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Name: Saurabh
Status: student
Grade: n/a
Location: Outside U.S.
Country: India
Date: Spring 2011


Question:
It is a true fact that dna test in order to determine patenity is 99.9 % true... but can dna tell if a person has a particular characteristic in him .. like running fast, manic depression , how will he behave in different situations?



Replies:
An analysis of DNA can be very instructive in some cases. It can definitely indicate one's propensity to get certain diseases. Of course the gene(s) in question must have been previously identified and characterized to make such a determination. Interestingly, a gene influencing maniac depression has been identified. Genes that indicate a predisposition to breast cancer have also been identified (the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes). This is very useful for preventative screening.

Whether or not these are "the" definitive genes remains to be seen. Most traits are not encoded by one or two genes, but the complex interactions of many. Thus, it would be hard to isolate a sprinter's gene, as many genes are at play. Many genes are also pleiotropic, which means they can code for trait A and a totally unrelated trait B. This further complicates the issue.

Can genes indicate a predisposition to certain behaviors? This is more uncertain. Perhaps when it comes to the fight or flight response. Getting more resolution than that would be be exceedingly difficult. Remember that behavior is also a product of upbringing and socialization, not strictly genetic factors. This evokes the whole nature vs. nurture question!

Dr. Tim Durham Instructor, Office of Curriculum and Instruction University Colloquium Department of Biological Sciences Florida Gulf Coast University



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