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Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications | [The Great Courses]

Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications

We use DNA routinely - to cure diseases, solve crimes, and reunite families. Yet we've known about it for only 60 years. And what we're continuing to learn about it every day has the potential to transform our health, our nutrition, our society, and our future. But what, exactly is DNA, the self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms?
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Publisher's Summary

We use DNA routinely - to cure diseases, solve crimes, and reunite families. Yet we've known about it for only 60 years. And what we're continuing to learn about it every day has the potential to transform our health, our nutrition, our society, and our future.

But what, exactly, is DNA, the self-replicating material present in nearly all living organisms? You'll learn the answer - and much more - in this briskly paced series of 24 easily understood lectures from an award-winning teacher, author, and scientist. Professor Sadava unlocks DNA's mysteries as he explains what the science of genetics is and guides you through decades of cutting-edge research, scientific discovery, and genetics' weighty implications for us as individuals and as a society. Professor Sadava draws on examples from his own research to show how understanding genetics allows us to improve medical treatment and nutrition, vastly improving our health and quality of life.

You'll also learn how understanding genetics is a critical step toward understanding human identity, itself. For examining our DNA - how it works and what happens when something goes wrong - enables us to see the roots of how our bodies work, why we get sick, and how traits are passed through families.

Enjoy this rare opportunity to peer over the shoulder of a working scientist, learning how he puzzles through the problems of genetics to find meaningful, real-world solutions that can not only save an individual life but also enhance the quality of life for everyone.

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2008 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2008 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Chris Albuquerque, NM, United States 12-15-13
    Chris Albuquerque, NM, United States 12-15-13

    cleith

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    "Very good book on genetics"

    I thought that this was a very good book on genetics and how this field of science is being applied in the real world. The material is presented in a way that the average listener can understand and grasp. The delivery of the lectures are very well done. You will learn the basics about genetics and develop a working vocabulary. The author and in this case the professor / narrator starts each lecture with a very interesting story that sets the stage for the content of the lecture. If you have any interest in learning the basics about genetics, then I highly recommend this audio book. The Great Courses usually do a great job at providing content. This is a good book for high school students or above. It is a very interesting and enjoyable course.

    10 of 10 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Pru Sydney, Australia 05-17-14
    Pru Sydney, Australia 05-17-14 Member Since 2013
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    "Great introduction to genetics"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes, I would recommend this to anybody who is curious about genetics. This is a great introduction to the short history and slightly technical side of genetics in layman's terms. David Sadava keeps the course engaging with a memorable story at the start of each lecture and briefly tells the story of all the important contributors (Mendel, Darwin, the guys who first thought of the double helix etc.). He explains the significance and relevance of each topic to today's society (forensics, agriculture, ethics, disease & medicine). This course has made me realise the vast practical applications of genetics. Being from a science background but never having gotten around to studying biology, the knowledge I've taken from this course will be invaluable. I can now read otherwise intimidating texts on the subject now that I am familiar with the basic terms and concepts.


    What other book might you compare Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications to and why?

    I think if you are serious about understanding the material, the DVD version, having diagrams, would make things much easier (although it is significantly pricier). As with all sciences some concepts cannot be explained easily without a diagram. I would recommend taking notes throughout the course and looking up key concepts online for relevant graphs (e.g. punnet squares), diagrams and illustrations (DNA double helix, molecular structures, cell diagrams etc.).


    Which character – as performed by Professor David Sadava – was your favorite?

    Mendel - the father of modern genetics. Another great contributor who wasn't appreciated during his lifetime!


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Silly question.


    Any additional comments?

    Sadava is a good lecturer. He is very listenable and has friendly tone reminds me of Jerry Seinfeld at times.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    A CLARKSVILLE, TN, United States 08-21-13
    A CLARKSVILLE, TN, United States 08-21-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Interesting lectures on biotechnology"
    Where does Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is probably my favorite non-fiction audiobook so far.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The content is very relevant to our lives and is pretty up to date on modern biotechnology. The beginning had a great review of genetics before jumping into the biotechnology lectures.


    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 02-04-15 Member Since 2013
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    "Listen a few times"

    I recommend listening to it a few times. There is a lot of good info that can go over your head at first on the first listen.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 12-31-14
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 12-31-14 Member Since 2014

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

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    "“ The DNA double helix, discovered in 1953, is..."

    “ The DNA double helix, discovered in 1953, is one of the great icons of science in our society, rivaling the atom in its pervasiveness in our culture. ”

    These 24 half hour lectures given by Professor David E. Sadava retired from Claremont McKenna College and City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California were very engaging and eye opening to me. I never attended college so this year as part of my audible membership I have decided to buy several of the Great Courses programs they offer. This was the first of my new subscription and I can tell I am already getting my credits worth!

    Prof. Sadava explains DNA, genes and chromosomes so a layperson like me can understand them. He also helps us to understand how the knowledge of how they work will enrich life here on planet earth.


    24 Lectures

    1 Our Inheritance

    2 Mendel and Genes

    3 Genes and Chromosomes

    4 The Search for the Gene—DNA

    5 DNA Structure and Replication

    6 DNA Expression in Proteins

    7 Genes, Enzymes, and Metabolism

    8 From DNA to Protein

    9 Genomes

    10 Manipulating Genes—Recombinant DNA

    11 Isolating Genes and DNA

    12 Biotechnology—Genetic Engineering

    13 Biotechnology and the Environment

    14 Manipulating DNA by PCR and Other Methods

    15 DNA in Identification—Forensics

    16 DNA and Evolution

    17 DNA and Human Evolution

    18 Molecular Medicine—Genetic Screening

    19 Molecular Medicine—The Immune System

    20 Molecular Medicine—Cancer

    21 Molecular Medicine—Gene Therapy

    22 Molecular Medicine—Cloning and Stem Cells

    23 Genetics and Agriculture

    24 Biotechnology and Agriculture

    My favorite lectures were the medical ones where he explained the different ways genetics can help us either control diseases, eliminate diseases and cure disease. He also explained how many diseases are not caused by a single gene but by many so that it isn't as simple as replacing one gene and you are cured.

    The PKU screening test done on all infants is a form of molecular dna testing. If your child tests positive you can keep the harmful effects in check by limiting protein in their food of a certain amino acid that builds up and could cause mental retardation. This test has been going on for at least 50 years.

    Professor Sadava does warn of the careful testing that needs to be done before rushing a product to market. Let's say you create a wheat seed that grows faster and has additional fiber added into it's genetic structure. Sounds good, right? However, what if by doing this it creates an allergy in 50 per cent of the population to wheat? Then it's properties are no longer worthwhile or profitable. He used as an example a case of early gene therapy in a boy with cancer that they tried to change his cancer cells into healthy cells but instead of curing the boy the bodies white blood cells fought back and killed him because they could not recognize the new cells.

    This is a great series of lectures given by an energetic and informative man for anyone interested in science and medicine. I know I learned a lot from it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 12-01-14
    Doug D. Eigsti Colorado Springs, Colorado United States 12-01-14 Member Since 2013

    Increasing my ops tempo by allowing storytellers to whisper in my ear(buds).

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    "…..Disruptive Genetic Technology....."

    This Great Courses presentation is very well done. Professor David Sadava knows his material inside and out. It is a joy to hear him deliver the complicated concepts that are necessary to understand even the most rudimentary ideas that relate to genetics. The very technical information in his lectures flows off his lips as easy as a Trekker would explain the reasons for his preference of Picard over Kirk. Prof. Sadava is really good at pointing out the recent discoveries in the field of DNA research that are revolutionizing our understanding of the way the human body works. Whether you are a Darwinist or a Creationist you will marvel at the incredible complexity of life that is now being revealed by modern advances in research. It is amazing what can be done with the building blocks of DNA once its structure and chemical make-up is known. We now have a herd of just eighteen cows excreting the entire world demand for Human Growth hormone in their milk. Sheep now make insulin in the protein of their milk. We now have bacteria that eat oil spills; others glow in the dark in the presence of land mines with TNT. In this course you will learn the way vaccines work—by prompting the body’s existing immune system to produce antibodies. The varied applications of genetic research is a tribute to the ingenuity of modern man.

    David Sadava is a materialistic scientist, and therefore his sense of right and wrong takes on a very pragmatic nature. Moral issues are not deeply considered. He recounts dispassionately the decisions of people acting of information garnered through genetic testing with no regard to the morality of those decisions. Couples desiring healthy babies are using the information made available to us through genetic research to select for a superior human babies. Who doesn't want healthy babies? The unspoken down-side, recounted in Lecture 18, is that genetic screening leads to Jewish babies being aborted after they are discovered to be afflicted with Tay Sachs disease, or multiple embryos dying in the test-tube when their healthy sibling is inserted into the mother’s uterus. This criticism of the morality of this course does not detract from the ability of Professor Sadava to provoke one’s thoughts. On the contrary, people with deeply held moral convictions need to keep informed on the advances of genetic science. This is a stimulating and educational set of lectures that I recommend to anyone with an interest in how things work. Moralists and theologians need to listen to this course to keep abreast of the social change that is being conducted in the absence of their guidance.

    The Professor ends the series with the sentence, “The genetic genie is out of the bottle.” Apparently even those closest to the scientific discipline of Genetic research realize that we have move very far very fast—so fast that the long-term consequences cannot be predicted with surety. Obviously Sadava is of the belief that the problems we may have already caused can be fixed by future scientists. I think he places too much trust in the men in The Men in the White Lab Coats. By cutting and splicing genes we are not merely dabbling with a harmless genie that has the potential to cure mankind’s problems with disease and hunger. We are like children playing in God’s toy box; breaking apart what to us looks to be just a bunch of Lego parts that can be reassembled in the way that seems right to us; when in reality we have no idea of the complex interactions we are causing to the environment and to our own bodies. We have not released a benevolent genie. We have opened Pandora’s Box.

    …..Other books useful for aspiring geneticists and ethicists:

    INHERITANCE by Sharon Moalem

    THE SPORTS GENE by David Epstein

    THE VIRAL STORM by Nathan Wolfe

    THE EDGE OF EVOLUTION by Michael Behe

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    gerry milton, ON, Canada 11-10-14
    gerry milton, ON, Canada 11-10-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Fascinating Subject - Prof Could be Better"

    I read many science books but somehow missed the field of genetics. This book definitely filled that desire to learn the basics of the subject, although visual aids would have helped me understand it faster. I also found that I repeated certain chapters to ensure I understood the concept better. The Prof was engaging and enthusiastic, but he had a tendency to repeat useless info while not explaining some basic science concepts thoroughly enough. I tended to lose focus due to his repetitive obsession to give an acronym and then have to explain what it means while saying he won't do it again - but then does. Despite that, he presented a broad base and logical development to the subject by explaining the history of genetic discoveries and then biotechnology applications in cancer and agriculture. Overall, the subject was so fascinating that I must admit that I enjoyed it, but the Prof lost me many times. This may be my ignorance of the subject, but if I am evaluating the experience I have to give it an average rating -since the subject is the subject. I have listened to 4 or 5 Great Courses and this Prof was the most difficult to follow.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robert 08-16-14
    Robert 08-16-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Genetics course is quite good"
    Would you listen to Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications again? Why?

    I listen to it over and over because each time through I seem to get something new and interesting..


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Understanding Genetics: DNA, Genes, and Their Real-World Applications?

    I enjoyed the lecture about genetics and agriculture...it was interesting both from a scientific point of view and a social and historical perspective.


    Which character – as performed by Professor David Sadava – was your favorite?

    I enjoyed his story about the scientist who genetically engineered crops to triple their yield creating food for billions of people.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    no


    Any additional comments?

    Worth reading or listening too, valuable education in genetics for anyone and everyone.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Trisha Woodland,WA USA 04-19-15
    Trisha Woodland,WA USA 04-19-15 Member Since 2015
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    "More please!!"

    I could listen to this guy lecture all day!
    I will be buying more lectures from this speaker if I can find any!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jose Ramirez Apodaca, Nuevo León, México. 02-28-15
    Jose Ramirez Apodaca, Nuevo León, México. 02-28-15 Member Since 2014
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    "genetics understanding made easy"

    easy going lecture. deep subjects easily explained. recomended for anyone that would like to undrstand how life has evolved and how it can revolve around the simplest but extremely complex ingredients of existence.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • jcw
    7/13/14
    Overall
    Performance
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    "A bit basic"
    Any additional comments?

    I've learned a lot from other Great Courses lectures so I was looking forward to this one. However, although the topics were well-structured and the concepts were well-explained, it was a bit basic. For example, epigenetics didn't even get a mention. Also, although the lecturer clearly knew his stuff, he was a bit pollyannaish about genetic technology. Overall, if you want a sound introduction with lots of real-world examples, these lectures will probably fit the bill. However, if you want something aimed at an intermediate level and with a bit of nuance, they probably aren't for you.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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