Skip to content
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
Dr Vicky Taylor on her work with Asian Elephants Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: The Open University video icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Dr Vicky Taylor on her work with Asian Elephants

Dr Vicky Taylor describes her work with Asian elephants and how the partnership with Woburn Safari Park contributes to our courses.

Video
5 mins
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

Science, Maths & Technology 

Patterns of Life

Everywhere you look in nature you will find patterns. From the seeds in the flower under your nose to the flock of swallows overhead some patterns keep occurring again and again. The essence of mathematics is a series of simple rules that produce complex consequences. And nowhere are these complex consequences more apparent than in the natural world.

Video
10 mins
The immune system Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

The immune system

The human immune system is incredibly complex - how does it work?

Article
Download your free 'Nine Months That Made You' poster Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Download your free 'Nine Months That Made You' poster

Get your free poster on 'Nine Months That Made You' to accompany the OU/BBC series 'Countdown To Life: The Extraordinary Making Of You'.

Article
Gene manipulation in plants Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Used with permission free course icon Level 2 icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Gene manipulation in plants

Genetic manipulation of crops is an issue of great current interest and controversy. This free course, Gene manipulation in plants, covers some of the basic science that underpins the debate and examines the hotly contested case study of the development of 'golden rice'. By looking at the science behind the headlines you will acquire a clearer idea of both what is possible in GM science and what may be considered desirable.

Free course
10 hrs
Our sense of balance Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

Our sense of balance

We all know that our ears play a major role in our sense of balance - but how?

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