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Bio 1 X5 Prof. Edna Amparado Completion Paper
DNA: MOLECULE OF LIFE
The Question of Heredity For years, the topic of heredity/genetics has been a mystery to biologists. In fact, our knowledge of DNA is relatively new as it was viewed before as merely a cell substance for about a hundred years ago without any role in the heredity process. Because of this, geneticists like Mendel and Morgan did their research in the field without mentioning the importance of DNA. The start of the discovery of DNA can be traced from way back from 1928 where bacteriologist Frederick Griffith a substance in a bacterium that causes pneumonia can turn benign bacteria and all its offsprings into pneumonia-causing organisms. This substance, which they do not know was already the DNA, that caused the heritable change was not known, but this discovery somehow sent other biologist thinking that a particular molecule rather than a complex mixture causes inheritance. Because it was already known that the hereditary information is contained in the chromosomes, scientists focused on this particular organelle in the late 1930’s. Later, they knew that the chromosomes contain DNA and protein, but thought that the protein was responsible for the hereditary property of the organelle because it is more complex in terms of structure than DNA. In 1952, Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase finally discovered that it is the DNA that contains the genes through an experiment with T2 virus. It took a year after this discovery that scientists understood the mechanics of the DNA’s unique genetic properties: how it enables the storing, copying and passing of characteristics. This process of passing on genes from generation to generation can be understood by first looking into the chemical structure of what they call the molecule of life.
What is DNA? Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), along with ribonucleic acid (RNA), is a type of nucleic acid, an information rich-polymer of nucleotides. Characteristics are passed on from generation to generation through the DNA, which are the genetic material that organisms inherit from their parents. Genes found within this double-helix are stretches of molecule that codes for the amino acid sequences (primary structure) of proteins that make up the organism. One example of this polymer is shown in Figure 1. The illustrated polynucleotide chain is a possible sequence of the four types of nucleotides (A for Adenine, C for Cytosine, G for Guanine and T for Thymine) that serves as the “code” for protein synthesis. There are a lot of possible combinations for the
chain of nucleotides and these can vary from short to very long stretches of codes. Each nucleotide consists of a phosphate group (blue), a nitrogenous base(violet) and a sugar (pink). Between nucleotides, there is a covalent bond that connects the sugar (deoxyribose for DNA and ribose for RNA) of one nucleotide to the phosphate group of another. This pattern makes up the sugar-phosphate backbone, along which the varying nitrogenous bases are arranged. Nucleotides only vary in terms of their nitrogenous bases. Since the DNA is double-helix in form, these nitrogenous bases pair up with another set of nucleotides. At first, scientists thought that A pairs up with A, T with T, and so on. But in reality, the nitrogenous bases are grouped into two: the pyrimidines and the purines. Pyrimidines have single-ring structures and include Thymine (T) and Cytosine (C) while the Purines are double-ring structures and include the Adenine (A) and Guanine (G). In the DNA, nitrogenous within the same group cannot pair up, and only A can pair up with T and G with C. This mechanism is a very important concept in the process of coding protein. Figure 1. DNA Polynucleotide
How DNA produces life How DNA works can be compared with the process of plaster casting in sculpture. The face, for example, when poured with plaster, creates a “negative” surface. This negative surface, when filled with plaster, creates a plaster cast that resembles the surfaces and “casting”. As shown in Figure 2, the DNA first untwists, forming 2 separate “negative surfaces”. Following the base-pairing rules (A-T AND C-G), nitrogenous bases are assembled accordingly along the “negative”. This replication process then results to two identical DNA.
Figure 2. DNA Replication
shape of the face. Similar to the mechanism of the passing of DNA, this process also involves “negative”
This process gives way to the passing of genes. Genes in the DNA only provides instructions for the synthesis of proteins, but it does not build a protein directly. Rather, it is first translated into RNA which then programs the production of proteins. The information transfer from DNA to RNA is called the transcription while the RNA’s programing of protein synthesis is called translation. In the process of transcription, it is important to understand the concept of codons. Recall that DNA and RNA are both chains of nucleotides, however, they differ in one nitrogenous base: RNA has the base Uracil (U) instead of Thymine (T). Because of this, when DNA “negative” is transcribed into RNA the code is somehow translated in another “language”. Codons are made up of three nucleotides, and each codes for the synthesis of a specific protein. Because there are 20 kinds of amino acids and 64 possible combinations and sequences for codons, some combinations code for the same protein. Three codons (namely UAA, UAG, and UGA) also serve as “stop codons” or the codons that signal the ribosomes (protein synthesizers) to end the polypeptide while the codon AUG may signal the start or end of the polypeptide. When all the codons have been fully translated into protein synthesis and the ribosomes have finished producing the proteins, the organism is finally created, along with the genes of its parents that has been replicated, transcribed and translated into the body that he/she has now.
Sources Campbell, et al. Biology: Concepts and Connections. Lodish H, Berk A, Zipursky SL, et al.. Molecular Cell Biology. Documentary: DNA: The Molecule of Life http://www.slideshare.net/salhas/dna-the-molecule-of-life
AIDS: THE INCURABLE DISEASE OF THE CENTURY
WHAT IS AIDS Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS is the progressive decrease of CD4+ helper/inducer subset of T lymphocytes or T cells. This continuous loss of T cells may cause severe damage on the immune system and nervous system and other infections. Although the immune system’s cause of destruction is not yet completely known, there are still epidemiologic, virologix and immunologic basis that AIDs is caused by the HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus). However, there are also other factors that can induce symptoms that are like that of AIDS like corticosteroids, cancer chemotherapy and alkylatingagent scan. At present, the Centers for Disease Control or CDC states the criteria for defining HIV/AIDS in individuals: if the patient is an adult with age 13 years or above, he/she should have a T cell count of less than 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood and/or HIV infection and with 25 AIDS-indicator conditions like Kaposi’s sarcoma. For children below 13 years, AIDS is also defined with the same indicators, only with 27 conditions (lymphoid interstitial pneumonitis and recurrent bacterial infections added to the list). The main mode of transmission is the exchange of bodily fluids during heterosexual intercourse, although many are also infected through homosexual intercourse. It started to spread extensively during the late 1970s and 1980s especially among individuals with multiple sexual partners in East and Central Africa and homosexual/bisexual men in urban areas in America, Ausstralasia and Western Europe. Other modes of transmission also include the sharing of infected hypodermic needles used by intravenous drug users, blood transfusion or infant birth (before, during or immediately after birth). Two major types of HIV have been recognized, HIV-l and HIV-2. HIV-l is the dominant type worldwide. HIV-2 is found principally in West Africa, but cases have been reported in East Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. There are at least ten different genetic subtypes of HIV-l, but their biological and epidemiological significance is unclear at present. Both HIV-l and HIV-2 are transmitted in the same ways.
AIDS AROUND THE GLOBE For the past 30 years, the HIV virus has been spreading in all places in the globe, causing a wide and deadly epidemic among its people. In 2007 alone, a population of 2.1 million died because of AIDS. This number will surely increase, especially that 33.2 million individuals are already infected at present and 2.5 million more or less are adding to the number each year. Although there is an increasing supply of HIV/AIDS medicines and efforts of many citizens, the death toll still increases every year. In fact, in US alone, 448,060 has already died because of AIDS, 38,000,000 worldwide and 8,000 individuals every single day.
On a global scale, men make up a slim majority of the 33.2 million people living with HIV. However, in sub-Saharan Africa, which has about 22 million people living with HIV, women and girls account for about 61% of adults living with the disease. In the Caribbean, the figure hovers around 50%. The number of women living with HIV continues to increase in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Latin America.
ATTEMPTS ON THE INCURABLE DISEASE There have been a number of attempts to cure AIDS, a seemingly incurable disease. Individuals are encouraged to use condoms, in the hopes to prevent the transmission of HIV virus during sexual intercourse. However, the number of HIV positives is still increasing despite the advocacy of many countries that promote the use of condoms. A 4-year trial of microbicide on 9,385 women from South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Tanzania to prevent the transmission of HIV failed. This microbicide, called PRO 20000, yielded positive results in a small-scale trial inside the lab. But when it was applied in a large-scale setting, it was unsuccessful. Another experiment funded by the National Institutes of Health which can supposedly reduce the chances of HIV infection. This experiment involved about 16,000 individuals from Thailand who was tested for six years after a failed two decade-trial. The third trial yielded a 31 percent increase, 16 percent was possibly due to chance, which means that the vaccine is still not efficient enough to say that it is an effective HIV-vaccine. Nevertheless, this experiment was the first human vaccine trial that yielded positive results. According to Anthony Fauci, the director of National Institure of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the substance may have effects that are too subtle to declare it as an HIV vaccine, but it may serve as basis for the future medical developments for AIDS prevention. In 1996, the antiretroviral (ARV) therapy was introduced to the high-class market. This substance may not cure HIV/AIDS completely, but it has reduced the rate of mortality and morbidity of AIDS patients and improved the conditions of those already suffering the disease. However, only 5 percent of individuals with HIV/AIDS have access to this therapy as this is a very expensive medicine. Indian pharmaceutical companies started selling antiretrovirals (ARVs) for an affordable price but there was still a problem on how people respond to the medicine and how much they can tolerate, especially its side effects. Along with the development of new medicines (with a number of 100 and counting), doctors also report a large increase in patients with drug-resistant HIV strains. The first once-a-day single-pill for AIDS treatment, called Atripla, is introduced later in July 2006. This allow patients to follow a more feasible drug regimen that is easier to follow and will hence yield more positive results. Strictly following the drug regimen is also proven to prevent the disease from mutating into drug-resistant strains.
According to Doctor Mark Katz, a regional HIV/AIDS physician coordinator in Southern California, with the medications we have at present and the way the virus “hides out” in particular tissues of the body, only a continuous therapy in a span of 61 years can completely destroy the virus in the body. AIDS is actually curable, but it does not seem like it because 61 years appear to be a very long time. This long period of therapy is needed because of the nature of the HIV virus. Since it is a retrovirus, it attacks on host cells in ways that scientists have not discovered yet.
Sources: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0106323.html Brown, et al. Patient Perceptions and Acceptance of Routine Emergency Department HIV Testing (2008) Bongaarts,, et al. Has the HIV Epidemic Peaked? Population and Development Review, Vol. 34, No. 2 (Jun., 2008), pp. 199-224 Hutchinson, Janis Faye. The Biology and Evolution of HIV. Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 30 (2001), pp. 85-108 Steckel, R.H. Biological Measures of the Standard of Living. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Winter, 2008), pp. 129-152 Renier, G. Marital Strategies for Regulating Exposure to HIV. Demography, Vol. 45, No. 2 (May, 2008), pp. 417-438
ILLS IN THE WOMB: THE FETAL ORIGIN OF ADULT DISEASES
One of the pioneers of the field of research concerning the fetal origins of adult diseases is David Barker, a physician and professor of epidemiology at the University of Southampton. He had started so much in this field, pointing out that the interactions between the mother and her developing child have a great impact for the rest of the child’s life. He had formulated the “Barker Hypothesis” which states that children with low birth-weight have a large possibility that they will develop diseases like coronary heart disease in the future. As this field of research develop, it has been increasingly focusing on a specific pool of factors like maternal stress, malnutrition, low birth weight and others that can create longterm changes in the human health. In a Time magazine article by Annie Murphy Paul entitled “How the First Nine Months Shape the Rest of your Life”, it is important to be cautious about the nutrition that the womb receives, the pollutants, drugs and infections that the mother was exposed to during gestation, and the mother’s over all health and state of mind as these have a large impact on the infant’s adult health. She also stated that pregnant mothers with gestational diabetes should try to improve on her health to reduce the risks of childhood obesity of her baby.
The topic of fetal origins has been trending nowadays since scientists have already thought that the most effective prevention should be during pregnancy since it is the stage where the human body first acquires its characteristics. Before, the origins of chronic adult diseases was thought to be only a results of genetics but now has been known to be largely environmental, causing a widespread debate on the “nature-versus-nurture” topic. Also, many countries have been constantly battling public-health concerns like obesity and heart diseases that seem to have a deeper underlying cause other than adult diet and lifestyle. In a study by scientists of the Oregon Health & Science University's Heart Research Center, 150 women of child-bearing age was tested based on nutrition, metabolism and lifestyle and the infant health of their babies. Low birth-rate was believed to give the infant a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, coronary disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and even cognitive deficits and mental illnesses in the later infant years. However, Kent L. Thornburg, Ph.D., director of the OHSU Heart Research Center, M. Lowell Edwards Chair of Research in Clinical Cardiology and professor of medicine (cardiovascular medicine) in the OHSU School of Medicine says that these diseases may be associated with low birth-rate, but studies still lack some biological causes. He states that:
"Very early in a pregnancy, it is thought, the embryo reads chemical signals from the mother that tell it how fast to grow and how it should configure its cellular anatomy. Eggs are fertilized up in the fallopian tube creating the blastocyst which works its way down to the womb and, as it does so, it is undergoing cell divisions. The nutritional environment before the blastocyst implants in the womb influences the growth and pattern of cell formations that form the actual embryo and those that end up as the placenta around it." Studies have also tested how nutritional deprivation during gestation may push the fetus to adapt to the nutrition supply that it gets by reducing its demand and redistributing blood flow in order to protect the brain and other main organs. This may help the fetus survive inside the womb, but at birth, it can also pose more critical lifetime health problems especially on the body structure and metabolism. Most researches on fetal origins of adult diseases focus on the nutritional stress of the pregnant mother, which are more likely to be tailored for effects during life and infancy. Other possible biological functions have more chances of evolutionary selection in later years, making them a more possible culprit for adult diseases with fetal origins. There are also evidences that point out that maternal stress physiology and the effects of discrimination may also have an effect on the infant and may cause prematurity and low birth-weight. Now there are studies that makes scientists consider the developmental and epigenetic mechanisms as links between maternal stress during pregnancy and adult race-based health disparities in diseases like hypertension, diabetes, stroke, and coronary heart disease. This model gives way to the consideration of social and transgenerational influences in studies about the said topic. It also mentions about how only people who really care about social inequality and the mother and child intimacy in this context usually care about the fetal origins of diseases, and attempts to prevent them. This made citizens of many countries more aware of social problems, not as it is, but also as something that can extend its negative effects on biological concerns.
Sources: Portland, Ore Is A Life Of Medical Ills Predestined In The Womb By A Mother's Diet? OHSU Research Asks (2008) http://www.ohsu.edu/xd/about/news_events/news/2007-news-archive/021407-heart-health-bymother.cfm
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