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#1 Crisp

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 00:48

Teenage scientist builds DNA machine to find out why his brother has ginger hair

He was determined to find a scientific explanation for the fact that his locks are straight and brown while his brother has ginger curls

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A teenager has won a top science award after he built a DNA testing machine – to discover why his brother has red hair but he does not.

Fred Turner, 17, was determined to find a scientific explanation for the fact that his locks are straight and brown while 14-year-old Gus has ginger curls.

So he spent almost a year building the complex equipment – called a Polymerase Chain Reaction machine – using bits and bobs he found around his home, including an old video recorder.

His ingenuity impressed scientists so much, he has now been crowned UK Young Engineer of the Year.

He has also been getting calls from scientific researchers eager to use his home-made machine.

A commercial model would cost £3,000, but Fred built his in his bed- room for £450.

He said: “After years of jokes from friends saying me and Gus had diff- erent dads, I built the machine to test once and for all why he’s ginger and I’m not. The theory is red hair appears in people with a mutated gene.

“I collected DNA from my brother’s cheek using a swab. The machine makes copies of this DNA so you can test how it reacts under different temperatures.

“Heating and cooling the sample allows you to separate the DNA, so I was able to see if mine was different to his.

“I discovered Gus does have the mutated gene which explains why he’s ginger and I’m not.”

Fred, of Brighouse, West Yorks, managed to fit in working on his “DNA photocopier” with a part-time job as well as his studies for five A-levels.

He said: “At home the only tools I had were a drill, a saw and a file, so it looked a bit rough around the edges.

"But in the end I was just pleased that it worked.”

The young inventor was inspired by his parents – account manager mum Louise, 49, and businessman dad David, 50.

Fred said: “They both took me to science museums when I was younger. They’ve always encouraged my interests.”

His passion for science will continue at Oxford University, where he’ll be studying biochemistry in September.

He said: “I’m not sure where I’ll be in 10 years, but I’d like to run my own technology business.”

Ginger gene

Redhead capital of the world is Scotland – 13% of Scots are ginger against just 4% in Western Europe as a whole.

Red hair is caused by a recessive gene on chromosome 16 and has high levels of pigment pheomelanin.

The MC1R variant gene is also linked to freckles.


Source


#2 Alladaskill17

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 00:59

Different dad, mom's a liar :p

#3 Growled

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 01:27

So what caused the mutated gene?

#4 DocM

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 11:51

It's an autosomal recessive trait, a mutation found in ~2% of humans bit higher than that in European lines. If mom & dad are both carriers but not redheads and they have 4 kids; 1 will be a redhead, 2 will be carriers and 1 will be unaffected.

The advantage of the mutation is that it allows a higher skin vitamin D production in those living at high latitudes. Downside is a higher skin cancer rate etc. at low latitudes.

#5 compl3x

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 11:57

I bet when the father learned of his son's pursuit he was more than a little nervous about the results.

#6 HawkMan

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 12:04

A commercial model would cost £3,000, but Fred built his in his bed- room for £450.



add in time spent working on it and hit machine probably costs 6000

#7 n_K

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 12:30

add in time spent working on it and hit machine probably costs 6000

And in experience & knowledge gained and what this has done for his future job prospects, it was time well spent.

#8 Detection

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 12:31

So we do have x-men in our midst, the ginger mutants

#9 HawkMan

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 12:51

And in experience & knowledge gained and what this has done for his future job prospects, it was time well spent.


yeah, but that's irrelevant in the context the original article puts it as if he could be some revolution in making cheap DNA sequencers.

#10 Arceles

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 13:42

yeah, but that's irrelevant in the context the original article puts it as if he could be some revolution in making cheap DNA sequencers.


You really just don't understand science man.... just, don't go and try to preach about too much alright? There is a reason why other researchers are already looking at him and not you (or me for the matter)

#11 ShareShiz

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 13:47

It's an autosomal recessive trait, a mutation found in ~2% of humans bit higher than that in European lines. If mom & dad are both carriers but not redheads and they have 4 kids; 1 will be a redhead, 2 will be carriers and 1 will be unaffected.

The advantage of the mutation is that it allows a higher skin vitamin D production in those living at high latitudes. Downside is a higher skin cancer rate etc. at low latitudes.


I remember learning about this in 6th grade. :p

and these kids are teenagers.

#12 lunamonkey

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 13:51

Off topic: I hate posed photos where they are pretending to be performing the task in question. Arrghhh!!!

#13 Hum

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 14:02

So what caused the mutated gene?


The spirit of the individual, chooses characteristics before birth -- in other words it programs the genes.

#14 compl3x

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 14:20

The spirit of the individual, chooses characteristics before birth -- in other words it programs the genes.


Yeah. Except they have to be in the confines of what you could inherit from your biological parents. You can't have white parents and choose to be black, or vice versa. :rolleyes:


It's also too bad you can't choose not to have a life threatening disease or illness which will cause you great pain and suffering your entire life. :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

#15 HawkMan

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Posted 07 April 2013 - 16:46

You really just don't understand science man.... just, don't go and try to preach about too much alright? There is a reason why other researchers are already looking at him and not you (or me for the matter)


I understand science, and what he did is impressive and he's possibly going to have a good career. though that can't be stated yet, careers aren't built from hobby projects. So far he just copied a commercial machine, good work, yes, impressive work, yes potentially carer making, yes.

BUT the article isn't about that, the article is about how his homebuilt machine is some great revolution that will lead to cheaper DNA sequencer, which it won't.