, that although genes can cause a predisposition to obesity, there are external factors under one's control, i.e. diet, exercise, and lifestyle. However, I also have an alternative take on it. In the discussion of the Clement et al. article, it notes that the mutation is not a major determinant of obesity, but it's effects can be enhanced by environmental and behavioral factors. I think it would be important for people to early identify the mutation, and therefore be able to make lifestyle changes accordingly. However, I think what makes this predisposition for obesity different than the predisposition, let's say, for cancer, is that people would probably be less apt to take action in finding whether or not he/she has a mutation for the condition. Even I myself don't readily identify obesity with genetics, and therefore I think people would be more likely to blame lifestyle than genetics.

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    1. Jessica ThermitusMarch 28, 2014 at 1:59 PM

      Environmental and behavioral factors can influence the way genes are expressed. This epigenetic perspective is one that makes perfect sense. However, with a disease like obesity genes to not condemn a person to living with obesity and it's consequences. Instead, these genes only dictate how fast an individual gains weight. These genes determine the rate at which someone with the "obesity" genes and a normal individual gain fat while eating high fat foods. There's no garuntee that every single person born with these genes will develop obesity. As was mentioned before, this is due to outside factors.

      From a public health perspective, this means that the obesity epidemic in America is due to more than genes. It is due to how we treat our bodies and the convenience of horrible food that surround us.

      This article explains a lot about some of the specific polygenetic variants and epigenetic contributions to obesity also. If you have time, you should check it out! What's really cool is that it talk about FAT DISTRIBUTION as it relates to genetics as well. It's so interesting, omg.

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3213306/

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  8. I found an interesting article relating genetics and fried food. This article mentions that there are some people with a higher genetic predisposition to gaining weight, which may have a bigger impact when they eat fried food compared to those who do not have that genetic predisposition. The researchers analyzed data from three cohorts of patients.

    The article mentions that those in the highest tertile for genetic obesity, individuals who ate fried food over three times a week vs one time a week had a difference in BMI of 1.0 for women and 0.7 for men. On the other hand, in the lowest tertile for genetic risk, the same comparison resulted in a BMI difference of 0.5 for women and 0.4 for men.

    I thought this was interesting as well. It shows that genes can have an impact, as well as lifestyle choices. Even though individuals may eat fried food the same number of times a week, their genetic predisposition could make them gain more or less weight.

    http://www.clinicaladvisor.com/genetics-may-influence-weight-gain-from-fried-food/article/338992/?DCMP=EMC-CA_UPDATE&cpn=tyl&spMailingID=8205837&spUserID=NDExODQ4Mjg3MzMS1&spJobID=261863671&spReportId=MjYxODYzNjcxS0

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  9. I found it surprising that researchers were able to link specific genes to obesity. This could have major benefits in understand how and why people gain weight, and what health care workers can do to help them. The article stated that those individuals who were morbidly obese and who were “heterozygous for the Trp64Arg mutation had an increased capacity to gain weight”. This could help explain why some people do not respond well to specific diets, and why diet plans do not work well for certain individuals. DNA or a person’s genome may have an effect on the success of a diet in accomplishing weight loss.

    While this is useful information that should continue to be researched, it is also dangerous to an extent. If people do not completely understand what the research means, they may completely attribute their obesity to genetics, and not try to change their lifestyle or give up on trying to improve. It is important for people to know what environmental and lifestyle factors still do have an effect on a persons health or weight, and that the genetic component to obesity to minimal compared to actions a person can take to better themselves and their health.

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  10. I agree with what Samantha, Lauren, and Kendra said above. I agree that your genetics is not the only factor that determines your risk for obesity. There are many other factors that play a part in obesity. I read this article from the LA times that talks about the genetic predisposition to obesity and what it means. It said that Boston University and Harvard University conducted a study on consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and found that those who consumed these beverages AND were genetically predisposed to obesity gained more weight than those who were not genetically predisposed. However, this article does go on to say that just because you're not genetically predisposed does not mean that unhealthy behaviors will not affect you and you will not become obese. The article goes on to say that people who eat fried foods are less likely to take care of their health in other areas and therefore are more likely to engage in other unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, alcohol, little or no exercise, etc. I think that there are many factors that contribute to the risk of obesity. I think genetic factors do play a role in making people more susceptible to obesity, but I think many other factors play a role as well in making someone more susceptible to obesity.

    http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-fried-food-obesity-genes-20140318,0,5446348.story

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  11. I think that the article by Clement et. al. regarding a genetic variation being linked to obesity has enormous public health implications, both positive and negative.

    The obesity epidemic in the United States is one of the biggest health concerns today. Now that more of the common communicable diseases are being eradicated globally, there has been a big push to increase our health in terms of noncommunicable diseases. Finding a link between genetics and obesity could open many doors to possible treatment options, helping to eventually significantly reduce the prevalence of not only obesity, but also of the associated diseases such as CVD, diabetes, and heart disease.

    While all of that is a plus for the public health initiative on obesity, I think that it could also cause public health problems, as Amanda touched upon. If there is a genetic link to obesity, it could cause people to blame their genes for their poor health. This could in turn cause them to lead less healthy lifestyles because they believe that their genes are the only factors at play in regards to their health rather than the behavioral and environmental factors that also affect health. In addition, if a link between obesity and genes is discovered, I think that possible treatment options that would become available would put an unnecessary focus on a treatment approach to healthcare rather than on a prevention approach that would improve health outcomes and be better for the nation's economy.

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  12. I find it fascinating that there is an evident link between pair-bonding tendencies in men to the presence of specific alleles, as discussed by Walum, et. al. This study, and similar future studies, could help in improving our knowledge of autism spectrum disorders, and possibly help in the treatment of severe autism.
    However I think that the video we watched in class about this subject raised some good points. Although an association between genes and men's pair-bonding abilities has been discovered, that does not mean that the fate of those carrying or not carrying the allele for this gene is predetermined. As with any facet of our health, this is determined by a combination of our genes, our environment, and our behaviors, among other things. I think that this data could be easily misinterpreted as certain men not being able to form healthy, monogamous relationships with others. This in fact would not be completely determined by our genes, as nothing is. I will be interested to see what other research comes out in the future about this.

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    1. Haniya Saleem SyedaMarch 27, 2014 at 11:56 AM

      I agree with Juliana, the information regarding pair bonding tendencies was fascinating and I do think that the information could be pertinent to our understanding of autism and to treatment and possible prevention of autism. This is especially important because of the growing rates of autism in the US, which could be linked to the fact that the spectrum of autism has broadened or possible overdiagnoses.

      I also agree that it is important to understand that genetics are not an exact blue print of your life. We should stress in educating people that genetics are a small part of a much more complex and nuanced system that determines our health. There needs to be an understanding of this so people do not feel "doomed" to have unhealthy relationships or feel as if every aspect of their life is set in stone.

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  13. I found the Clement et al. article about genetic variability and obesity very surprising. Growing up I always believed obesity was a result of an inactive and unhealthy lifestyle, however, within recent years I always heard there is a genetic link, but never researched it on my own time. After reading this article, it makes sense that obesity has a genetic link as most things do; however there are more factors other than genetics that affect obesity, such as the external environment, access to fruits and vegetables, etc. Although this study shows there is an association, it is not exactly a cause and effect relationship, as there are preventative interventions that can take place. Although one may have a predisposition to obesity, they can control their diet, exercise regimen, and overall quality of their lifestyle to prevent it from getting worse. Exercise and a healthy diet may not completely overcome the effects of genes, but it is a great start to reducing obesity and hopefully, change/hinder future offspring predisposition of having obesity.

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  14. I was surprised at the correlation genetics may potentially have with obesity and pair-bonding behaviors (as well as many other conditions). It's interesting how having certain genes can make you "more prone" to certain conditions. However, I believe that life-style and environmental factors play a larger role in an individual's chances of developing obesity and having certain pair-bonding behaviors. Sure studies have shown that there is may be a positive correlation but that doesn't necessarily mean that the affected individual will definitely be obese or have martial problems. Like, if a person has an "obese" gene, they can counter it by having a healthy diet and exercising. As for people with "pair-bonding behavior" issues, I think it's up in the air and all based on personal preference, possibly how that individual is raised with emphasis on faithfulness or how attached they are to their the significant other. Having a gene that makes you more susceptible to a condition compared to other people isn't an excuse to lay back and let negative things occur; if anything it should be empowering for individuals to take action to counteract their susceptible state.

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  15. While both the papers were insightful, I thought that the paper on genetic variation and obesity was more surprising, and more worrisome. I agree with Amanda that once people know that they can “blame genetics,” it’s going to be hard to make people be accountable for their part in contributing to the disease. It’s imperative for researchers, doctors, and genetic counselors to include a disclaimer that this is a genetic predisposition. People must be able to hold accountable, so that they can make the necessary lifestyle changes to ward off the disease of obesity. For some reason, this also reminded me of the obese humans in Pixar’s movie Wall – E. Here’s an interesting article on the portrayal of obesity in the movie that talks about genetics: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/green_room/2008/07/fate.html

    Juliana also brought up this problem, because if we focus on treatment, the core of the disease is not being prevented. We need to focus on prevention, rather than allow obesity as a disease to become bigger than it should be. This is where public health policies come in – we need them to address the problem that genetics is not the whole pie, but just a slice. The other slices include things like diet, nutrition, and exercise.

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  16. What we read about and discussed in class about pair bonding was not completely new to me. I had actually discussed the role of vasopressin receptors and pair bonding in voles in BI 107 or 108 (I can't quite remember which!); however, I had not heard it discussed in relation to humans. I think it is an interesting area of study and am interested in seeing what more studies will learn from it. However I think the most surprising thing I learned was how misleading the media is when it comes to genomics/genetics and the medical field in general. Watching the Today Show clip and hearing the host discuss it as if it was a gene that programmed you to cheat was ridiculous and what was even more ridiculous was asking whether or not women would get their partner tested for the "cheating" gene before they got married. The doctors on the show tried to correct him and explain it was simply associated with less pair bonding rather than a cause of cheating but was somewhat ignored by the host and by that point the viewers were already told this gene caused you to cheat. I think the media is very important but can very easily twist ideas to make a better story, especially when it comes to science. The Today Show promoted the idea single genes often have one result which as we're learning is not true; gene's often interact with each other and the environment and are associated with a variety of results. This show demonstrates how much the public needs to be educated about genomics/genetics so common misconceptions like this "cheating" gene are not perpetuated by the media.

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    1. I wholeheartedly agree, Maggie! I was disturbed by how easily the research was manipulated for the sake of ratings - it was clear that the host wasn't interested in the truth, but in a new excuse that could potentially absolve men from cheating on their spouses (and thus attract more viewers to watch this segment). I wouldn't be surprised if in the future, men who commit adultery would pull this excuse out, claiming that "oh I have the RS3 allele, so you can't blame me for cheating because it's wired in my DNA!"

      This show may not be fully indicative of awareness of this study, but considering NPR also had a similar spin on the topic (a classmate linked the article from http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94199631), I'm certain that we need to educate the public about how their genomes function precisely because it has the potential to be used as a scapegoat. As this class has taught us, your genetic predisposition doesn't necessarily indicate that you will exhibit those characteristics - so not all men who have this gene will cheat on their spouses - and thus it shouldn't be taken as law. However, as long as the public isn't informed, this will happen time after time.

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  17. I found the article on genetics and obesity to be quite interesting. I do believe it makes sense that some people can have more of a predisposition towards obesity based on genetics because even just in everyday life you will notice that obesity can "run" in families. Although, like others have previously stated, once someone learns that they may be prone to obesity then they will put the blame on their genes and not take responsibility for their lifestyle and actions. Even though someone may be prone to obesity they can still control what they eat and how they exercise and basically their overall lifestyle which would help against obesity or it worsening. Doctors, schools, families, etc., need to work together to create awareness and help when needed. Obesity is a growing problem in America and simply blaming one's genetic predisposition is not a healthy or productive way of fighting obesity and becoming the healthy, active and social person one can be.

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  18. I thought the article on pair bonding and genetic variation was interesting. I also thought it was interesting that the association between AVPR1A polymorphism and human pair-bonding was found only in males. Why does vasopressin affect the behaviors of male more?
    Researchers finding that the 334 allele is over-transmitted in subjects with autism was a great achievement also.

    However, I believe that while there might be some influence on pair bonding from your genes, it’s mostly who you are and your personality that affects pair bonding. This reason is why I thought the Today Show video clip greatly exaggerated the effects of AVPR1A polymorphism. There was only an association found, but the Today Show, and the media in general, find it more beneficial to sensationalize things and try to stir up controversy. It’s laughable that they actually went around and asked women if they would want their significant other to get tested for the polymorphism. As it was pointed out in class, association doesn’t mean causation.

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  19. I think that both of the articles that bring up the information that certain genes can increase the risk of obesity and pair bonding is very interesting. However, I agree with the many people that have posted before me saying that media coverage and knowledge of this information the public can be misinformed and not actually understand the meaning of these genetic correlations. It can cause a way to blame something other than themselves for their own problems.
    Initially before taking any class on genetics and genomics I thought that obesity was all based on diet and lifestyle. I still believe that a higher percentage of people are obese for that reason and that diet of lifestyle are still more important than the risk associated with having a specific gene mutation. Personally, the information on pair bonding is too new and too little researched for me to think that it really has that much of an impact on relationships.
    One really interesting thing I learned in another class that applies to our discussion of obesity is they way that certain states are trying to lower their overall state obesity percentages. Georgia is one of these states that has one of the highest percentages of obesity and has implemented a campaign called Strong4life. This campaign includes overweight children and some of their parents in commercials that harshly criticize them for their weight in an attempt to show how people who are overweight or have obesity can be reacted to and how they feel about it. This campaign has been attacked for its harshness but it’s also interesting to note that they don’t discuss the possibility of these people having the genetic mutation. I think that it could possibly be good information to have but only if it can be applied properly. Only if it is clearly explained that this means there is a higher risk not that one will definitely be obese. I think this radical campaign shows that family lifestyles, diet and lack of exercise is more important and will have a larger effect on one’s condition than just one genetic mutation.

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  20. I have heard about the effects vasopressin has on monogamy before so I was not surprised but I did still learn a lot from the article and the class. I think it was in BI 107 we learned about how injecting a prarie vole with vasopressin would cause it to be monogamous with its partner. However, I had never heard of the gene in humans that may be linked with cheating. It will be really interesting to see if people will start getting tested to see if they have the gene. It might be a crazy thought and definitely not legal but imagine if wives started injecting their husbands with vasopressin. That would be really weird...!

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    1. Funny thought, Leila! I don't know who would consent to that! :)

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    2. Jessica ThermitusMarch 28, 2014 at 2:08 PM

      This is scary lol

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  21. I've never really thought about how your genetic makeup can affect something like weight. I've only related genetics to cancer most of the time, and I have a bias that genetics really only affect us in terms of diseases like cancer; not weight. But after being in this class and learning so much about genetics, I am somewhat more convinced on how much genetics can affect our lives; something like our weight. The Clément article was interesting and made me think about just how much genetics can affect us. I recently found an article (link below) and also tweeted about a "fat gene" scientists found called the IRX3 that is "highly expressed in an area of the brain that regulates feeding behaviour," thus leading to obesity. (Owens). (Previously, it was thought that a mutation in the gene FTO was associated with obesity). This gene in addition to external factors we learned in class, such as, environmental and social factors, can enhance or exacerbate the gene. However, although it is really hard, considering the challenges, struggles, and stress people go through their daily, it's important to keep in mind that we should not be blaming our 'genes' for being overweight, but take actions for what we can change. And I know many students have already mentioned this, such as eating properly (portioning) and exercise, but this just shows how important these are and how much we should emphasize this because it is one of the main contenders that affect our lives and something we can control.

    The association between genetic variation and pair-bonding was also an interesting article. It again highlights how much our genes can determine "who we are" and in this case, our personality and actions. It was an interesting read to see how the association with the allele and human pair-bonding behaviour can affect, esp. in men, someone's marital status and if someone will cheat. However, as mentioned earlier by Rebecca, I also agree with the psychotherapist that was interviewed, that just because someone has it doesn't mean they will cheat, and just because someone doesn't have it doesn't mean they won't cheat.
    These are all important information findings that everyone should keep in mind.

    http://www.nature.com/news/new-contender-for-fat-gene-found-1.14863

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  22. The relationship between genetic variation and pair-bonding behaviors was very interesting to me when I first read it. It is understandable that males in many species have always had the desire to reproduce more offsprings while the female bare the offsprings. This could possibly be the explanation for the genes that are responsible for the pair-bonding and other social aspects. The study about arginnine vasopressin surprised me because I never knew that there was a gene that is responsible for the desire to seek other partners. I feel like this is a bad concept in many ways. First, the male can just blame his actions on the genes and use it as an excuse by claiming that it is ok for him to cheat because he has this gene. This will cause more males to cheat without consequences because they believe it is the inevitable and that it is within their genes. Another negative aspect of this is that just because a person has this gene, it does not mean that the person will cheat. If gene mapping becomes more easily available, a woman can test and find that their significant other has this gene and will judge him before getting to know him. This will result in the woman avoiding any potential long-term relationship with the man. Maybe he would’ve been a great person and would not cheat on her but just because of the discovery of this gene, there might be some discrimination. This is why it is very important to fully understand these genes before we can inform to the public. This will prevent people from jumping into conclusion by blaming this gene for being unfaithful. I believe that it is not as black and white as it seems to be and there are a lot of areas we have yet to understand.

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  23. The genetic variation and pair bonding article was very informative and not so surprising since I have previously read about the prairie vole and and monogamy studies. I do think that the genes are significant however I also know that environment matters along with the will of a human being apart from their genes. I believe in human free will and decision making so even though the genes are a contributing factor there are many example of people who have overcome the effect of genes bad and good. People can overcome disorders and accomplish incredible tasks and achievements as well as people who have great genes can end up being people who have trouble in relationships and goals they want to accomplish. Sometimes disadvantage is the best advantage because those people take their destiny into their own hands to prove that it is not solely genetics that defines a human person. Nevertheless I love reading about studies like this with pair bonding because it gives a different perspective on how human dating/pair behavior cohesively works.

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  24. Like others above, I have also read about pair bonding studies done with prairie voles in my biology classes. I think it is interesting that there is a gene associated with pair bonding and as the video from class called it, the "monogamy gene." It is certainly interesting to read about, but I don't think that anybody should think that this one gene explicitly predicts if somebody will cheat in relationships or not. Like with any other gene that we have studied in this class, BRCA1 and 2, obesity, etc., there are so many other contributing factors than just one single gene. There are environmental factors, lifestyle and behavior choices, and in this case, maybe even social factors. As we talked about in class, I think if somebody is tested for this gene and the result is positive, it essentially gives them an excuse to cheat in their relationship, because they can say that it's not their fault, it's in their genes. This should not be the case. Although studies show that this gene might predispose somebody to being unsuccessful with pair bonding, it doesn't mean it isn't possible. There are many factors that go into pair-bonding as there is with breast cancer, obesity, and many other diseases and disorders. For something like pair-bonding, we cannot rely solely on genetics to give us the answer.

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  25. I'm very interested in the relationship between genetics and obesity, and I am always looking to find more information about how strongly or weakly the two are. I found an article from a while back that I found very interesting. It focuses on a study done at the Boston Children's Hospital that found overweight rats all tended to have this specific genetic mutation. When they looked in obese humans, they found the same genetic mutation. "In the mouse study, the research team determined that mutations in the Mrap2 gene led the animals to eat less initially but still gain about twice as much weight as they normally would. While their appetites returned, these mice continued to gain weight despite being fed the same number of calories as a group of control animals." Another effect of the mutated gene that was discovered is that it made people crave more foods high in fat content - also likely contributing to obesity. I found the two extremes very interesting. Not only did this mutation make bodies gain weight faster that other people taking in the same food, but it also made people crave less healthy food. Perhaps as we discover more, we'll be able to find some sort of intervention to continue to combat the obesity epidemic. http://healthland.time.com/2013/07/19/news-genes-idd-in-obesity-how-much-of-weight-is-genetic/

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  26. I think the Clement et al. article effectively acknowledges that the beta3-adrenergic receptor mutation that they isolated as contributing to obesity isn't a main determinant of obesity; however it is contributor to the other social, behavioral, physical and environmental factors that influence a person's risk of obesity. The conclusion of this article wasn't too surprising to me, because it reminded me of the case study of Swedish families during a famine from the Ghost in Your Genes movie we watched earlier this semester. The ancestors who had lived through a famine had genes adapted to efficiently process calories. This epigenetic change was then passed down to offspring and offspring's offspring who lived at a time when food security was not a problem. During a time of famine, this epigenetic change worked in the individual's favor, however without a famine this epigenetic change in the gene actually made these relatives at more risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

    Because obesity is largely influenced by environmental, behavioral and social factors - knowing that you or your child may have a slight genetic predisposition to obesity is so important. Some people may become obese at a young age and in that case knowing you have the receptor mutation won't change much for you. As many others said, someone might just use their genetic predisposition as an excuse to why they are obese. However I think if parents can see that their children will have this predisposition or for people who could become obese later in life, knowing your risk can help an individual be more in charge of their fate by controlling some of the factors that lead to obesity.



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  27. I found this article (http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2014/03/whos-daddy-owl-monkeys-know-sure/) very interesting and relevant to the discussion of how genetics affects pair-bonding. Apparently, only 3 to 5% of the known 5,000 mammal species form lifelong pair bonds. But of these 150 to 250 species exhibiting social monogamy, only 4 exhibit genetic monogamy - the forgoing of any copulations with mates that aren't their "true" mates. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania were curious about whether the socially monogamous owl monkey was also genetically monogamous. An extensive study spanning 18 years found that owl monkeys are genetically monogamous, making them the only primate and 5th mammalian species to exhibit this type of behavior. Researchers felt this type of monogamy explained why male owl monkeys are so affectionate toward their offspring. Males are sure of their offspring's parentage and express their certainty be caring for their young. While this research can't really be applied to humans, as we are not strictly a socially or sexually monogamous species, I think humans who want to start families are much less likely to exhibit infidelity than humans who don't want to start families. Therefore, I would recommend to women or men worried about their partners stepping outside their relationship to find out relatively soon if their partners are interested in having children.

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  28. I agree with my other classmates that acknowledge the role that genetics take in obesity, but also acknowledge the role of environment. As Amanda stated, people may begin to start blaming their obesity on their genetics, rather than lifestyle choices. Even if someone is genetically predisposed to obesity, there are other ways to prevent it or at least manage weight through exercise and diet. However, it many case, we feel that our genetics are the final say, and we tell ourselves that no matter what we do, we will not be successful in changing them. Additionally, as we learned in the beginning of the semester, lifestyle choices (like diet) can affect not only our lives but the lives of our ancestors. Perhaps in conjunction with the possible research programs on the genetic link to obesity, individuals will be more inclined to take a prophylactic action.

    The pair bonding article was very interesting to me because it was something that I hadn't read about before, or even heard about. The news clip we watched in class about men cheating because it is in their genes seemed a little far fetched and ridiculous to me, though. As discussed in previous responses, our genes don't exactly predict things such as infidelity. As they also mentioned in the news clip, perhaps these genes are there because of what our ancestors needed to do to ensure survival.

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  29. I'm a little skeptical (actually very skeptical!) about the genetic link to pair bonding behaviors with both read about and discussed in class. I think something as complex as affection, intimacy, and fidelity are complex behaviors that go above basic gene function, and have a lot to do with neural pathways formed over a lifetime. Not to say that there isn't a gene that might predispose you to behaviors that would make you a better partner. I'm actually a little taken aback, as the issue seems to have only social connotations and not scientific ones--forgive me if this gets convoluted, but I guess I'm trying to point out that if this study had come out in a society where monogamy wasn't the norm, would it even be worth mentioning? And is this study perhaps taking it too far--it's almost too personal for me. Something pertaining to your health of course I understand the need to study the genetic markers of a disease, but when it comes to personality traits that are labeled "good" or "bad" by society? It just seems silly.

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  30. I found the article about vasopressin and pair-bonding very fascinating. I remember learning about vasopressin as the antidiuretic hormone in physiology, and it's effects on water retention and blood pressure, but I was surprised to see it described in this article as hormone similar to oxytocin. When I think of genetics I usually think of physical characteristics, or being prone to a certain disease, but I don't usually think of genetics and behavior. However, it makes sense when you think about it. Genes code for the neurotransmitters and hormones in your brain that influence how you feel, and act. I think with more genomics research, we will be able to understand the cause of almost all psychological disorders.

    I think the results of this study (despite being done on voles instead of humans) are very valid, and make sense compared to what I've learned in psychology and biology classes. From an evolutionary standpoint men want to procreate as much as possible, where woman are more likely to want a monogamous relationship because they have to carry the baby for 9 months and need someone to protect and provide for them, so it's logical for men to have a gene that is linked with non-monogamous behavior. Also a major characteristic of autism disorder is social impairment and lower empathizing capabilities, so it makes sense that autism would be linked with a gene that is associated with that kind of behavior. This gene could also partially explain why autism is 4 times as likely in boys than girls.

    Because of the similarity between vassopressin and oxytocin, I did a little research and also found there is a gene that codes for oxytocin receptors, and mutations in these receptors have been associated with certain behaviors, specifically "maladaptive social traits such as aggressive behavior" (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1601-183X.2012.00776.x/abstract;jsessionid=A98C3BF1EE5BA243F46A92623605FC59.f02t02)

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  31. Michelle TagermanMarch 27, 2014 at 4:58 PM

    I found the genetic counselor’s lecture today to be very interesting and a little surprising. It was interesting to get an idea of what the job of being a genetic counselor entails. The speakers brought up several ethical, legal and social implications (ELSI) that genetic counselors face. One ethical challenge that struck me was the issue of having more than one ‘patient.’ For example, the counselor may have to speak with an entire family, even if there is only one person actually being tested. Finding out a family member has an increased risk of getting a certain disease can be difficult, not only for that person, but for their family. This made me realize the importance of genetic counselors not only being knowledgeable about genetic testing, but the important of their counseling. One of the speakers mentioned that they were required to take several courses on counseling and how to deal with patients. I found this interesting because many doctors, for example, may be experts in their field, but are far from experts in communicating sensitive information to their patients. I feel that many other health professionals could benefit by taking classes on counseling and communication to help them learn how to relay delicate and important information to their patients, as genetic counselors do.

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  32. I found the article about the genetic variation in the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A) and its association with pair bonding behavior in humans to be fascinating. As I was reading the article, I kept thinking that there was no way that a gene could determine whether or not a person is able to have a healthy marriage. The study was strong, but I still feel as though there are so many confounding factors that can determine whether a person has a healthy relationship with someone. Having worked with autistic children in the past, I found the part of the article about the possible connection between their research and autism very interesting. I have read scholarly articles in the past attributing an autistic child's inability to have a certain connection with people to insufficient levels of oxytocin, often called the love hormone. This new discovery could be very important in helping those with autism develop stronger peer relationships. Studies like this can cause much controversy, similar to that mentioned in the today show clip, in which they stated that a man cheating may be the fault of his genes. There are many factors that determine an individual's ability to have strong, healthy relationships with his or her peers, but nonetheless this study provides an interesting foundation for future research.

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  33. I agree with other classmates that the article about pair bonding was extremely interesting but also could be taken in the wrong way by some people. Calling it the "monogamy gene" makes it seem like people could use it as an excuse for cheating or for breaking up a relationship when it is just a genetic variation that may have an association with pair bonding. However, Patrick's comment about the possibility of this discovery helping those with autism in the future makes me hopeful for the future research being done about the AVPR1A gene. The article makes a great case for pair bonding but I think more research will be helpful to know more about the amount of impact the gene actually has in humans. There will be plenty of controversy while this research is occurring but the results that could come from it could be extremely important to our knowledge of relationships.

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  34. I found the life course perspective article to be very interesting. In class, when we compared the life course perspective to prenatal care, I was surprised to see that while prenatal care is an essential part of infant health, a much more comprehensive approach is needed in order to improve infant outcomes. It was particularly interesting to see that in order to decrease the disparity between birth outcomes across races, the external factors need to be assessed using the life course perspective. A common intervention for improving birth outcomes in African American communities is by providing better access to prenatal care. However, based on the genomic data, this is not sufficient. The external factors, such as socioeconomic status, education, employment, racism, and the accompanying stress that these cause, are having epigenetic effects on their health and the health of their fetuses. Particularly surprising was the data showing that as a result of these strong epigenetic factors, wealthy African Americans (who, presumably, would have access to prenatal care and job safety) still have worse health outcomes than white runaways. In order to truly address the disparity issues, we need to address the major contributing risk factor: the cycle of racism causing poor birth outcomes. Providing increased access to prenatal care is unquestionably important; however, a more comprehensive examination of the lifespan determinants of health, with special attention at epigenetic factors, will lead to sustainable improvements in birth outcomes.

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  35. Alexander de GrootMarch 28, 2014 at 2:26 AM

    The study on the beta3-adrenergic receptor was an interesting read. The conclusion of the study, that the presence of a mutation in the gene for the beta3-adrenergic receptor can contribute to weight gain, is an important reinforcement of public health's concern for obesity. Just as another student mentioned, the main risk factors for obesity are a person's built environment and health habits. This study, if anything, serves as a reinforcement of that fact and as a motivation for public health experts to continue working toward reducing obesity rates through healthier built environments and encouragement of healthier lifestyles.

    The fear I have with genetic studies is that there is a tendency to take one study and believe that it applies to all people, regardless of the study's methodology. It is important to understand that this beta3-adrenergic receptor study is just one study, and so it is not necessarily applicable to all people. For example, this study was conducted among French people, who might be different from people in other parts of the world in terms of lifestyle habits. This potential difference could confound the results and ultimately lead to a conclusion that isn't necessarily applicable to the global population as a whole. To determine whether these study results are valid externally, people should look for other similar studies conducted on different groups of people. If such studies exist, there is greater evidence that the study results can be generalized to a larger population of people.

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  36. I was quite surprised to that the disparity in human pair-bonding can vary from person to person based on their genetic make up, specifically based on which variant of the vasopressin a person expresses. I find it fascinating that even some of most our complex, least understood social behaviors can boil down to our genetic makeup to a degree. From an evolutionary perspective, monogamy doesn’t quite make sense since the best way to proliferate is to mate with multiple partners. However, even so, humans have generally developed both genetically and culturally where monogamy is now the social norm. I think the study by Walum can give much insight to how we can be partially governed by our genetics, even with the decisions we make (such as committing to infidelity). While having a good social and functional family background also plays a role in the faithfulness of male partners, it is still interesting to see that particular social behaviors can be affected by our genetics.

    However, I am slightly troubled by the video we watched in class earlier this week regarding media’s portrayal of the ‘monogamy gene.’ As I mention in most of my blog posts, education is a key factor in these types of studies. A lack of education can lead the general public to believe in misleading information that there’s such thing as ‘monogamy gene’ and that all men without it will cheat. The women who claimed they would want their boyfriends or spouses tests are being absurd in my opinion. I think a major problem with public knowledge regarding genetics is that there is little awareness that genes do not always have full penetrance. The public views genetics as something that is an inevitable outcome. I believe part of this is lack of education and another part of it is the media’s portrayal scientific news to draw the public eye. To me, it’s sad to see impressive, legitimate scientific discoveries be twisted by the media to draw attention to themselves. Regardless, I still think education regarding genomics and genes should be provided to the general public so that we avoid the misconstruing of valuable information.

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  37. I find this topic to be very interesting, and very controversial at the same time. I think the fact that we can tie specific behavior patterns to a specific gene creates a whole new way to look at why people act the way they do. Yet I wonder if this information is going to be exploited for this fact. For example, are educated men, who find out that they contain this specific gene, going to use this information as an excuse to sleep around? Also, I have to wonder how the environment in which these men were raised effected their view of marriage and relationships? Are men who are raised in a divorced house hold and contain more of the 334 alleles more likely to be single than those whose parents stayed together and contain the same number of 334 alleles? I also want to question why the researchers choose to only focus on men's genetic make up in association to pair-bonding? While I recognize women were involved in the study, they were really only questioned about their marital or relationship status with their spouse. I would be interested to see what the results of this study would be if we looked at the genetic composition of women and how that affects their relationships.

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  38. I was surprised by the second article, examining genes and pair bonding. I knew that the human genome contained many of the codes for our behavior but I would have never thought of pair bonding as something that could be explained by our genes. However, I feel that this article in particular really stresses the idea of nature versus nurture. Men who are predisposed to have negative pair bonding behaviors may overcome this predisposition and have happy unions with their partners. Conversely, men without this genetic predisposition may have negative unions with their partners. Men who have negative relationship histories may use this gene as an excuse for their behavior, while men who do not have this gene may feel pressured to stay in an unhappy relationship because it is what they are "supposed" to do.
    Either way, I don't believe that this specific genetic variation is one that we should use as a marker for men's pair bonding behavior. In this case, I believe that a person's environment will dictate their behavior, not necessarily their genetic makeup.

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  39. Like many others I had somewhat heard about how genetics can affect the happiness of a relationship. Theres always sayings like opposites attract which can be linked to the genetics of a person. However, I was surprised to learn about the scientific evidence that is now arising in this area. The link between the AVPR1A polymorphism and human pair-bonding that was found only in males was new information to me. I was surprised that the study was able to make evidence based conclusions for the genetic affects on marriages. I have to say I thought this was really interesting and I began to think not just about strong relationships but if people were actually meant to be together, like compatible genetics.
    I found two really interesting news articles. The first on ABC news discussed "the biology of social chemistry". It claims that scientists have discovered genes that link to increased alcohol drinking habits and that those with this gene are more likely to become friends with other people with this gene. The article also claims that we may also choose those who are opposites in other traits depending on out genetic makeup. The second article is from the UC Berkeley newscenter. In this article they claim that the 5-HTTLPR allele causes people to be more susceptible to emotions in relationships. They claim that couples who both have short versions of the genes are more likely to be affected by emotions in their relationships. This is interesting because it gives evidence for why some marriages or relationships might not work out due to genetics. I think all this information is fascinating and I am sure there is more to come from this area of genetics.

    https://newscenter.berkeley.edu/2013/10/07/marriage-gene/

    http://abcnews.go.com/Health/genes-choosing-friends-relationships/story?id=12632839

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  40. I was surprised to learn that obesity has a genetic link. Traditionally, American youth are told that obesity was due to poor diet and lack of physical activity. What worries me is the possibility that some people may use this reason as a sort of excuse and not attempt weight loss. Obviously there are other factors that play into developing obesity, be it social, environmental, and lifestyle choices. Interventions -- educational nutrition classes, exercise plans -- can definitely help stave off obesity and maintain physical health.

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  41. I found both articles very interesting in how they linked genetics back to obesity and pair-bonding behaviors. I found the article on obesity to be particularly interesting because I was never fully aware of the fact that there is a gene for obesity. I can definitely see the link and how it may have an impact, however I do not believe that the epidemic as a whole can be based around people having the particular gene for obesity. I'm sure it does make one more prone to becoming obese, but there are definitely lifestyle and environmental factors that should be considered when looking closely at the epidemic. The US has the highest obesity rate as compared to any other country in the world and this is definitely not just because some people have the obesity gene. The portions are larger here, there is more access to unhealthy food and physical activity standards aren't met by a majority of Americans. These are all contributing factors to obesity that have nothing to do with whether the obesity gene is present in one's genome or not. In order to take charge on the obesity epidemic, changes need to be made in terms of the lifestyle choices and environmental factors that Americans are exposed to before genetics can be considered the root cause of obesity.

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  42. The two articles on genetic variation associations did get me thinking quite a lot. After reading many of the blog posts, you see just how many genetic variation associations have been found in addition to those associated with pair-bonding and obesity (and BRCA 1/2 that we've learned about, etc). However, I think that when we find these associations, we think it is the "end all be all", while many times it isn't. Environment can greatly influence our genetic associations. One article I found that was interesting is that a polymorphism in the CHIT1 gene is associated with the risk of atopy. Atopy is a predisposition toward having hypersensitive allergic reactions. While the article is full of fairly confusing scientific terms, I did notice that environment was mentioned very little, though atopy is associated with allergic reactions to things in the environment, environment should be considered very important. In the discussion of this research article, one brief, yet important, bit about the environment is mentioned: "We hypothesize that CHIT1 mutations become relevant only when individuals are in special situations, such as in the presence of high levels of fungi or states of immune compromise." Thus, you may be more likely to have an allergic reaction due to this genetic mutation, but only if you are placed in a particular environment. This rings true to me for both obesity and pair-bonding. Environment does have a role to play in both areas. For example, maybe if there was greater obesity prevention at a young age (changing the environment) there would be decreased rates of obesity. Or maybe if somebody with the pair-bonding allele would not be as greatly affected if they were in a particular kind of positive environment, with little stress. Obviously it is very important to understand genetic associations and see that we can be at greater risk because of them. However, we can keep such risk at bay by working on what we can change, our environment.

    Link to research study mentioned: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1081120613002044

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  43. I found it very interesting that researchers were able to prove that genes can have an influence on obesity. The obesity epidemic has grown over the years and continues to grow at a substantial rate. However, as many of our classmates have stated, knowing that there is a genetic link to obesity will cause some people to simply blame this problem on their genetics, even when environmental factors play a large role in obesity. Blaming their obesity on their genetic predisposition will cause people to live a less healthier lifestyle. If they know that they have the “obese” gene, they may be more likely to not participate in daily physical activity or will not eat healthier. Knowing that they have this gene might put them in a mindset that causes them to think there is nothing they can do to prevent obesity. With this in mind, people should talk to their genetic counselors so that they have a complete understanding about what these research findings mean and that it is not just the gene that effects obesity, but also environmental factors such as exercise and diet. Understanding gene and environmental interactions will result in better obesity prevention and treatment.

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  44. Wow! I feel as though I have been introduced to some pretty fascinating topics in this class! Both of the articles were extremely interesting, but I thought that the Walum et al. article was particularly thought provoking. It is so amazing that we are making discoveries highlighting how genes can influence emotional relationships. Generally, it seems that we tend to think of relationships as something we act in based on cultured, normative, learned behaviors, so realizing that science can, in fact, play a role in some aspects provides a new perspective. I found this article on the New York Times website summarizing a study that is similar in terms of shedding light on how genes can impact relationships:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2004/06/29/health/addicted-to-mother-s-love-it-s-biology-stupid.html

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  45. Reading the two research papers, I was really amazed by the impact of genes on obesity. I always thought that the causes were more closely related to lifestyles but these articles have made me think otherwise.
    Since these genes can be identified early, intervention is possible for those who might be at risk of being obese. This can lead to better diet and exercise plans for children as well as some adults. Carrying a gene variant that predisposes a child to obesity does not necessarily mean he or she will develop the condition, but it might be able to explain why among children who eat same diet and have similar lifestyles, there are those who tend to be heavier.
    While looking up more articles about these genes, I've found that this discovery can provide many opportunities for physicians and pediatricians to evaluate their treatment and care for people who are carriers of the OLFM4 and HOXB5 genes. For example, scientists are looking at mechanisms that can turn off the expression of these genes, hence, minimize future risks of the disease.

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  46. It is very interesting that there have been gene associations for conditions obesity and pair-bonding, that as a whole Americans view as individual choices. People may say you have the ability to control if you are obese and the ability to control whether or not you are loyal to one partner. Genetically linking these conditions to associated genes only strengthens the argument that human nature is not nature versus nurture but is a true mixture of nature and nurture. I believe it is important to understand how much nature a.k.a genes play in to obesity and pair-bonding tendencies so that treatment can be adequately established and so that people cannot blame cheating on a "cheating gene". If there really is a so called cheating gene or gene associated with cheating, would it be possible to lower the divorce rate in America through development of gene therapy for males with low RS3 AVPR1A polymorphism? Would that even be legal or plausible? It also brings about the question,what is knowing these gene associations supposed to help us with? Is there a treatment meant to be found or are these discoveries just meant to further our understanding of the genome? Does there even need to be more reasoning than that?

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    2. I have asked the same questions after many of the articles we have read for this class and others. In particular, many of the behavioral genetics research artlicles always leaves me with a "now what" feeling, and many treatments I dream up are almost always illegal or would never exist in society. For example, I recently read a lot about an MAO A mutation that causes increased aggression in males, which often leads to antisocial disorders and criminal behavior. But how could this well-supported correlation be used to reduce school shootings and other violent crimes, and improve mental health as a whole? Whoever could come up with a legal, ethical gene therapy to reduce violence in our society would be a the Gandhi of genetics/genomics. Since genomics is a fairly new discipline, I am very interested to see if in the future, geneticists capitalize on behavioral genetic knowledge.

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  47. I found the pair-bonding article particularly interesting. At first, I thought that the relation between the experiment on the prairie voles and the experiment on the humans would be very different. I thought that the human pair-bonding gene influence would be much more complex than that of the voles, but it was actually strikingly similar. What I found most surprising about the article is that in humans, the presence of the 334 allele was most effective on men. Men with this allele are less bonded to their partners and are more likely to commit infidelity, whereas there is no significant difference in women who carried the allele. I believe this should be further researched, and I would be interested to see if the presence or absence of these alleles is evolutionary, or if they can decode other human social behaviors. I also found an article that highlights the study to make it known to the general public.

    http://esciencenews.com/articles/2008/09/03/gene.associated.with.pair.bonding.animals.has.similar.effects.human.males

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    1. I recall learning about pair-bonding and the role of vassopressin in prairie voles in a biology class. Similar to Chloe, I also think the finding that men with a 334 allele are more likely to commit infidelity is very intersting and deserves further research. I am also curious if there are any other genes found to be related to pair-bonding in humans.

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  48. I’ve always heard that genetics and obesity were related, but I wasn’t exactly aware of the magnitude of their correlation. There are so many factors that affect our bodies and genes, and as we’ve read previously, even our family member’s environments have helped construct our genes. Looking at the differences we have physically shows us a little how our genes have controlled things like our metabolism. As we age, our body’s metabolism slows and the older we get, the more obese we tend to become. It’s most interesting how certain genes are signals for increased chances of specific diseases. It’s really amazing that we are able to prevent major problems in our lives just by proactively attacking the disease.

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  49. Genetic variation and pair-bonding behaviors is a very interesting topic. I found it so strange how they found a link between a gene that could be responsible for monogamy and men seeking many partners. I almost don't believe it and I'm not sure exactly how this could be possible, but it is definitely something to look into with today's world of so many couples cheating. On the other hand I am also not sure if it is something we should look more into. Males would have an excuse for cheating and blame it on their genetics. Also you must look at the most important aspect of this study; if the male has the gene it doesn't mean he will in fact cheat. Even though the gene contributes to cause one to cheat, you must look at the environmental factors and how that person ii raised as well. There are so many aspects of this study between the link, but I can't make up my mind whether or not this study should continue on. I am afraid this could end many relationships if the women find out their partners have the gene, so I think before we announce this to the public we need full understanding of the monogamy gene. In sum, I am intrigued by this study, but remain skeptical at the same time.

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    1. I agree with Cam in that this could definitely change dynamics of relationships OR in fact be a crutch for men that have cheated before.

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  50. I really enjoyed yesterdays guest speakers. Yes, we've been learning lot about genetic counseling and all of that but hearing about it first had from someone who is our age and living through the career path was very inspiring. What interested me the most was the various types of fields that genetic counselors could go into weather it be prenatal, cancer patients, pediatrics or adult. An aspect that really interested me was the pediatrics clinic and how genetics counselors meet with children and diagnose if they are on the autism spectrum.
    If there was any more information on genetic counseling i would be really appreciate for someone to reply with some. Thanks!

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  51. The pair-bonding article really emphasizes the difficulty in quantifying certain human characteristics as complex as relationships in behavioral genetics. This study was influenced by the infamous prairie vole vasopressin study that I believed was conducted in the '90's, in which a correlation was observed between increased vasopressin and monogamy. The problem with extrapolating human behavioral genetics from animal models is that human behavior is dictated by a plethora of drives ranging from instinctual to emotional to irrational on a more complex scale than any other organism. Specifically, the environmental influences on divorce rates or cheating tendencies are so plentiful that it would be nearly impossible to isolate the influence of polymorphism 334 on partner bonding for certain. One cannot deny, however, the relationship established in this article and future studies are definitely warranted. One far-fetched idea would be to examine pair-bonding in Amish societies, which would eliminate a confounding factor that I deem to be extremely influential in discouraging pair-bonding, the media.

    The feminist in me also wants to know if there are any influential genes involved in pair bonding in women.

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  52. The fact that researchers were able to track down and figure out that there are genes linked to obesity is a marvel in itself, but even more intriguing is the fact that people may not have control over their weight and weight gain, contrary to popular belief. With this knowledge at hand, it is now possible for interventions to be put into place which counteract and fight obesity at an early stage in people's lives, for those who are at risk.
    If this is achieved and maintained, the recent obesity epidemic that is striking America could be put to a halt, which would lead to better health outcomes for all. This new perspective on genes and obesity appears to be a major breakthrough, but I wonder if and how this new information could also be used to benefit those already living with obesity?

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  53. I have to say that although I find both articles very interesting, that I think it's troubling from a public health or social standpoint. Especially when the media calls genes the "monogamy gene" or "fat gene." Being able to assign a specific behavior to a gene allows people to remove the blame from themselves in regards to obesity or cheating. In this way, I think that the research is shooting itself in the foot-- where it seeks to inform people, it is actually enabling ignorance and bad behavior. Although some people will use this information correctly, many others will default onto their genes for their bad behavior or will say that because they don't have the gene, they don't have to be proactive in their lifestyles. Essentially, I think that the research and media's interpretation of it does more bad than good. Although the information found is interesting, I don't think it helps our efforts in public health.

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  54. I found both the article on pair-bonding and the article on obesity and genetics interesting, however I thought the obesity article was more surprising. I've always had an idea about obesity and the possibility of genetic predisposition, however I didn't think about the implications of genetic mutation and the likelihood of obesity development. I found an article on The New York Times that also discusses this association between obesity and genetics. I found it interesting that this article mentioned instances where twins who were raised separated maintained similar body weights. I had thought that lifestyle would have more of an impact on body weight than genetics, but it seems that genetics could have much more of an impact than I initially thought.

    article: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/19/health/overweight-maybe-you-really-can-blame-your-metabolism.html?_r=0

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  55. I believe in the fact that certain individuals are more prone to becoming obese and that genetics have an influence on weight gain. So many people across the country use this as an excuse to why they are obese, but in reality the only person to blame is themselves. It is simple, if you eat too much and do not exercise, you will show signs of weight gain. How can one blame your genetics or parents figures for ones weight problem? In the article regarding genetics and obesity, it speaks about the gene located in the lining of the gastrointestinal tract in which regulates ones metabolic rate. They have discovered that this gene doesn’t have a big impact on the weight gain of a patient, rather it is due to environmental and behavioral factors such as eating too much fast food, not exercising enough, etc. Sometimes people have different levels of Resting metabolic rate which can effect ones ability to lose weight quicker which Family D showed to have. Instead of focusing on the genomics aspect of why people are obese or why individuals lack certain genes, it is important for everyone as whole to be healthy. Even if an individual has a fast metabolism, if they are eating unhealthy, they will have complications later in life.

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  56. I had read a study in a previous science class about a link between genetics and pair bonding in animals, and I was surprised to find that they had found a possible gene association for pair bonding in humans. In a society that is primarily monogamous, it's interesting to see that we might actually be genetically wired to want to be with one partner. As many people have pointed out before me, however, having a gene doesn't explain or excuse any behavior--association doesn't mean causation. The media's representation of the "cheating gene" is problematic and grossly oversimplifies the actual gene and what the gene-pair bonding association really is. There's obviously a strong argument for environmental factors being the overarching reason why someone might be a cheater or not, and having the gene might not change that.

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  57. The findings from the article on pair-bonding really surprised me. It taught me to take numbers with a grain salt. Even though the results showed significance between a mutated gene and behavioral issue, it cannot be conclusive because the small amount of subjects. This is important because people should be aware of looking deeper into research articles before immediately believing anything that's published. I think pair-bonding behavior is an interesting topic that should be further researched. I hope that more studies are being done to find if there are any possible genes that can lead to issues in pair-bonding behavior. Many would argue that nurture takes a strong precedence over nature when it comes to human behavior and personality. Perhaps, advanced research can prove that maybe we should look elsewhere for answers.

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  58. I actually found the article on obesity pretty interesting as it related obesity and its reasons to genetics. One would normally think the genes determine only physical traits of a person. So, does this mean that some people are actually unluckily born to have diabetes regardless of what they do once they are born? I guess this really goes back to nature vs. nurture argument. Staying on the topic, what does this mean to genetic engineering? Does this mean when genetic engineering advances later in the future, we can actually eradicate obesity? That may some problems, but that might actually end up creating a list of issues such as not needing any insulin shots (at least for diabetes)

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  59. I found Michelle’s comment very thought provoking as I had very similar feelings regarding the lecture given by the genetic counselors on Thursday. The first aspect that left an impact on me was the passion that the two students who came to our class presented. Sarah and Amy seemed to show great enthusiasm for their future careers and relayed to the class the real importance and need that our society has for genetic counselors in this day and age with the emergence of various genetic tests. It was also very intriguing to learn about what genetic counselors do and all that their job actually involves. The part of the lecture that left the biggest impression on me was when the counselors shared that they have to take several classes, while in school, regarding communication with patients and all that it entails. I personally believe that this should be a requirement for other professions as well. Michelle had said that this was particularly important for physicians and healthcare professionals. Physicians seem to lack the empathy and the communication skills to relay delicate and difficult information to their patients and their families, especially if there is a language barrier. I have experienced this firsthand translating medical information for my grandparents and thus believe that these types of courses can help many professions become better communicators; they should become standard for medical students.

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  60. These articles are extremely interesting and thought-provoking, but I think there are certain factors that are ignored. When studying the animals, their environment is taken into consideration, and obviously a human's environment is extremely different than an animals. Not only is their environment different, but mating patterns and norms are different as well. I'm not trying to say that the study isn't a step in the right direction, because I believe that it is, however, until more studies are done on pair-bonding within humans I would take everything with a grain of salt. In terms of pair-bonding and obesity, these numbers also need to be inspected more closely. Studies like these that go looking for associations are more likely than not to come out with favorable results. This does not mean that everyone who has this gene is likely to become obese or develop diabetes, but environment and other factors need to be explored more closely before any major developments or lifestyle changes are announced.

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  61. Reading the article that linked obesity with genetics was interesting. However, like many of the other students have stated, genes may play a role in the development of a person, but it's the decisions that the same person makes that will direct and guide them on how to live. Just because one is genetically predisposed to becoming obese doesn't mean they have to live like they're already afflicted with obesity. It only means that there is a higher chance of developing obesity. There are ways and lifestyle changes that could be made that would reduce the overall risk of obtaining obesity, such as regular exercise activity and eating healthy. Tying it with the first couple of lectures: This "fat gene" can be eliminated. The video we watched earlier in the semester, stating that the decisions and interactions our ancestors made, as well as the environment they lived in, would have an impact on future generations to come. By becoming proactive now about being healthy, a person can lower the chance of obesity occurring in the next generations. It may sound all theory now, but it's better to make those lifestyle changes now before it's too late.

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  62. I found the article regarding the pair bonding to be extremely interesting. Directly related to the pair bonding article, was an article written by NPR that I found. NPR discusses how science is amazing in the fact that we can make a correlation between genes in animals and genes in humans and how we behave socially. Limitations were also discussed about the research. I believe that it is important for this discussion to be had and continued so that people understand that genetic variation is not the only determining factor of social behavior.

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94199631

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  63. While I think the information provided by the pair bonding article provided some insight on how pairing works, I think that there are too many other factors to consider when you dealing with pair bonding. While this gene may provide one aspect of how pair bonding works thats just it , it is one factor. While an association with the gene can be seen, there is no causation, which one person may not get if they watched those new segments. There are too many other confounding factors to what may cause marital problems or if a person is monogamous or not. I think that is an issue with this study. It makes it seem like it you have this gene you are going to have issues with relationships, which might not be the case at all. It depends on environmental factors, such as what kind of environment you grew into, what your beliefs are, etc.

    What worries me about this is as mentioned before how the media relayed this information to the public. They called it the cheating gene, but that isn't what it is necessarily. I think that this study is an example on how new media can twist the results and what was found to make it more entertaining for people. I can't help but wonder what are the effects of this? After seeing that news segment, how many people became worried about their relationship and if their partner had the gene.

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  64. I certainly do not believe that fitness is solely based on one’s genome, even though the article suggested that some people benefited more from exercise than others based on their VO2 max (the capacity of the body to transport oxygen during exercise; or your endurance). I do however believe that genetics influences the body’s response to aerobic exercise and fitness, I just do not think that it is the sole factor at play. Many proponents go into fitness from eating the right diet, getting enough physical activity, hard work and dedication, training and motivation, getting enough sleep, and of course genetics (but your genes are only one part of the puzzle). I believe that your diet actually plays one of the biggest roles in physical fitness, as what you put into your body will reflect on the outside (be it through your skin, hair, nails, or your fitness level). There are many limitations to studies like this, and the one we were presented with certainly had a few, such as the small sample number that the study focused on and the all white population included which may not be so useful in comparing the results to a broader group of people. Studies like this can also sometimes be more harmful than helpful, as they may discourage readers from getting physical activity if they think that they may not get anywhere, as they do not come from an athletic family or they are not seeing immediate results at the gym. It is important to remember that exercise can reduce your risk for many diseases and no matter what age or background you come from, we can all benefit from getting a little bit of physical activity in our lives.

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  65. The association between genetic variation and pair-bonding behaviors is an area of study that I have never thought about before. After reading the article, “Genetic variation in the vasopressin receptor 1a gene (AVPR1A) associates with pair bonding behavior in humans,” I was surprised to find out that a variant in the AVPR1A gene can affect human behavior in regards how they bond with others. I have never thought about humans and how they bond with others from a genetic perspective, but now I find it to be an area of genetics that I am very interested in. I think it is amazing how they used prairie voles to test this gene mutation, by injecting them with the variant gene, resulting in the prairie voles isolating themselves from others.

    It was very intriguing when they tested for this variant in humans and the effect it had on pair-boding with other humans through having individuals with the variant allele take a pair bonding test to see if their hypothesis deduced form the prairie voles was true. The results of there study showed that men homozygous for the 334 allele were more likely to be unmarried and score lower on the PBS test, as well as having marital problems if they were married.

    After comprehending this information, I watched the two video of how the media portrayed these study findings, realizing how the medias interpretation of certain genetic discoveries can be presented in a false manner to the public. In these videos the media stated that a variant in certain genes, such as the AVPR1A gene, causes men to cheat, which may be a result of the variant gene but in the study this was never stated; it was only stated that the variant allele has an affect of pair-bonding in men resulting in marital problems, but never stated that this allele causes them to cheat, something that was overgeneralized by the media.

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