Monday, November 21, 2016

Blonde Genes,Do You Want Them?

Even people that are related and look exactly alike possess a very vast range of genetic variations in their DNA, genes that are responsible for how their body will develop, or responds to outer stimuli. Some of these different variants are known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The chemical units that make up DNA are represented by the letters A,T,C, and G. Although most people may carry a C at a specific place in their DNA, some might have a T instead. There have been millions of SNPs discovered in people's DNA. Some of them may be linked to increasing the chances of getting a certain disease. However, others may affect height or a person's appearance.

Previous research has linked a specific SNP with blonde hair in European people. Now Kingsley's group has provided proof that the SNP that induced blonde hair lies within a piece of DNA that is known as an enhancer. Enhancers are pieces of stretched DNA that behave somewhat like light switches, which allows the gene to turn on under certain conditions. They are located far far away from genes, It is like a light switch in England controlling a bulb in California. Although there is quite some distance, they still have the ability to control the gene's activity.

Kingsley's team genetically modified mice to carry the blonde enhancer. As expected, mice carrying that DNA change began to develop light-colored fur coats compared to the mice with another type of that enhancer. This new enhancer has the ability to control the action of a gene that was already known for affecting hair color. This can ultimately lead to less pigment production in the hair follicles, which will lead to lighter hair. This cannot affect eye or skin color.

I believe this is a great opportunity for those people who have an issue with their hair color. If they do not want their kids to have that hair color, this can be a way out for them.

1 comment:

  1. Most of the type gene editing is used for beneficial things like helping someone overcome a disease. However, there are always things like this where people are helped in different ways. I find it interesting that maybe one day people may be able to "choose" what color hair their child has. Even being able to lighten their hair is something I never thought of. I am not sure if this is going to be carried through considering hair color is strictly cosmetic.