4th April 2005 – DNA

DNA – It blows your mind! Or does it?

dnapic_med

Professor John Quinn from  Liverpool University led April’s discussion on DNA; addressing questions such as “how does a cell know whether to make brains or bones?”, “what does it mean to be ‘genetically predisposed’ to, say, heart disease, high blood pressure or maybe to schizophrenia?”.

He explained that sometimes the same very powerful chemical produced by DNA can control different functions in different parts of the body. Current technology aimed at blocking this chemical had the required effect but in addition affected its other role in other parts of the body producing side effects.

His aim was to target not these powerful chemicals directly but their production processes so that he could target just the part of the body function he was aiming at – without side effects. There is clearly more than one chemical but quite a few of them play different roles in different parts of the body.

He also explained what happens when a cell is “attacked” by alcohol etc. It can sometimes turn on inappropriate genes to produce chemicals which modify our behaviour – sometimes for the good sometimes for the bad. Inappropriate gene expression caused by outside factors affecting the cell can give bouts of “illness” until the gene behaves better again then the body returns to normal.

A very interesting evening.

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