Genetics News and Research
Genetics has evolved from a simple system of selective breeding used in prehistoric times, to the decoding, analysis and manipulation
of specific genetic sequences in organisms with millions of base pairs. Our continuing understanding of genetics has already drastically
changed the world we live in, and continues to do so on a daily basis. From agriculture to medicine, genetics is becoming a cornerstone
of several scientific disciplines.
All life as we know it now, is made of of genetic material, whether it is DNA (Deoxyribonucleic acid) or RNA (Ribonucleic acid). Each gene provides
specific instructions for how to build a protein or control the expression of other genes. Some organisms have only a few hundred genes, some have
hundreds of thousands. Because we've only genomically sequenced a small number of organisms, we are still at the very beginning of this journey into
learning how life works.
Just the Beginning
Sequencing an organisms is a massive undertaking requiring hundreds of lab technicians, thousands of genetic sequencing machines, as well as
massive supercomputers. It took nearly 13 years to decode the 20,000 genes of the human genome. At the time this article was written the genomes
of less than a hundred lifeforms had been sequenced. Science has classified millions of distinct species, that are years away from
Their are several genomic projects underway, and each will help illuminate the mysteries of evolution, provide new genes for use in medicine
and agriculture, and other countless application yet imagined. New techniques like gene silencing are allowing us to understand the function
of these genes and gene networks, but the raw computing power needed to analyze the data is still quite small.
Where is the study of genetics leading us?
Individual genes have been found that are involved in Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's, several types of cancer, diabetes and other medical ailments.
Each potentially catastrophic gene is then examined for ways to disable, or modify the gene through techniques like gene therapy. Our future
understanding of genetics will allow us to live longer, more fruitful, lives.
Staple crops like corn, rice, and wheat have already undergone massive transformations through genetic engineering that have increased yield,
reduced allergic reactions and fed more people. Domesticated animals like cattle, pigs and chickens are being examined for ways to reduce disease,
increase caloric value while at the same time making them healthier food for humans to eat.
Microbes like algae, fungus and bacteria are being examined for use in the creation of biofuels, medicines, and plastics to replace current products
created using declining fossil fuels. Scientists are learning how to create new organisms so that we might be able to create renewable resources to
replace all of our finite resources.