The First to Discover the Sex Chromosomes

When women rarely went to high school, Nettie Maria Stevens (1861-1912) wanted to be a research scientist. We don’t know a lot about her personal life, but she became a biologist. And though she received little credit for it during her lifetime, she was the first to discover the sex chromosomes. Before the 1900s, the link between Mendel’s genetic rules and gender were unclear. Scientists didn’t know what factors determined the sex of an offspring. Some believed external factors such as temperature and nutrition influenced gender. Very few thought chromosomal factors were responsible for the gender of offspring. Early Life Born on July 7th, 1861 in Cavendish, Vermont to Julia and Ephraim Stevens. Records of her early life are sketchy. We know her mother died relatively early in Stevens’s life but don’t know what caused her death.  Her father, a carpenter, remarried and the family moved to Westford, Massachusetts. He earned enough to send both of his daughters to high school, though it was uncommon to educate women. Stevens graduated from Westford Academy in 1880. She and her sister, Emma, were two of three women to graduate from her high school. Teacher, Librarian, and Student Stevens wanted to become a […]

Hope of a Cure for Sickle Cell

In the midst of the pandemic and protests and political mayhem, the grim news can be overwhelming. But there’s wonderful news, too. Remember the gene-editing technique, CRISPR? A year after gene-editing, a woman with severe sickle cell disease feels great. This success signals hope of a cure for Sickle Cell disease. Sickle Cell Disease According to the Centers for Disease Control, Sickle Cell Disease (SCD) is a group of inherited red blood cell disorders. A healthy red blood cell is round. It travels through our blood vessels, even the tiny capillaries, and delivers oxygen to all parts of the body. When a person has SCD, their red blood cells become hard and sticky and shaped like a farm tool called the sickle. These abnormal cells get stuck in small blood vessels. This clogs blood flow. It can cause mild-to-severe pain and many serious problems like strokes. These cells also die early, causing anemia. There are three common types of Sickle Cell and three rare types. Some people carry the trait (they have half the genetic material that causes the disease). If two people with the trait have a child, they have a 50% chance of passing on the trait and […]

A Cool Blend of Science and Technology

Almost 9,000 years ago, ancient Chinese fermented rice, honey, and fruit. Ancient Egyptians dared to use yeast for leavened bread in 1000 BC. On the other side of the world, Aztecs made cakes with Spirulina algae. What do these foods and beverages have in common? It’s doubtful that any of these ancient peoples understood the science. Yet, they each performed an early bit of biotechnology. Biotechnology has grown from its humble origins into a cool blend of science and technology. What is Biotechnology? Hungarian engineer, Karl Ereky, coined the term in 1919. He invented the term to describe the creation of products from raw materials with the aid of living organisms. While the term is relatively new, humans have always manipulated raw materials hoping to make our life better.  Don’t quite understand what biotech is yet? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary biotechnology is the manipulation (as through genetic engineering) of living organisms or their components to produce useful products. The dictionary includes that these are usually commercial products (such as pest resistant crops, new bacterial strains, or pharmaceuticals). The History of Biotechnology You may recognize many names in the history of Biotechnology. Names like Darwin, Mendel, Miescher, Boveri, Morgan, Levene, Chargraff, Avery, and many […]