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Genomic DNA Analysis

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  • 0:08 What is Genomics?
  • 1:16 The Role of Genomics
  • 2:39 Proteomics & Proteins
  • 3:44 Sequencing Genomes
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Your genes are what make you who you are, but they also make you a human. Studying genes and genomes allows scientists to better understand not only our own species, but how we are related to other species in the world as well.

What Is Genomics?

You look the way you do because of your genes. No, not the jeans you wear - the genes inside your body! You get your genes from your parents, which is why you look similar to them. The genetic information that gets passed from one generation to the next has been finely tuned over millions of years, so that your body can function properly and keep you alive.

One reason you don't look exactly like either of your parents is because your genes are a combination of both of theirs. Those genes you get carry different alleles, which are the actual traits you exhibit, such as blonde hair or green eyes. Your genes act like a movie director for your body. They direct some proteins to be made and others not to be made. Some proteins are turned off, while others are turned on. Essentially, all of those proteins are responsible for how you look, talk and even think!

Though our individual alleles (our traits) may be different, humans essentially have the same set of genes that carry these alleles. The entire set of genes in an individual organism is called its genome, and the study of genomes is called genomics.

The Role of Genomics

We are humans and not insects because of our genomes. Dogs are not cats because they each have their own unique genomes. Though they create very different organisms, many genomes are incredibly similar, such as those of humans and chimpanzees. In fact, we share about 99% of our DNA with chimps, though you wouldn't necessarily be able to tell this just by looking! By studying and comparing genomes, scientists can learn a lot about how different organisms are related to each other.

But we can also learn a lot about ourselves. The Human Genome Project, which was a study to determine the location and sequence of every gene in the human genome, began in 1990 at 20 different government facilities in six countries. This ambitious project eventually mapped over 99% of the genomic sequence of human DNA to 99.999% accuracy. That's pretty good! Though each human has their own genome, our genes are similar enough that scientists were able to map an 'overall' genome for humans.

The benefits of understanding our DNA are numerous, especially for medical purposes. Several diseases, such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, have been better understood through the Human Genome Project because these diseases are deeply tied to gene function and heredity.

Proteomics & Proteins

From the Human Genome Project, we have also learned that most of our DNA does not actually consist of genes. In fact, humans have only about 21,000 genes, which is about the same number of genes as a worm! So, why are humans so much more complex? This has to do with the number of proteins in our bodies; we have over 100,000!

Just like a genome is an organism's full set of genes, a proteome is an organism's full set of proteins. Just like genomics is the study of genomes, proteomics is the study of proteomes.

Why study proteins? Well, proteins are responsible for carrying out most cellular activities and processes in the body. This means that scientists need to understand when and where proteins are made in that organism to understand why that organism is the way it is. Describing the complexity of different organisms' proteins can help us see why we are able to talk, drive cars and hold jobs, while those worms in your backyard are not.

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