Genetics – The Basics

We have been hearing for a while now about how genes could lead to cures of all kinds of diseases, but as we have found out this is not such a simple problem and more and more complex players like RNA and epigenetics, the gut biome, etc. might be involved.
We will explore more in future posts about where we are and what are the innovations in this space.

It is important to understand the basics if you want to learn about this area.
I explain things at a very high level. Each item really needs a post unto itself, and there is a lot written about it already and I don’t want to reinvent the wheel and so I’ve provided links to learn about each item further and we’ll explore some of these in the future.

What is a Genome?
Life is specified by a genome. A genome has all the information needed to make an organism. So, your genome is a set of information to make a YOU.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/About/primer/genetics_genome.html

Think of it as a cookie factory, that makes cookies and pies and cakes.

What is a Gene?
A genome is made up of discrete units called genes.
This is a single inherited unit and defines a trait and for e.g. this is why your eyes are like your mother’s and your hair is like your father’s – because you inherited the formula from them.

http://kidshealth.org/kid/talk/qa/what_is_gene.html

Think of it as each machine in the cookie factory.

factory

What is Inheritance?
This is the process of passing on genetic information from a parent to a child, as traits like eye color, body type, diseases, etc..
There are different types of inheritance that we’ll cover in future posts.

http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Genes_and_genetics_inheritance
It is the same thing in dogs: http://bowlingsite.mcf.com/Genetics/BasGen4.html

Think of it as handing over the formulae for making different types of cookies. Your mother might teach you to make peanut butter cookies and your father could teach you his recipe for apple pie.

What is DNA?
A genome consists of DNA (the DNA define the information and functions of the genome)
DNA is really an acid composed of CGAT chemicals.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dna
http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/dna is a good explanation of it.

This is then the formula for each cookie type.

Chromosome
DNA is packed into structures called Chromosomes, which are present in every cell and are got from the father and mother.

http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/handbook/basics/chromosome
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002981/

These could be the bag that contains a formula for a cookie type.

What is RNA?
These are responsible to convert the DNA to Proteins.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RNA
http://www.sciencedaily.com/articles/r/rna.htm

Think of it as the fire to bake a cookie or the stirrer to mix in the sugar.

Proteins
At a high level, think of a gene as a set of instructions to make a protein.
So, a protein is the product of a gene.

http://www.elmhurst.edu/~chm/vchembook/565proteins.html

Think of it as the finished product, e.g. an apple pie.

Amino acids
Proteins are made up of amino acids (which are kind of the building blocks of your body.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-amino-acids.htm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amino_acid

Think of it as the ingredients of the apple pie.

What is Sequencing?
Sequencing is the process of determining one’s DNA.
This is the current hot topic as different companies present different techniques to do this.
This determines what we are made up of, what constitutes our genes and so what diseases we might be susceptible to or what is the molecular basis for our health condition and hopefully how this can be altered in the future.

http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/D/DNAsequencing.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequencing

Think of it as determining the ingredients of what made up our apple pie. So, this is more like reverse engineering.

What is Gene Expression?
This is the using of a gene to make a protein type. This is like applying a formula.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_expression
http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_wtd020757.html

Think of this a using a particular recipe to make a cookie type.

Hope you’re clear about the meaning of the various terms by now.
In the future, we’ll go in more detail about certain aspects of this.

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About Ra

Software Engineer (worked in corporations to healthcare start-ups), Geek, Musician, Artist, Fellow Human - living in the covergence space of healthcare, software, interaction design, the quantified self and genetics, music and spirituality
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