Bring Genetics and Genomics into Your Life

Genetic diseases are not well understood. The reason is simple. To understand the root cause of these diseases, research needs to be done at a deeper level of genes and chromosomes. Billions of dollars are spent in addressing genetic diseases by government health organizations and institutes. Public awareness about these diseases only seems to happen when people are struck by one of these diseases. This article tries to understand the significance of awareness related to genetic diseases.

Basics required at the beginning:

What is a Gene? The human body is made of cells. The cells are the fundamental units with which our body is made. Inside the cell, there is a nucleus. The nucleus contains the basic instructions for the functions of the whole body. These basic instructions exist in sets. These sets are called the chromosomes. A single instruction is called a gene.

What is Cell Division? As a rule of nature, old cells die and new cells replace them. This takes place by a process called cell division. In this process, a single cell (technically called the parent cell) splits into two new cells(daughter cells). During this process of cell division, the set of instructions in the parent cell get copied exactly in the daughter cells. This is how the daughter cells can exist independently.

What is Mutation? When the instructions of the parent cell get copied in the daughter cells, there is a possibility of the instructions being copied incompletely. This causes the new daughter cells to acquire a new set of instructions and function differently when compared to their parent cell. This process of change in the basic instructions of the cells is called mutation technically. There are several processes and factors by which mutation can take place. The above example is only one such process. Mutation of genes is the primary factor behind genetic diseases.

What is Genetics? A new baby acquires a mix of basic instructions from his/her father’s and mother’s cells. This process of passing  genes from one generation to another generation is called inheritance. Genetics is the branch of knowledge which studies genes and gains further insight into them.

What is Genomics? Genomics uses the knowledge gained by genetics about genes to address genetic diseases. It tries to apply the principles of genetics to understand the causes, treatments and therapies for dealing with genetic diseases. The study of genomics is aided by the latest developments in other allied fields of science and technology.

Why Genetics and Genomics are important to our health?
We are all identical up to 99.9%. It is the 0.1% difference which makes us different from each other. In this 0.1% difference lie the causes of genetic diseases. Prevalent diseases in society like heart disease, cancer and diabetes have genetic origins separate from inherited diseases. An appreciation and basic knowledge about these fields and the preparation of a genetic history of ourselves with the doctor’s help, keeps us informed about these diseases.

Why are they important to our family’s health? Unhealthy life style, untimely food intake, lack of exercise, stress, smoking, alcohol and no medical checkups till the adversity knocks at the door are the norms of our society. There are people dying at the age of 40 of heart attack and people who live for 100 years. Genetic and Genomics hold the answers to these disturbing trends and differences. Prepare a family health history for all the members of the family by seeking a doctor’s help. It will help in knowing about the genetic makeup of your family. The potential factors from our life style which can significantly impact the possibility of genetic diseases in the family will get identified. Forewarned is forearmed.

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