Science, Maths & Technology

Unzip your genes - Debate being a victim of your genes

Updated Thursday 24th March 2011

Join the discussion: If something is found to be highly heritable, does this mean I can't do anything about it? Am I simply a victim of my own genes?

If something is found to be highly heritable, does this mean I can't do anything about it? Am I simply a victim of my own genes?

Finding that something is genetic doesn't mean that nothing can be done about it.

Perhaps the best example is the genetic condition PKU. PKU is due to a gene fault; because of this faulty gene the body fails to produce an enzyme that is active in the liver. Not having this enzyme leads to the build up of a certain chemical, and this can in the long term lead to brain damage, and even to intellectual disability.

Fortunately, in developed countries like the UK, all newborn babies are screened for this disease. Children with PKU can be treated with a special diet, to avoid the symptoms of PKU from developing. So PKU is a 100% genetic disease. But the intervention - a special diet - is entirely environmental.

Perhaps a more subtle example is weight. Obesity is partly influenced by genes. However, this doesn't mean there is nothing you can do about your weight! A healthy diet and regular exercise are still the best way to keep fit.

What do you think?

If this has sparked your interest, why not join in the discussion by posting a response in the Comments section below?

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

The science of genetics Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: BBC article icon

Nature & Environment 

The science of genetics

This extract from An Introduction to the Human Genome explores the basics of the science at the heart of genetics.

Article
How our brain changes as we grow old: the Blood Brain Barrier breakdown  Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Shutterstock article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

How our brain changes as we grow old: the Blood Brain Barrier breakdown

What's the Blood Brain Barrier and how does studying this help us to find out more about diseases associated with ageing such as Alzheimer’s? OU research student, Eduardo Frias-Anaya explains:

Article
Meiosis and mitosis Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 1 icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Meiosis and mitosis

This free course, Meiosis and mitosis, looks at how units of inheritance are transmitted from one generation to the next. First you will look at what happens to the chromosomes of animals and plants during the process of sexual reproduction. Then you will examine how genes are transmitted in particular patterns from generation to generation. These two approaches combine to illustrate how the patterns of inheritance can be explained by the behaviour of chromosomes during sexual reproduction.

Free course
8 hrs
Rewriting DNA: An introduction to genome editing Creative commons image Icon By Thomas Splettstoesser (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Rewriting DNA: An introduction to genome editing

Why would scientists want to alter the DNA of organisms or cells? One OU Ph.D. student explains all you need to know about genome editing...

Article
OU HUNT: Download the app Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

OU HUNT: Download the app

Bring your poster to life and unlock fascinating unseen, extra content with 'OU HUNT', an app produced by The Open University.

Article
Can dogs read their owners' emotions? Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: RobsonMelo article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Can dogs read their owners' emotions?

Does a dog know what you're thinking? Can your dog empathise? It's possible, suggests new research.

Article
What is the genome made of? Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 1 icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

What is the genome made of?

Genomes are composed of DNA, and a knowledge of the structure of DNA is essential to understand how it can function as hereditary material. DNA is remarkable, breathtakingly simple in its structure yet capable of directing all the living processes in a cell, the production of new cells and the development of a fertilized egg to an individual adult. DNA has three key properties: it is relatively stable; its structure suggests an obvious way in which the molecule can be duplicated, or replicated; and it carries a store of vital information that is used in the cell to produce proteins. The first two properties of DNA are analysed in this free course, What is the genome made of?

Free course
4 hrs
Addiction and neural ageing Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 3 icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Addiction and neural ageing

This free course, Addiction and neural ageing, takes its title from two topics that are of immense worldwide social, economic, ethical, and political importance. You will develop a Master's level approach to the study of specific issues within these two important subject areas.

Free course
15 hrs
Order your free set of genome fridge magnets Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Order your free set of genome fridge magnets

Sorry - we've run out of supplies of our DNA fridge magnets.

Article