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双语哈评 |成功与否,取决于基因?!

作者:艾莉森·比尔德(Alison Beard) 2018-08-21 10:55:22 0

when Duke University School of Medicine professor Daniel Belsky and his colleagues cross-referenced data from a longitudinal study of 918 people from Dunedin, New Zealand, they discovered a connection between the presence of specific genes and the achievement of better socioeconomic outcomes. Their conclusion: Your success is shaped by your genes.

杜克大学医学院教授丹尼尔·贝尔斯基(Daniel Belsky)和同事一起进行了一项纵向研究,对照分析了新西兰达尼丁市918位居民的数据,发现杰出的社会经济成就与特定基因有关。他们的结论是:成功由基因决定。

longitudinal:纵向的

Belsky: Though DNA isn’t destiny, it does have something to say about the kind of people we become and what we achieve. When we studied this existing data set from a group of people who were all born in a single city and then surveyed at regular intervals throughout the first four decades of their lives, we found that those who carried certain genetic variants—ones that had already been linked to educational attainment in other studies—hit developmental benchmarks earlier as children and held higher aspirations as teenagers. Then, as adults, they attained more education, held more prestigious jobs, earned higher incomes, partnered with better-off mates, were more socially and geographically mobile, managed their money more effectively, and accumulated more assets.

贝尔斯基:DNA不是命运,但的确可以预示我们会成为怎样的人、会有哪些成就。这项研究的对象都出生在同一城市,我们分析了这些人的过往经历和基因信息,随后定期进行调研,直到他们40岁为止。我们发现,携带某项基因变异(其他研究已证明该变异与受教育程度相关)的人在童年时期发育较早,青少年时期的志向更高远。长大成人之后,这部分人受教育程度较高,工作体面,薪水更高,配偶家境较好,社会和地理上的流动性更强,理财更高效,拥有的资产也更多。

prestigious:有名望的,有声望的

All of that does suggest our genes can affect our future. But we also know that human development stems from a complex interaction of the genes we inherit and the environments we encounter. Nature and nurture combine to make us who we are. We’re just beginning to understand how that interplay operates.

这样的结果说明,基因的确会影响我们的未来。但我们也知道,人的发展决定于遗传基因和外部环境的复杂互动。先天遗传和后天环境一同造就了我们现在的模样。我们对这种互动的了解才刚刚起步。

So you’re not suggesting we test people at birth or in utero to see who has the aptitude to, say, earn a PhD or become an effective executive?

Belsky: No. We’re still a long way from being able to accurately estimate human potential with a genetic test—and even if we could, there are lots of reasons that it wouldn’t be a good idea. To develop our predictive model, we started with the results of large data-mining studies involving tens of thousands of human genomes, which identified gene variants linked with particular educational outcomes and the strength of those links. We used that information to create an algorithm that calculates something called a “polygenic score” for individuals, which indicates how many of the variants they have. When we looked at the Dunedin study data, we did find that participants with higher polygenic scores were slightly more successful than those with lower scores, but the effect was very small—just 1% to 4% of the variance.

Also, we’re talking about average outcomes. Some people with low polygenic scores went on to have very successful lives, and some with high scores did not. There are many other nongenetic tests you can administer to children and adults that will give you a much better read on their ability to achieve than we can get out of the genome.

这并不是说,我们可以在孩子出生的时候,或者怀孕的时候,就检测出孩子有没有成为博士或者高管的能力。

贝尔斯基:没错,我们还远远不能通过基因检测来准确评估人类潜能。况且这样的事情即使能做到,考虑到种种原因也最好不要做。为了建立预测模型,我们使用了涉及数万人类基因组的大型数据挖掘研究成果,这些研究识别出了与特定教育成果相关的基因变异以及关联性强度。我们用这些信息编写了一套算法,可以计算个人的“多基因得分”(polygenic score),这个分数就说明一个人拥有多少相关基因变异。研究达尼丁市居民数据的时候,我们的确发现多基因得分较高的人比得分低的人更加成功一点点,但差异非常小,仅仅是1%到4%。

而且我们说的是平均结果。有些人虽然多基因得分低,但却获得了成功,一些得分高的人没有成功。除了基因,还有其他很多非基因的测试方法可以用在儿童和成年人身上,更好地解释人们获得成就的能力。

If other, presumably cheaper, methods work better, why study genes in this context?

Belsky: We want to understand how genetics shape our lives and what causes some people to be successful and others to flounder. The advantage of looking at DNA is that it’s defined at birth and fixed throughout life, so it gives us an anchor on which to build. Ultimately, we hope to yield actionable insights for policy makers—to help them devise interventions that will improve social mobility.

如果其他方法更有用,而且成本想必也更低,为什么还要研究基因呢?

贝尔斯基:我们想要理解遗传基因如何塑造我们的生活,是什么让一些人成功而另一些人生活坎坷。研究DNA的优势在于,DNA在出生时就已经确定且终生不变,因此我们的研究有一个牢固的基础。我们希望最终能给政策制定者提供可操作的洞见,帮助他们采取干预措施,提高社会流动性。

flounder:挣扎,折腾

intervention:干预,干涉

What kind of interventions?

Belsky: For example, in our study we found that kids who had higher polygenic scores started to master language at a younger age; they talked earlier and read earlier and faster than their peers. Perhaps interventions that increase all children’s language skills at younger ages might help more people follow successful trajectories. Going forward, bigger data sets may help us understand why some kids with low polygenic scores nevertheless achieve successful outcomes or why some kids with higher scores still struggle. These “outliers” can provide clues to how we might change children’s environments to improve their outcomes.

什么样的干预措施?

贝尔斯基:例如,我们在研究中发现多基因得分较高的孩子开始掌握语言的时间较早,因此他们比同龄人更早学会说话和阅读。那么设法让所有孩子更早地学习语言,就有可能让更多的孩子走上成功之路。如果研究更进一步,更大的数据集也许能帮助我们理解,为什么一些多基因得分低的孩子取得了成就,而得分较高的孩子依然饱经挫折。这些“异常值”能够提供一些线索,让我们研究如何通过改变孩子的生活环境来帮助他们成功。

trajectory:轨迹,轨道

Where would these bigger data sets come from?

Belsky: The United Kingdom has developed a national biobank that now includes genetic data and a wealth of other information from half a million people. In the United States, President Obama’s Precision Medicine Initiative aims to develop a similar resource. But these big data projects can’t completely replace cohort studies like the one we focused our research on. For starters, they can’t get the same level of detail, especially about early life. For another, participants self-select in, so they don’t necessarily represent the full population. This issue of representativeness is important. For example, a big question about our findings is whether they will generalize beyond populations of European descent. They might not apply to people who have different ethnic backgrounds or live in other regions of the world.

更大的数据集从何而来?

贝尔斯基:英国建立了一个国家生物银行,现在已经储存了50万人的遗传基因数据和其他信息。在美国,奥巴马总统的“精准医疗计划”也是要建立类似的数据库。但这些大数据项目不能完全替代我们现在所做的这种队列研究。首要原因是,数据库无法取得详实的细节,尤其是关于研究对象早年生活的信息。还有,研究对象是自愿选择参与研究,研究者无法保证样本能够代表全部人群。这个问题很重要。比如我们的研究结果就有个很大的问题是,不知道是否适用于欧洲裔之外的其他族裔人群。对于生活在世界上其他地方的其他种族的人,我们的结论可能并不适用。

You said that the genes you looked at had already been linked to educational attainment, which is, of course, linked to IQ and socioeconomic status. Do we really need scientific research to tell us that smart, wealthy people get more schooling and therefore achieve more as adults?

Belsky: I think one important contribution of our work is to document that the genetics originally discovered in studies of educational attainment are not about education specifically. Instead, they relate to a range of personal characteristics—including IQ but also noncognitive skills, like self-control and being able to get along well with others. These traits enabled kids with high polygenic scores to succeed not just in school but well beyond. In fact, differences in education explained only about half the effect on long-term life success we found. Also, even though kids born into better-off families did tend to have slightly higher polygenic scores, higher scores predicted success no matter what kind of conditions a child grew up in.

你提到你们研究的基因已经证实与人的受教育程度有关,那无疑也跟智商和社会地位有关。聪明富裕的人能够得到更好的教育,进而创造更高的成就,这样显而易见的事实真的需要科学研究来证明吗?

贝尔斯基:有关受教育程度的其他研究发现某些基因与教育有关,而我觉得我们这项研究的一个主要贡献是,证明了这些基因还跟其他人格特质有关,包括智商和自制力、人际交往能力等非认知技能。这些特征让多基因得分高的孩子在学校和其他方面都表现优秀。其实就长远而言,受教育程度的差异只能算是取得人生成就的一半原因。而且,虽然家境富裕的孩子多基因得分略高一些,但这个得分预测成功并不受孩子家庭条件的影响。

This is still giving me pause. Aren’t you worried about a Gattaca-like future, where people with “good” genes are favored over those with “bad” ones?

Belsky: As I said, given the weak power of our predictive models, Gattaca is not possible today. But I do think the time for conversation is now. I agree that the idea of using genetics as a sorting mechanism is scary. So it’s important to talk about what this kind of research should and shouldn’t be used for. But let’s recognize that we already do a lot of sorting today. We rely on all kinds of rubrics to pick winners and losers before people have a chance to actually prove themselves. Schools use aptitude tests to sort kids into “gifted and talented” programs. Early problems with attention or behavioral control can track kids in the opposite direction. Maybe the genome can help us understand where these social rules go wrong, when we’re limiting human potential, and who we’ve inappropriately left behind.

我还是觉得有些不妥。我们的未来会不会像电影《千钧一发》(Gattaca)那样?基因优秀的人比基因不好的人更受青睐。(《千钧一发》,一译《变种异煞》,讲述了在科技发达的未来世界,基因优选法得到广泛使用,人们只相信基因决定命运,生来带有基因缺陷的人很难有出路——译者注)

贝尔斯基:我刚刚说了,我们预测模型的力量十分微弱,《千钧一发》中的场景在今天不可能成真。不过,我确实觉得现在是时候讨论这一点了。用遗传基因作为筛选机制就太可怕了,这一点我也认同,因此探讨这类研究的正当用途是非常重要的。但也要认识到,我们已经在用各种机制进行筛选。我们用各种评价标准,在人们真正有机会证明自己之前就区分出胜利者和失败者。学校用能力测试把一些孩子分进“尖子班”,而另一些早期注意力和行为方面有些问题的学生则与此无缘。遗传基因也许可以帮助我们了解,现在这些社会规则哪里有问题,有时候我们限制了人的潜力,把一些人抛在身后,这样做是不对的。

So how are your genes looking?

Belsky: Follow-up is ongoing.

那么你自己的基因怎么样?

贝尔斯基:后续研究仍在进行中。(齐菁 |译   蒋荟蓉 | 编校

  

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