1. \"One of the most interesting questions still to understand ... is why did the wolf keep locked in its genome everything that was necessary to make a Pekingese to a Great Dane,\" said Elaine A. Ostrander of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Cen

-An undergraduate from New York

August 25, 2004

I can see how changing a wolf into a Chihuahua could make someone question evolution! However, this process can be explained by naturally occurring mutations and selection by humans.

Recent studies of the dog DNA sequence have shown that dogs were most likely domesticated from East Asian wolves 15,000 years ago or more. The appearance of the domestic dogs varies tremendously between different breeds. For example compare a tiny 1 pound Chihuahua to a 160 pound Mastiff or a Great Dane.

Now, what about wolves and dogs. Is the fact that dogs are closely related to wolves compatible with the theory of evolution? The short answer is yes, but the underlying reasons require some clarification.

I have a 4 1/2 month old that has bright red hair. My husband has a dark complexion and black hair, but is freckled. I am a sandy blonde and a fair complexion and freckled. Our first son is blonde. But, our second is as white as cotton and red h

I have a kid with red hair too and everyone asks, "Does red hair run in your family?" The question is made easier by the fact that my wife and I do have relatives with red hair and you can see red tints in both our hair. I can imagine how frustrating the questions would be without having an easy answer…

The quick answer is that it is very possible (obviously!) to get a redhead from blonde and black haired parents. I'll go into the details below but next time you get a question about this, maybe you could answer:

Are Native American Indians fundamentally Asians?

-A curious adult from Singapore

August 20, 2004

Most theories say Native American Indians migrated to the American continent from Asia across a land bridge around 11,500 years ago. Yes, this would, in fact, make the first Americans Asians.

Hi. I am a 28 year old female and I was wondering do females get their father\'s or their mother\'s genes? It seems like I am mostly like my father but I don\'t know -- can you help me with this?

-A curious adult from Mississippi

August 19, 2004

It is common to look more like one parent than the other, but that doesn't mean you only get genes from that parent. You actually get your genes from both parents. We inherit half of our genes from our mother, and the other half from our dad, so that we end up with two copies of every gene*.

Is it already possible to have a check of my genes just for prevention? Where? Thank you

-A curious adult from Italy

October 25, 2007

No it isn't possible yet to check all of your genes for prevention purposes. It would be way too expensive and we just don't yet know enough about our DNA to make sense of it all anyway.

This might seem weird what with the sequencing of the human genome and all. You'd think that because we know all 3 billion letters of human DNA we would be able to look at someone's DNA and figure out what is going on. You'd be wrong.

Can you tell me more about the genetics of hair color? My husband and I both have dark blond hair, our son has blond hair, but our daughter was born with dark brown hair. Each of us has one parent with blond hair and one with dark brown hair. I th

-A curious adult from Oregon

August 17, 2004

Man, I thought the eye questions were tough! There is very little known about hair color inheritance but there are some interesting theories. I am happy to share what I've gleaned from the web. It makes sense to me but I can't necessarily vouch for it.

What is pretty well known is where hair color comes from. Hair color happens because of a kind of pigment called melanin. There are two kinds of melanin, eumelanin and phomelanin.

It looks like current evidence points to a link between blushing from alcohol and increased risk for esophageal cancer. Do you think it is important to have a genetic test for the gene responsible and make the general public aware the risk?

-A curious adult from Minnesota

January 4, 2011

I think it is definitely important that we make the public aware of this risk. But there probably doesn't need to be a genetic test. The people who blush when they drink alcohol know who they are.

What they might not know about is their higher risk for esophageal cancer. Or that there is no increased risk if they don't drink any alcohol.

The DNA difference that causes them to blush is only a problem when they drink. No alcohol means no increased risk of esophageal cancer.

The alcohol breakdown process is controlled by a few different genes. Some genes have the instructions for breaking alcohol down into acetaldehyde. Another set of genes controls turning acetaldehyde into acetic acid.

ALDH2 is one of the genes in charge of turning acetaldehyde into acetic acid. Some people have a small variation in that gene so that it barely works. Scientists call this version ALDH2*.

Hi. I am 25 yo female with bilateral colobomas and was wondering about what causes it and whether genetic tests are available. The outward appearance of my eyes is \"weird\" to most. I conceal the look by wearing special contact lenses which are

-A graduate student from Texas

August 5, 2004

From what I've read, colobomas can be passed down through the generations but not always. When a coloboma is referred to as congenital, it means that it was present at birth; it does not mean that it is necessarily genetic. While what they are is pretty well understood, where colobomas come from is not.

Does DNA account for only physical attributes of a human being, or can it also carry an emotional history from one generation to the next? I am wondering if the psychological damage of slavery for African Americans, for example, is carried forward

-A curious adult from Washington

August 3, 2004

My first inclination was to answer no but then I got to thinking...

The reason my gut reaction answer was no is because there was a big debate early on in genetics about traits and how they are passed on.

One school thought that things we do and things done to us can be passed on. The other school argued that it is all about selecting the most fit individuals in a population who then pass their traits on.