The importance of understanding the fundamentals of genetics

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Why do children look more like their mother than their father? Why do people have diseases such as Albinism or Trisomy 21? Does the environment influence our appearance? These questions all deal with genetics and heredity. Genetics is the study of genes and their impact on organisms. Genetics deals with DNA and RNA, cell division, laws of inheritances, mishaps in genetic machinery and how genes and the environment influence the phenotype. I believe genetics is very important in each and every human being, especially as our traits are determined by it.

Genetics starts with the microscopic. Humans all have cells, which are the basic units of life. These cells contain hereditary information in the nucleus known as DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid). DNA contains the instructions that allow organisms to express their characteristics. Some traits include lactose intolerance, five-fingered hands and melanin production. These result from biological proteins. Te method in which proteins are made is known as the central dogma. The DNA produces RNA (Ribonucleic Acid), which is a single-stranded molecule. This acid is made in order to transport it out of the nucleus of the cell. The site of protein synthesis occurs outside the nucleus, specifically in the Rough Endoplasmic Reticulum. RNA helps produce the proteins at this site. With these proteins, traits are expressed. Without the central dogma, there would be no production of proteins that are necessary for survival and growth. There would be no life without the essential proteins.

In addition to protein synthesis, cells need to multiply rapidly in order to provide sufficient functions in the body such as formation of tissues and organs. Cells divide by two methods: mitosis and meiosis. The former deals with reproducing somatic — body — cells. In mitosis, two body cells are made per cell and the genetic information is passed on from the parent to the daughter cell. Meiosis is the process of producing gametes or sex cells. In meiosis, half of dad’s chromosomes are expressed in the child and the other half comes from mom. Trough meiosis, a genetically unique individual is created.

Problems can exist with cell division; a major problem that occurs is cancer. Cancer results from abnormal growth and division of cells. The cells undergoing mitosis never stop dividing, and too many cells are detrimental to the body. The cells move from one body section to another, which makes it hard to stop and remove all of the tumors. I believe this is an important area of study because it is important that we understand how traits pass from one generation to the next, and it is important to understand abnormal proliferation of cells during division. Without understanding this, it will be very hard to cure and treat those who have cancer. Understanding the basis of tumor growth allows doctors to save lives.

Scientists have used pedigrees to study human inheritance patterns. They study autosomal and sex-linked traits among people in a family and what is the likelihood that others will have or will not have a disease. Inheritance can also help to find certain problems that exist. One example is sickle-cell anemia. Tis is caused by homozygous recessive alleles for the blood cell gene. The proteins produced cause red blood cells to form their sickle shape. These sickle cells have a decreased surface area and cannot uptake enough oxygen. Understanding inheritance is crucial because you should be able to figure out the probability that your offspring will have some disorder and what the preventive measures are if there is a high probability.

Our phenotypes are not totally dependent on the outcomes of genetics. Lots of times, the environment plays a role with expression. Another branch of genetics is known as epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of how external factors affect the expression of DNA rather than the change in the genetic code. Rabbits, for example, have different colored ears in different environments. Different environments have different external stimuli that affect the expression of the code. You know that living in different environments affect the moods and behaviors of people. Some may prefer the heat over the cold, while others may prefer the opposite.

Of course, this may seem a simple overview of genetics, but it is very complex. Genetics is very important as it determines the individual and the properties that exist within in that individual. While we may think about it, genetics apply to our lives each and everyday.