Thursday, May 27, 2010

What to Say at a Cocktail Party

Truth be told, I'm a bit of a nerd.

One of the email subscriptions I have is to the New England Journal of Medicine - which in and of itself is not so nerdy. What is nerdy, is that I usually click on most of the links and read the articles. This week Greg Feero, Alan Guttmacher, and Francis Collins wrote an updated primer on genomic medicine. Genomic wa-hat?! Don't panic. This update to the 2002 article on the same topic (yeah, I have that one, too. . .sigh) has an interactive graphic showing DNA-sequencing technologies which is one of the best on the web. This article is a great resource to gain an appreciation of the impact of genetics on medicine, particularly since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003.

The article also contains several interesting factoids that are usable at your next cocktail party. For instance, did you know that both cows and mustard plants have more genes than you or I? And, while you're looking around at everyone else at the party, thinking, "what the heck am I doing here with these people?", consider that you share about 99.6% of your DNA sequence with them. If that news causes you to consider another drink, you can rest assured that there is still a lot of individual difference between any two people's DNA - about 24 million basepairs worth. Which is about the size of a 4,000 page phonebook.
So the next time you're running out of things to say at a cocktail party, try this: http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/362/21/2001

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