I attended a wonderful presentation a few days ago by Ajit Varki, a physician and scientist at the University of California San Diego and head of the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny. That word, "anthropogeny" was a new one for me. It means, 'explaining the origin of humans, or 'the science or study of human generation.' Varki's long standing interest in sialic acid receptors that are plentiful in all our cells led him to discover that we lost one variety of that receptor some time ago when we diverged from our nearest relatives, the apes.
The work of Varki and his colleagues is particularly helpful in the gene versus environment debate. A spate of recent articles have pointed out that the human genome project hasn't as yet yielded the treasures that were promised. Our science fiction fantasy was that we'd map your
genome, and predict that on a Tuesday in September in 2022, you would
wake up with a heart attack or a brain tumor (and presumably there were thing we could to help you avoid that fate). It turns out that even though we now have identified many areas on the human chromosome linked to diseases like diabetes, they simply are not very useful to predict that the patient will get diabetes.