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By Bryan Sykes

The inside of tale of the Y chromosome's deadly flaw, as advised by way of one of many world's top geneticists.

Male reproductive fragility has been the topic of a lot hugely publicized contemporary examine. Is it attainable, requested the New York Times, that males face extinction? Bryan Sykes examines the validity of those surprising reviews, concentrating on the defining attribute of fellows: the Y chromosome of their DNA. Guiding his readers via chapters like "The Blood of Vikings" and "Ribbons of Life," Sykes masterfully blends average historical past with medical truth, elucidating the biology of sexual replica, sleek genetics, and evolutionary biology. He finds that, whereas the Y chromosome makes man's lifestyles attainable, it additionally incorporates inside it the seeds of his destruction. well timed and engaging, this significant paintings covers a wealth of arguable themes, together with no matter if there's a genetic reason for male greed, aggression, and promiscuity; the potential life of a male gay gene; and what, if something, may be performed to save lots of males from a sluggish, yet sure, extinction.

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I set a timer for exactly three minutes and fill a nearby sink with warm water. The second glass dish contains the vital ingredient responsible for the dark and light pattern of bands that we will use to tell the chromosomes apart. This is trypsin, the enzyme made by the pancreas to digest proteins on their way through the small intestine. Nobody really knows precisely what it does or exactly how it works. It probably scours away some of the protein scaffold around which the DNA is wound, exposing parts of the chromosome to the stain while protecting others.

It is the very essence of sex itself. The chromosomes that emerge from the final embrace have changed their identity and their genes. These silent trysts have altered the chromosomes irrevocably. Before they touched and exchanged their gifts of DNA, they were all identical, exact copies of the chromosomes inherited from both parents. After the embrace is over, they are now mosaics of these chromosomes, part from one parent, part from the other. Because these exchanges occur randomly at more or less any point along the chromosomes, each mosaic is slightly different from all others.

To 36 THE LONELY CHROMOSOME one side stand two illuminated cabinets. The room hums with the deep roar of filtered air being pumped into the cabinets and then blown outwards to protect the blood cultures from infection. One of the responsibilities of the Clinical Genetics Laboratory is to screen the cells of sick children, and through this room pass the hopes and fears of parents as these cells are analysed for defects in their chromosomes that might explain the children's mystifying symptoms. Through this room, too, pass the cells taken from the placental sac during amniocentesis that are coaxed into division to reveal the extra chromosome that foretells a young life burdened by Down's syndrome.

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