Spring SAVY 2017, Day 4- No Quick Fix
Wow, we’re already past the halfway mark and my class is making great progress towards understanding their own body systems and keeping them healthy. This past week, we focused on understanding and comparing two factors that influence disease: genetics and our environment. We started off this class with a quick exercise making my students decide whether genetics or the environment influenced different diseases such as: phenylketonuria, diabetes, or cancer. I was impressed by the range of opinions the class had on these different diseases. It was certainly made clear that on more complex diseases, both factors can play a role.
After introducing genetic diseases and genetic testing, the class learned a little about how genetic testing is performed by extracting DNA from strawberries. It’s amazing how much DNA you can extract from a single strawberry and, currently, we get our DNA tested from a single cheek swab. With our extractions completed, we looked at the current DIY genetic testing kits that are available online such as: Ancestry, 23andMe, and National Geographic. You can even sequence your fecal bacteria to understand the health of your gut. But, with many of these services, there are issues on the impacts of having these tests available. We discussed in small groups the limitations of these tests, particularly disease risk assessment, and the outcomes of potentially getting bad news.
Finally, we finished up the class dealing with environmentally acquired diseases. First, the class broke up into groups to set up their own experiments with agar plates to test how bacteria and potential pathogens can spread to us through the environment. We will find out the results of the experiment next week when I bring back the incubated plates, I can already say that some of the surfaces they swabbed are loaded with microbes. Next, to present examples of the contagiousness of disease and the importance of how they spread, we played a card game I made called “Epidemic”. By exchanging playing cards, the class hoped that the pathogen (Ace card) didn’t spread to them.
I can’t wait to see the class experiment results this upcoming week!