Reading the genetic blueprint

DNAstockIs the day coming when knowledge of the genetics behind human diseases will point the way to cures?

At the next STEM Café – “The Human Blueprint” – NIU associate professor of biology Rick Johns will explore the latest scientific understanding of how genes relate to medical conditions. Johns then will describe the challenge of translating this understanding into treatments.

The free talk and discussion will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, at Fatty’s Pub and Grille, 1312 W. Lincoln Hwy. in DeKalb

Johns will discuss inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs disease and sickle cell anemia, plus diseases with a strong genetic component such as Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia and cancer.

“Now that the humane genome has been sequenced, we know a lot more about which genes are connected to which diseases,” Johns says.

“I’ll be discussing the amazing advances behind those findings, but also how much remains to be figured out. There are so many steps between changes in DNA and changes in the human body, and that makes gene therapy – curing or preventing genetic diseases – extremely complex.”

In his own research, Johns focuses on computer analyses of DNA from multiple life forms, including Drosophila flies, maize, rice, pigs and petunias.

“We’ve all heard news stories about scientists discovering a new ‘gene for’ this or that condition,” says NIU STEM Outreach associate Judith Dymond. “In addition to being an engaging speaker, Professor Johns is well qualified to dig beneath the headlines and explain the complex relationship between the genome and disease.”

This event is part of NIU STEM Outreach’s series of STEM Cafés, all of which are free and open to the public. Food and drinks will be available for purchase from Fatty’s.

For more information, call (815) 753-4751 or email jdymond@niu.edu.

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