Genetic Insights


Dr. James R. Johnsen – University of Alaska

Some years back, Greta Johnsen, served as KUAC’s morning host. She now works for WBEZ in Chicago and she is co-host of a fun and engaging podcast called Nerdette. Recently the podcast focused on Greta’s rare genetic disease, a disease she inherited from her dad, University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen.  The affliction is known as Best disease, after the physician who most clearly described it. Broadly stated, Best disease is a form of macular degeneration. As serious it is, Best disease turns out to be ideal for a new genetic therapy using a technique called CRISPR. The Johnsens are subjects in a University of California, San Franciso study run by the Institute for Human Genetics

Before talking with Jim Johnsen, I spoke with University of Alaska Fairbanks evolutionary biologist Diana Wolf about CRISPR: how it works and what its name means.

Also on the show: Randy Zarnke is a retired Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist who specialized in diseases. His book “Alaska Tracks” is a popular profile of 30 Alaskan trappers, fishers and hunters; it’s drawn from oral histories he’d collected over the years. And this year Randy was tapped by Governor Bill Walker as Conservationist of the Year.

All that and Chris Lott provides another episode of Katexic Clippings.

Music from Jukedeck – create your own at

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