Things I'm thinking about after attending class today:
So in season one of Heroes, Chandra Suresh is able to track and predict the emergence or the presence of individuals with Abilities based on information from the Human Genome Project.
Chandra and Mohinder’s list of names is obviously incomplete, first of all. This can be said, in part, to be due to the fact that not everyone is part of the Human Genome Project, and he was therefore only able to spot people who
because that was the dataset he was using.
HOWEVER, it’s also true that he was working off data collected and research performed in the sixties – our genetic science back then was nowhere near what it is now. I propose, therefore, that the gene he was able to track was NOT, in fact, the Ability gene, but another gene located very near to it. (Genes that are near to each-other are more likely to be kept together during meiosis, and can be used as predictors for genes causing genetic disorders so that diagnostic tests can be performed for those disorders even when the specific genes associated with them have not been identified.) After all, Nathan Petrelli was found by Suresh’s research to have the gene, but in fact only had an Ability due to having been injected with The Company’s Synthetic Ability formula.
So. There is a gene, located very close to the one that Chandra Suresh was able to identify during his work at Coyote Sands, that somehow affects the adrenal glands in a specific way that causes Abilities to manifest. This genetic feature is not strictly required; the conditions it causes in the adrenal system can be artificially induced, and when they are, an Ability is manifested and remains (so far as can be seen in the series) permanently.
Its patterns of inheritance are another thing. Let’s make a blanket assumption that it’s a Mendelian trait governed by a single gene. Because that makes all of this a lot simpler. Possibly less correct, but simpler anyway.
Let us make a small case study of Micah Sanders and Nathan Petrelli. So far as we know, Micah has one parent with the allele for Abilities (D.L. Hawkins), and one parent without it (Niki Sanders, whose Ability is synthetic). Micah, therefore, could only have inherited one copy of the allele from his father – his mother does not have the allele.
But wait, you say, what if she does have a copy of the allele, but it’s recessive and Abilities only manifest when the individual has two copies?
Well, on to Nathan Petrelli. His parents, Angela Petrelli and Arthur Petrelli, both have Abilities. Since they’ve both had their abilities longer than the synthetic Ability formula has existed, we can be reasonably sure that this means they both have the genetic features that cause Abilities to arise naturally. IF the allele for abilities was submissive, it would only express in individuals with two copies of the gene. Well, if Angela Petrelli and Arthur Petrelli both had two copies, then Nathan would have had two copies as well, without fail.
If abilities were recessive and Angela and Arthur were both homozygous ‘aa’, then neither of their children could possibly end up as 'Aa’ or 'AA’, except by unlikely mutation.
If Abilities were dominant, then Angela and Arthur could both be heterozygous 'Aa’, and Peter could have the 'Aa’ or 'AA’ genotype and manifest a natural Ability, and Nathan could have the 'aa’ genotype and be born without an Ability.
So say the allele for abilities is dominant, and both Angela and Arthur are only heterozygous for it (only have one copy). Only in this situation, assuming it’s a Mendelian trait, is it possible for Nathan not to have inherited it.
- side note: since Angela and her sister Alice both had the gene, it’s quite likely that one of their parents also had it. More on this later.
- second side note: given the information we have, the more likely circumstance, i think, is that the inheritance is NOT Mendelian, but I only know the workings of Mendelian inheritance so far, so let’s keep playing pretend.
The ultimate source of all genetic diversity is mutation. The allele for Abilities absolutely first arose due to a random mutation, and can and will do so again. Two parents who don’t have even a single copy of the allele between them can have a child who does have it.
The series also shows us that the onset of an Ability can come at any point in life and, it appears, either at random or in response to a specific circumstance. A child who appears to have developed the allele as a random mutation could, in fact, have a parent who had a copy of the allele who simply… never encountered the correct circumstances to make the Ability express. Whether a person tans, freckles, or burns, for example, is genetic – but if the parents never went out in the sun at all, it would be silly to confidently assume that the child’s freckles are due to mutation. It’s perfectly possible that one or both of their parents would freckle if they were ever exposed to the sun like their child.
Abilities also appear to have a stage between latent and active. In this stage, its possible for the individual not to be aware of them – certainly at this stage they’re not yet able to control them. This stage, too, can begin at any point in life.
- important note: the sort of inner workings of how Abilities manifest and express is something that’s maybe a bit excessive for me to start talking about now, especially because it’s fictional and not very well-thought-out in canon besides. So let’s move away from that subject.
It could be asserted that Adam Monroe is a common ancestor of many of the people in the series who have Abilities, since he’s the earliest example we’ve seen and he’s certainly lived long enough to pass on his genes. A lot. The graphic novels say that he only ever had two children that he knew about, but that’s. That he knew about. He was not such a virtuous man that he couldn’t have had a number of children he didn’t know of.
Aaaah oh my god i’ve been working on this for like two hours??? enough. enough. no more. goodbye. homework now.