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Biology

Winter 2019

The genetics of trauma

Medical researchers are beginning to ask a question: Can the effects of a trauma experienced by one generation somehow be passed on to subsequent generations? Could the deeply traumatizing experience of surviving, for example, genocide or severe malnutrition negatively impact the health of subsequent generations of survivors’ children?

Jews, homosexuals, and others experienced brutal persecution during World War Two. Contemporary Native Americans are the offspring of survivors of a concerted effort at genocide, both physical and cultural, through the Indian Wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and the boarding school system that stripped Indigenous North Americans of their cultural knowledge, including their languages and … » More …

DNA autoradiogram in a petri dish (Photo Rafe Swan/Alamy)
Spring 2019

Genomics fills a gap for adoptees

If you have gene variants such as BRCA or Lynch Syndrome, both of which may lead to difficult-to-treat cancers, “you’ve noticed it,” says Thomas May, an endowed professor of bioethics in Washington State University’s College of Medicine. “Noticed” is May’s measured way of saying that “multiple people in your family have died” of breast or colon cancer.

“Unless you don’t have access to family health history,” May adds.

One of the primary diagnostic tools available to doctors is family medical history. Breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other conditions are often genetic. Knowing that a parent had a disease is important information … » More …

Genetically modified pig. Photo Luke Hollister
Winter 2018

Pork futures

Pig 135 snuffles and grunts inside his pen. Jon Oatley reaches through the bars to pet the more than 500-pound genetically modified animal.

“People have this image in their head of a pig with deformities, but they’re just normal pigs,” says molecular biologist Oatley ’01 MS, ’04 PhD as he rubs the pig’s ears.

The enormous, three-year-old pig is one of a handful bred by Oatley, director of WSU’s Center for Reproductive Biology, and his team to be surrogate fathers. Through genetic tinkering, Pig 135 is able to produce sperm that contains the genetic material of another pig rather than his own. This … » More …

Winter 2018

Build a bee hotel

Help some local pollinators by building your own bee hotel.

There are plenty of tutorials and guides out there. Below are a few easy steps to quickly building a home for solitary bees, followed by links to some other guides.

With a craft knife, cut both ends off the plastic bottle to create a cylinder.
Make your lengths of bamboo, grass or reeds 3 cm shorter than the bottle to protect them from rain – use sharp garden clippers to trim them. Bees can’t burrow through the knots in bamboo, so avoid lengths with too many knots.
Use sandpaper to smooth the … » More …