Last year we debuted The Weekly Gene, a blog series that introduces a different human gene each week. Along the way, we’ve shared important facts, relevant research, and how these fascinating genes might be related to certain conditions and traits. We think of it as a great way to build your DNA vocabulary, learn more about the code that makes all of us unique, and find a path to the genetic insights that are important to you.
And now, here we are—more than 30 Weekly Genes later! (That’s a drop in the bucket compared to the over 20,000 known genes in our genome, so we don’t plan on slowing down any time soon.) With DNA Day around the corner, we wanted to take this chance to step back, compile the numbers, and highlight a few favorites from readers and Helix staff. Which Weekly Gene was your favorite?
People joke about their sweet tooth all the time—but believe it or not, there could be a genetic component to our love of the sugary stuff. One gene that’s been linked to this is FGF21, which appears to play a role in regulating sugar consumption in a variety of creatures—humans included.
You may know that we consume a variety of different types of fat, and that some of these fats are better for us than others. But did you know that the way we process different types of fats in our bodies can be influenced by DNA? As a result, individuals with certain variants in the FADS1 and FADS2 genes may benefit from increased consumption of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (like the kind you find in fish oil).
Our sense of smell is incredibly complex—and it has a few interesting quirks, too. A common one involves a vegetable that you might find on your dinner plate every now and then. Some people report that their urine has… an unusual smell after eating asparagus. Does that describe you? You might have variants in your OR2M7 gene to thank!
Your DNA isn’t your destiny—there are many factors involved in making you who you are. That certainly holds true for athleticism, where your training regimen, nutrition, lifestyle, and environment can all play heavily into your performance. All that said, genetics do play a role. One particularly interesting gene in the study of athleticism is ACE, which studies suggest may influence the flow of oxygen and nutrients to muscles during exercise.
When we consume alcohol, it sets off a fascinating chain of reactions throughout the body that affects our brains, our livers, and pretty much everything in between. And if you’ve ever had a beer or two, you’re probably well aware that some of these effects can be unpleasant. Most of the negative symptoms associated with alcohol consumption are related to ethanol metabolism, which can be impacted by variants in the ADH1C gene. (But no matter what variant you have, overconsumption is never okay.)
And finally, the moment you’ve been waiting for—the most popular Weekly Gene we’ve published so far…
We aren’t plants, but we do get nourishment from the sun. How? Look no further than vitamin D, which is generated when the sun’s ultraviolet rays convert a chemical called 7-dehydrocholesterol into pre-vitamin D3, and eventually onto vitamin D. Here’s where strong bones come into play: vitamin D plays an important role in calcium regulation, and calcium is critical to bone development. A gene known as GC is involved in helping vitamin D get to where it’s needed in the body, and variations in this gene may ultimately have an impact in bone density.
Ready to learn about another batch of amazing genes in the human genome? We’ve got you covered! Stay tuned for more of our Weekly Gene series in the weeks and months ahead.