Genes in our body make us what we are!
Have people ever said to you, "It's in your genes"? They were probably talking about a physical characteristic, personality trait, or talent that you share with other members of your family. We know that genes play an important role in shaping how we look and act and even whether we get sick. Now scientists are trying to use that knowledge in exciting new ways, such as preventing and treating health problems.
Genetic engineering- Granting the power to engineer desirable traits into organisms.
Genetic engineering is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome using biotechnology. Genetic engineering has applications in medicine, research, industry and agriculture and can be used on a wide range of plants, animals and micro organisms to improve quality of life.
Genomics is the study of the genomes of organisms. The field includes intensive efforts to determine the entire DNA sequence of organisms and fine-scale genetic mapping efforts. Genomics is a relatively new and ever-expanding field dedicated to the study of defining genomes in its more specific way.
Genetics, a discipline of biology, is the science of heredity and variation in living organisms. The continuity of life depends on the inheritance of biological information in the form of DNA molecules.
The research kindled by curiosity about the origin and nature of life lead to breakthroughs in genetics and cell biology. The discoveries are certainly going to transform medicine and improve our quality of life.
Knowledge of the inheritance of characteristics has been implicitly used since prehistoric times for improving crop plants and animals through selective breeding. However, the modern science of genetics, which seeks to understand the mechanisms of inheritance, only began with the work of Gregor Mendel in the mid–1800s.
Although he did not know the physical basis for heredity, Mendel observed that inheritance is fundamentally a discrete process with specific traits that are inherited in an independent manner – these basic units of inheritance are now called genes.
Following the rediscovery of Mendel’s observations in the early 1900s, research in 1910s yielded the first physical understanding of inheritance – that genes are arranged linearly along large cellular structures called chromosomes. By the 1950s it was understood that the core of a chromosome was a long molecule called DNA and genes existed as linear sections within the molecule.
A single strand of DNA is a chain of four types of nucleotides; hereditary information is contained within the sequence of these nucleotides. Solved by Watson and Crick in 1953, DNA's three–dimensional structure is a double–stranded helix, with the nucleotides on each strand complementary to each other. Each strand acts as a template for synthesis of a new partner strand, providing the physical mechanism for the inheritance of information.
The sequence of nucleotides in DNA is used to produce specific sequences of amino acids, creating proteins – a correspondence known as the "genetic code". This sequence of amino acids in a protein determines how it folds into a three–dimensional structure, this structure is in turn responsible for the protein’s function.
Proteins are responsible for almost all functional roles in the cell. A change to DNA sequence can change a protein's structure and behavior, and this can have dramatic consequences in the cell and on the organism as a whole. Although genetics plays a large role in determining the appearance and behavior of organisms, it is the interaction of genetics with the environment an organism experiences that determines the ultimate outcome. For example, while genes play a role in determining a person’s height, the nutrition and health that person experiences in childhood also have a large effect.
The most challenging project of recent times is the Human Genome Project to find out the complete DNA sequence of the human being. The entire library of genetic instructions that an organism inherits is called its genome. The chromosomes of each human cell pack a genome that is about 3 billion nucleotides long.
This genomic library of nucleotide sequences is genes coding for the production of more than 75,000 different kinds of proteins, each with a specific function. This information obtained from Human Genome Project contains the list of genes in terms of which all our biological structures and processes would eventually be described.
A gene is a region of DNA whose final product is either a polypeptide or an RNA molecule. A gene is expressed by transcription into RNA and then translation into a polypeptide that forms a protein of specific structure and function. Proteins in turn bring about an organism’s observable phenotype. There may be about 20000–25000 protein–coding genes and the information about them helps us to trace the inheritance of diseases and develop the right targets for drug development and other therapies.
As the genetic code is universal, it is possible to engineer cells to produce proteins - human insulin is produced using this technology. The understanding of the molecular basis of human diseases such as diabetes and cancer helps us to develop therapies, which improve the quality of life and even cure some of those diseases.