Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications

Product ID: Biomath
High School

Genetic Epidemiology : Finding Disease Susceptibility Alleles in Worldwide Populations (Student)

Author: Published by COMAP, Inc. in conjunction with DIMACS, Rutgers University.

What is the BioMath Connection (BMC) Project?

BMC was a pioneering project linking biology and mathematics in the high schools. It provided an opportunity for high school teachers, writers, researchers, and others to get in on the ground floor of developing innovative classroom materials. The materials consist of 20 modules that can be flexibly adapted for use in a variety of courses at a variety of grade levels in both biology and mathematics. The project was run by DIMACS at Rutgers University in collaboration with the Consortium for Mathematics and its Applications (COMAP) and Colorado State University (CSU).

Personalized medicine based on known risk factors, including genetic risk factors, is becoming more practiced and expected. In order to include genetic risk factors in medical care and diagnosis, the genetic risk factors need to be identified. This is a major focus of research and called genetic epidemiology. The frequencies of genetic polymorphisms vary across different race and ethnic groups. These differences can be both helpful and problematic for those trying to identify genetic risk factors for diseases like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. This unit explores the potential for falsely identifying a genetic factor as increasing risk of disease when the individuals chosen for study are not genetically homogeneous. This can happen even if individuals self-identify as being from the same race and ethnicity (note that even in Finland, there is potential for this population stratification). After identifying the problem, potential solutions are introduced, including using patterns of allele frequencies to re-classify individuals into genetically homogeneous groups. Students will use two web tools to explore concrete examples of genetic factors that have been associated with different traits such as Alzheimer Disease and response to beta-blocker drugs. In addition they will investigate some of the frequency differences of genetic risk factors across worldwide populations.

Types of genetic polymorphisms (e.g. repeat, SNPs, insertions/deletions, copy number), mutation, genetic drift, evolutionary ancestry, and study design - eliminating confounders.
Mathematics: Simple probability, and simple to complex distance measures, including Hamming Distance.

Students should have an understanding of the structure and function of chromosomes and DNA. They should also understand the terms: genotypes, alleles and SNPs. Note: This unit provides a way to cover or review this necessary background information. (See the PowerPoint slides in Lesson 0.)
Mathematics: Students should have an understanding of simple probability.

This unit consists of 6 lessons and will take 6-8 class periods (45-minutes each) if the majority of the work is done during class.

©2015 by COMAP, Inc.
BioMath Student Edition
32 pages

Mathematics Topics:

  • Various

Application Areas:

  • Biology



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COMAP develops curriculum resources, professional development programs, and contest opportunities that are multidisciplinary, academically rigorous, and fun for educators and students. COMAP's educational philosophy is centered around mathematical modeling: using mathematical tools to explore real-world problems.

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