Genetics: Your Food, Your Teeth, and You

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On our most recent trip to the Wild Animal Park, we were led on a tour through the genetics lab. This was one of our most interactive tours, and it revealed a whole new side of genetics.

One of the many things we got to see was the Frozen Zoo. As the name implies, it is a collection of several species kept in freezers. While this may sound cruel at first, the species do not include the entire animal. Researchers take samples from the animal’s skin at convenience, which means that they only take samples when the animal is already in the lab or hospital for something else. The genetic zoo offers samples of DNA, RNA, cells, and tissue for research and many projects.

We were also able to see the DNA lab, where many samples are processed every day. In the lab many people work first to separate DNA from the other parts of the cells, and then study the DNA for the purposes of breeding, pedigrees, and disease control. While at the lab, we were able to help create a gel mold of DNA. After researchers separate the DNA from the other parts of the cell, they put it into a gel block. The dye that is mixed into the DNA slowly moves down the block, which stretches the DNA into a neat line in the process. This makes the DNA perfect for viewing and for study.

Genetics plays a vital role in many aspects of our daily life. The grocery store uses genetics to enhance many of the foods it sells. Many of the fruits and vegetables we eat have been altered genetically to be more appealing to the consumers. While this does a good job in making tomatoes redder and apples sweeter, it is also a step taken for our health. Many products are altered to make them less susceptible to disease. This not only reduces the need for pesticides, which take a great toll on our environment, but it helps to grow, transport, and sell the products more safely and efficiently.

Genetics are also very important in the world of medicine. There have been many recent studies that show promise for those with genetic diseases. Genetic studies are often used to comfortably treat these diseases if not find a cure. A recent study might even make going to the dentist easier. Researchers have found a gene that they believe might be related to the production of enamel. This could help with cavity prevention and with the production of replacement teeth.

Recent breakthroughs in genetics and the Wild Animal Park’s genetics lab all play a huge role in the world today. Genetics helps to make life easier, whether it’s making your trip to your produce aisle more pleasant, combating a genetic disease, or keeping your teeth white.

Real World