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Genes on Weather

By Nina Lin


It’s Monday morning, 27℉ outside. You’re bundled up in a winter jacket and scarf as you await the subway when you see a woman in just a jacket and a skirt pass you by. You’re surprised at how she does it and a million questions race through your mind. Does she not check the weather? How is she not cold? Why is she in a skirt? This sight gets you thinking. You think back to your high school biology class and wonder if her ability to wear a skirt in below freezing weather has anything to do with genetics. As you enter the subway cart, you shake your head, removing any thoughts of correlation there may be between the genetics and the weather.

As absurd as this connection may seem, new studies have shown that our DNA may change with the weather. Findings, published in Nature Communications, have shown that while the sequence of our DNA may not necessarily be altered, the way those genes work can. The findings show that as many as a fifth of all genes in our red blood cells, are expressed differently based on seasonal changes. Our genetic makeup is fixed but not the way they’re expressed. During translation, different regions our immutable genes may be translated for expression. The study found that during the colder seasons, our blood contains much more immune responders whereas during the warmers seasons, our veins instead contain more hormones directed at retaining water and burning fat. It was found that in just blood cells, 5,000 genes showed some sort of change depending on the weather outside, with most of the changes having something to do with the immune system.

So the next time you see someone wearing clothes unfitting to the weather outside, you don’t have to rack your brain wondering about how they’re able to wear that. You now know that it’s due to genetics.


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