Do we know exactly where the gene for the trait originates? Well, I asked geneticist Dr. Jennifer Volek of the University of California-Davis. She and her colleagues analyzed DNA from the heads of 14 individuals, ranging from 12 to 60 years old, who are all descendants of one parent from the 17th to 20th centuries. From those DNA samples, they isolated a short segment — about 10 bases — of DNA that is not present in modern Chinese. The researchers also looked to see what was present when the trait was not inherited from the parents. In the genetic analysis, three gene segments (called copy-number variants) were found that are not present on the modern Chinese. All were associated with the trait.
Some genes are passed to the next generation. Others are acquired from a single mutation, known as a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), and are passed on to every subsequent generation. There are, at least, two types of mutations. One is common, and occurs in approximately 1 percent of the population, whereas the other has a smaller frequency and is present about 20 to 30 percent of the time.
Many common gene changes are also thought to be inherited from parents, and it’s possible that there are other common variants — those that are not inherited from the mother and not present on her genome — that are passed from father to son. Some scientists estimate that about 5 percent of genes can be thought of as “chosen” and have been passed down, so, theoretically, there could be as many as two million possible genes that are passed down from parents. There are also genes that have been passed from generations to the present. But those are a different problem, Volek explained.
“There are so many of them,” she told WebMD. “So it’s not really interesting to understand which ones are inherited from which parents.”
How do you explain mutations that are not inherited from parents? “That’s a complex task,” Volek said. “But the way to explain it is that there are certain events that happen, which cause changes in the genome.”
In order to understand just that, Volek said the researchers need to do a “genome-wide analysis.” But until then, these facts may be enough for you to make an educated guess at someone’s genetic makeup.
Some scientists suggest that these genetic variants are not inherited from either of the parents. Rather, some may take place during brain development. They are passed down
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