The Soul Gene, Part I

Cooper held onto the podium with both hands as he gazed out at the crowd in front of him.  Thanks to the spotlights focused on the stage, they were nothing but vague whispers in the darkness, the hint of something out there beyond the bright lights trained on him.  His hands clamped so tightly onto the sides of the podium that the knuckles were white.

“And so, without any further ado,” Cooper announced, the microphones in front of him grabbing his words out of the air and blowing them up loudly, “let me present my research.”

Cooper turned towards the large screen beside the podium, clicking the button on the laptop in front of him.  The professor was proud of how well he had adjusted to the most recent technology.  Many of his fellows were still struggling to use word documents and email, but Cooper had taken quickly to the new digital age.  Perhaps that had helped spur his research.

The man clicked through the first few slides, laying out the background for his discovery.  “For a long time, the Y chromosome has been believed to be largely useless,” he explained to the listening crowd.  “Indeed, in less developed organisms such as C. elegans, there is no Y chromosome at all.  These nematodes simply pass on one or two copies of their X chromosome, where two copies designates a hermaphrodite.”  He clicked to a picture of the microscopic worm in question.

“However, when we move up to more advanced organisms such as Drosophila species,” he continued, “we begin to see the appearance of a Y chromosome.  Given the results that will come soon, this may prove to be very significant.”

Cooper clicked to the next slide, a large schematic of a chromosome.  The banded pattern that represented chromatin staining made the picture immediately recognizable to the crowd.  “The Y chromosome in *Homo sapiens*, which we all should recognize,” he labeled the slide.  “We do know that there are a few genes on here.”

Advance to the next slide.  The large chromosome was still visible, but now labels pointed towards several areas.  “Here are some of the main genes,” he went on.  “Several sex determining proteins, as well as some kinases.  However, genes on this chromosome are prone to microdeletions, making them a risky prospect in evolutionary terms.  It also makes the Y chromosome markedly more unique than the others when compared across individuals, as well as populations.”

There was a large area towards the center of the Y chromosome schematic that had not received any labels.  Cooper nodded towards this area.  “For a long period, it was believed that this section of the Y chromosome contained nothing but junk DNA,” he said.  His voice dropped, the mikes having to strain to carry his words out to the crowd.

“But we now know that this isn’t true.”

To be continued…

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