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Bernard Sablonnière

DNA, a History of Our Differences

Bernard Sablonnière is a physician, neurobiologist, and professor of molecular biology at the University of Lille. He heads a neurogenetics team at the CHRU (Centre Hospitalier Régional Universitaire) in Lille. A researcher at INSERM (French National Institute of Health and Medical Research), he has contributed to research into new genes involved in rare diseases of the brain.
Each of us is unique and we are distinguished to a greater or lesser degree by big or small differences: height, hair color, shape of our face, and so on. Where do they come from? From our DNA, the treasure-trove of genetic diversity. For more than 250,000 years, Sapiens has been fashioned by evolutionary mechanisms: variations of DNA have been selected and transmitted, making up the plurality of humans today.
Body odor, attraction to spicy dishes, or an adventurous temperament: many aspects of our morphology, physiology, and even personality, are more or less directly connected to our genes and their history, the legacy of a long line of ancestors. The role of genes goes well beyond physical details; they also influence our resistance to cold and heat, as well as our tendency to be a morning or night person. Geneticists track down the genetic determinants of these differences by deciphering our DNA and by seeking explanations in it. Of course, the genetic lottery doesn’t explain everything, because the effect of genes is greatly modified by environment: which explains the influence of pollution, climate, our eating and cultural habits, and so forth.
In this work, the author examines 64 differences inherited from the past, first to surprise and amuse us, as well as to better understand risks such as illnesses linked to age. Are humans still evolving? What will we be like in 1,000 years: taller, more intelligent and more resistant to chemical and environmental pollution? In this book, today’s geneticists offer answers.