Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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Stuff I Learned This Year: Epigenetics Edition

So I’ve been totally slack on blogging about the stuff I’ve learned this year as part of my goal to learn 12 new things in 2017. I’ve been learning stuff, but just not getting around to blogging about it. But I’m on vacay now, so I’ll have time to catch up on all the stuff I meant be blog about! And since I’m on vacation now, I’m also able to read books and finally finished reading the book that my friend Cath wrote: Introducing Epigenetics: A Graphic Guide.

Epigenetics is the field of study that is concerned with how things interact with our genes to control their expression. We all inherit DNA, which contains a bunch of genes, from our parents, but there is a whole bunch of complicated things that go on to control how/when/where those genes get expressed (or not). Back when I last took a genetics course – i.e., eleventy billion years ago in my undergrad – I only remember learning about gene transcription (where a cell reads the code in DNA and makes a copy of it in a similar molecule called RNA) and gene translation (where the cell translates the code from the RNA into a protein, which can then go on and perform some function in the body). I also only remember three kinds of RNA: messenger (mRNA), transfer (tRNA) and ribosomal (rRNA). Now there are a tonne of other RNAs – micro (miRNA), long noncoding (lncRNA), and piwi-interacting (piRNAs), just to name a few1. All this to say – a lot has happened in our understanding of genetics since I last learned about it, so this book was great way to get up to speed on a whole lot of learning in a fun way! Also, my copy just so happens to be signed:

Book signing by Cath

Dr. Cath, doing a book signing just for me!

I’m not going to even try to summarize all the stuff that I learned about epigenetics – the book has a *lot* of information and if you want a solid introduction to the world of epigenetics, you should probably buy the book!

  1. Sidebar: I feel the same way about dinosaurs. When I was a kid, we learned about 6 dinosaurs – T. Rex, stegosaurus, triceratops, brontosaurus, pterodactyl – and then Jurassic Park came out and we all learned about velociraptors,  but now there are dozens of different kinds of dinosaurs and it turns out that pterodactyls aren’t actually dinosaurs and that brontosaurus is actually an apatosaurus, except then more research came out that suggested that apatosaurus and brontosaurus were actually two different kinds of dinosaurs after all. But I digress. []


Why You Either Love or Hate Cilantro

Cilantro is one of those things that either you love or you hate. And thanks to my friend Dr. Jen, I now know why!


On our weekly Seawall walk on Saturday, Jen informed me that apparently there is a genetic difference between people like she and I, to whom cilantro tastes like pure freshness, and cilantro haters, to whom it tastes, apparently, like soap. My lazy attempt at finding the name of said gene1 came up empty, but apparently there is research that shows a high concordance rate for cilantro loving or hating between sets of identical twins compared to sets of fraternal twins, which suggests a genetic link.

So, the ongoing fight that Kalev and I have2  – me saying cilantro is pure deliciousness and him saying it is disgusting – should actually be reframed, since what we are arguing about is not the “taste of cilantro” but rather about two different tastes of cilantro. It’s almost like me saying, “Candy is delicious!” and him replying “No, soap tastes disgusting!”  Of course I wouldn’t like cilantro if it tasted like soap to me!  And so I’m really glad that it doesn’t! And I’m actually kind of sad for cilantro haters that they will never know the pure joy that is the taste of cilantro as I experience it!

Image Credit: Posted by Michael Lehet on Flickr.

  1. i.e., reading Wikipedia and then a Google search in which I read a couple of links, didn’t find the answer immediately, and then gave up []
  2. I have this argument with other cilantro haters too – I just have it more often with Kalev because I talk to him (and have meals with him) more often than other anti-cilantro peeps []