Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Khan Academy and AAMC Teach the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology in Preparation for the MCAT

Here's a presentation by Tracy Kovach, a 3rd year medical student at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Sandwalk readers will be familiar with my view of Basic Concepts: The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology and the widespread misunderstanding of Crick's original idea. It won't be a surprise to learn that a 3rd year medical student is repeating the old DNA to RNA to protein mantra.

I suppose that's excusable, especially since that's what is likely to be tested on the MCAT. I wonder if students who take my course, or similar courses that correctly teach the Central Dogma, will be at a disadvantage on the MCAT?

The video is posted on the Khan Academy website at: Central dogma of molecular biology. What I found so astonishing about the video presentation is that Tracy Kovach spends so much time explaining how to remember "transcription" and "translation" and get them in the right order. Recall that this video is for students who are about to graduate from university and apply to medical school. I expect high school students to have mastered the terms "transcription" and "translation." I'm pretty sure that students in my undergraduate class would be insulted if I showed them this video. They would be able to describe the biochemistry of transcription and translation in considerable detail.

There are people who think that the Central Dogma is misunderstood to an even greater extent than I claim. They say that the Central Dogma is widely interpreted to mean that the only role of DNA information is to make RNA which makes protein. In other words, they fear that belief in that version of the Central Dogma rules out any other role for DNA. This is the view of John Mattick. He says that the Central Dogma has been overthrown by the discovery of genes that make functional RNA but not protein.

I wonder if students actually think that this is what the Central Dogma means? Watch the first few minutes of the video and give me your opinion. Is this what she is saying?