Alexander Godfrey, a PhD student in biology at MIT, is acutely fascinated by the Y chromosome, which confers maleness. This chromosome is often considered a genetic castaway — because its complexity makes it very difficult to study — but Godfrey is undeterred. Four years into his degree, he continues to push forward, attempting to get to know a chromosome that 50 percent of the population has, but few understand.
Composed of repeating DNA patterns, the Y chromosome is especially difficult to study. DNA is usually understood by breaking it up into pieces, and figuring out how active certain genes are by locating where the pieces came from — so if all of the pieces look the same, or very similar, the process becomes nearly impossible. Godfrey likens it to a puzzle full of pieces that are nearly indistinguishable: Putting the puzzle together, and seeing the big picture, is extremely difficult. Determined to contribute to an understudied field, he has delved into answering an enormous question: How do genes in the Y chromosome that are active throughout the body lead to differences between men and women? Read the full article at MIT NEWS