Everyday DNA: Holiday Reading Guide

An Everyday DNA blog article

Written by: Sarah Sharman, PhD, Science writer
Illustrated by: Cathleen Shaw 

The end of 2022 is nearly upon us. Over the past year, HudsonAlpha’s researchers and associate companies made many impactful discoveries in genetics and genomics. I brought many of those stories to you through this blog. To celebrate the end of the year, I wanted to recap my five favorite blog posts from 2022. 

The five stories I chose stood out to me for several reasons. Some of them will have huge implications for our future well-being, like the cotton genetics story and the nitrogen-fixation story. Others, like the ancient DNA story, were fascinating and a blast to research and write. Some, like the foundational research story and the family health history story, help explain underappreciated topics in genetics. I hope you enjoy looking back on the posts or maybe reading them for the first time.

1. Foundational Research: the key to discovery and innovation

When people hear the term ‘foundational’ or ‘basic’ research, I think it is easy for them to assume that it is less prestigious than other fields, like clinical research. That misconception is far from the truth. I enjoyed debunking that false view in this blog article. Foundational science research is anything but basic. It lays the groundwork for translational science that takes findings from the lab and applies them to solutions for problems in our world.

Read more in the Everyday DNA blog article, “Foundational research: the key to discovery and innovation.”

2. Ancient DNA: How does Neanderthal DNA affect modern humans?

A few years ago, I learned that direct-to-consumer ancestry tests return results indicating how much Neanderthal DNA an individual has in their genome. Since then, I’ve been fascinated by the idea. In this blog post, I dive into the backstory of humans and their ancient relatives and explain how scientists can find ancient DNA in modern human genomes. As a fun extra, the blog post also features bonus audio from the Tiny Expeditions podcast!

Read more in the Everyday DNA blog article, “Ancient DNA: How does Neanderthal DNA affect modern humans?”.

3. Nitrogen-fixation: healthy soil, happy plants, full bellies

In the past, I always had a touch-and-go relationship with plants. It seemed like I just never knew what they needed. While researching for this blog post, I learned so much about plants’ needs. Nitrogen, one of the key nutrients that plants require to survive, is quite fascinating. Plants cannot absorb nitrogen from the air, they must take up usable forms from the soil. In this blog article, you’ll learn about nitrogen fixation and how a HudsonAlpha lab hopes to harness its power to provide farmers with an additional tool in their arsenal to help grow healthy, robust crop plants and feed our growing population.

Read more in the Everyday DNA blog article, “Nitrogen-fixation: healthy soil, happy plants, full bellies.”

4. Cotton genetics: Creating softer, more sustainable cotton

Cotton is a wonder plant that produces fiber used in everything from clothing to bandages to fancy wedding invitation paper. Cotton production contributes significantly to the livelihoods of many countries. HudsonAlpha researchers are involved in several projects helping to create cotton that can withstand our changing climate while producing enough material to keep up with demand. This blog article walks you through the life of a cotton plant from farm to t-shirt and discusses some exciting cotton research projects. For a bonus: listen to Tiny Expeditions to hear how cotton made a journey to space. 

Read more in the Everyday DNA blog article, “Cotton genetics: Creating softer, more sustainable cotton.”

5. Family health history: more than just tedious paperwork

We all know how tedious paperwork at a new doctor can be. In the past, I would groan as I tried to work through the forms quickly. However, today, I appreciate the information that physicians can glean from a complete family health history. A robust family history can help your physician diagnose mysterious symptoms you might be experiencing, recommend preventative screening, and help you live your healthiest life overall. I especially enjoyed this blog article because it accompanied an insightful episode of HudsonAlpha’s podcast, Tiny Expeditions. (Listen here

Read more in the Everyday DNA blog article, “Family health history: more than just tedious paperwork.”