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Genetic Testing for Personalized Medicine and … – Genomind

The complexity of biological systems is astounding, and to us at Genomind, this means understanding and treating the whole person as something much greater than the sum of his or her parts.

Mindful DNA Professional is a genetic test that uses systems biology, patient individuality, and our Philosophy of Domains to analyze gene networks that influence health and wellness. The test is grounded in Genominds expertise in brain health and core belief in the importance of mind-body connection.

To learn more about the test, please click the For Providers or the For Patients button below.

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Genetic Testing for Personalized Medicine and … – Genomind

Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Medical genetics is the branch of medicine that involves the diagnosis and management of hereditary disorders. Medical genetics differs from human genetics in that human genetics is a field of scientific research that may or may not apply to medicine, while medical genetics refers to the application of genetics to medical care. For example, research on the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders would be considered within both human genetics and medical genetics, while the diagnosis, management, and counselling people with genetic disorders would be considered part of medical genetics.

In contrast, the study of typically non-medical phenotypes such as the genetics of eye color would be considered part of human genetics, but not necessarily relevant to medical genetics (except in situations such as albinism). Genetic medicine is a newer term for medical genetics and incorporates areas such as gene therapy, personalized medicine, and the rapidly emerging new medical specialty, predictive medicine.

Medical genetics encompasses many different areas, including clinical practice of physicians, genetic counselors, and nutritionists, clinical diagnostic laboratory activities, and research into the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders. Examples of conditions that fall within the scope of medical genetics include birth defects and dysmorphology, mental retardation, autism, mitochondrial disorders, skeletal dysplasia, connective tissue disorders, cancer genetics, teratogens, and prenatal diagnosis. Medical genetics is increasingly becoming relevant to many common diseases. Overlaps with other medical specialties are beginning to emerge, as recent advances in genetics are revealing etiologies for neurologic, endocrine, cardiovascular, pulmonary, ophthalmologic, renal, psychiatric, and dermatologic conditions.

In some ways, many of the individual fields within medical genetics are hybrids between clinical care and research. This is due in part to recent advances in science and technology (for example, see the Human genome project) that have enabled an unprecedented understanding of genetic disorders.

Clinical genetics is the practice of clinical medicine with particular attention to hereditary disorders. Referrals are made to genetics clinics for a variety of reasons, including birth defects, developmental delay, autism, epilepsy, short stature, and many others. Examples of genetic syndromes that are commonly seen in the genetics clinic include chromosomal rearrangements, Down syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome), Fragile X syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Neurofibromatosis, Turner syndrome, and Williams syndrome.

In the United States, physicians who practice clinical genetics are accredited by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG).[1] In order to become a board-certified practitioner of Clinical Genetics, a physician must complete a minimum of 24 months of training in a program accredited by the ABMGG. Individuals seeking acceptance into clinical genetics training programs must hold an M.D. or D.O. degree (or their equivalent) and have completed a minimum of 24 months of training in an ACGME-accredited residency program in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, or other medical specialty.[2]

Metabolic (or biochemical) genetics involves the diagnosis and management of inborn errors of metabolism in which patients have enzymatic deficiencies that perturb biochemical pathways involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and lipids. Examples of metabolic disorders include galactosemia, glycogen storage disease, lysosomal storage disorders, metabolic acidosis, peroxisomal disorders, phenylketonuria, and urea cycle disorders.

Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes and chromosome abnormalities. While cytogenetics historically relied on microscopy to analyze chromosomes, new molecular technologies such as array comparative genomic hybridization are now becoming widely used. Examples of chromosome abnormalities include aneuploidy, chromosomal rearrangements, and genomic deletion/duplication disorders.

Molecular genetics involves the discovery of and laboratory testing for DNA mutations that underlie many single gene disorders. Examples of single gene disorders include achondroplasia, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1/2), Huntington disease, Marfan syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and Rett syndrome. Molecular tests are also used in the diagnosis of syndromes involving epigenetic abnormalities, such as Angelman syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Prader-willi syndrome, and uniparental disomy.

Mitochondrial genetics concerns the diagnosis and management of mitochondrial disorders, which have a molecular basis but often result in biochemical abnormalities due to deficient energy production.

There exists some overlap between medical genetic diagnostic laboratories and molecular pathology.

Genetic counseling is the process of providing information about genetic conditions, diagnostic testing, and risks in other family members, within the framework of nondirective counseling. Genetic counselors are non-physician members of the medical genetics team who specialize in family risk assessment and counseling of patients regarding genetic disorders. The precise role of the genetic counselor varies somewhat depending on the disorder.

Although genetics has its roots back in the 19th century with the work of the Bohemian monk Gregor Mendel and other pioneering scientists, human genetics emerged later. It started to develop, albeit slowly, during the first half of the 20th century. Mendelian (single-gene) inheritance was studied in a number of important disorders such as albinism, brachydactyly (short fingers and toes), and hemophilia. Mathematical approaches were also devised and applied to human genetics. Population genetics was created.

Medical genetics was a late developer, emerging largely after the close of World War II (1945) when the eugenics movement had fallen into disrepute. The Nazi misuse of eugenics sounded its death knell. Shorn of eugenics, a scientific approach could be used and was applied to human and medical genetics. Medical genetics saw an increasingly rapid rise in the second half of the 20th century and continues in the 21st century.

The clinical setting in which patients are evaluated determines the scope of practice, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions. For the purposes of general discussion, the typical encounters between patients and genetic practitioners may involve:

Each patient will undergo a diagnostic evaluation tailored to their own particular presenting signs and symptoms. The geneticist will establish a differential diagnosis and recommend appropriate testing. These tests might evaluate for chromosomal disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, or single gene disorders.

Chromosome studies are used in the general genetics clinic to determine a cause for developmental delay/mental retardation, birth defects, dysmorphic features, and/or autism. Chromosome analysis is also performed in the prenatal setting to determine whether a fetus is affected with aneuploidy or other chromosome rearrangements. Finally, chromosome abnormalities are often detected in cancer samples. A large number of different methods have been developed for chromosome analysis:

Biochemical studies are performed to screen for imbalances of metabolites in the bodily fluid, usually the blood (plasma/serum) or urine, but also in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Specific tests of enzyme function (either in leukocytes, skin fibroblasts, liver, or muscle) are also employed under certain circumstances. In the US, the newborn screen incorporates biochemical tests to screen for treatable conditions such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria (PKU). Patients suspected to have a metabolic condition might undergo the following tests:

Each cell of the body contains the hereditary information (DNA) wrapped up in structures called chromosomes. Since genetic syndromes are typically the result of alterations of the chromosomes or genes, there is no treatment currently available that can correct the genetic alterations in every cell of the body. Therefore, there is currently no “cure” for genetic disorders. However, for many genetic syndromes there is treatment available to manage the symptoms. In some cases, particularly inborn errors of metabolism, the mechanism of disease is well understood and offers the potential for dietary and medical management to prevent or reduce the long-term complications. In other cases, infusion therapy is used to replace the missing enzyme. Current research is actively seeking to use gene therapy or other new medications to treat specific genetic disorders.

In general, metabolic disorders arise from enzyme deficiencies that disrupt normal metabolic pathways. For instance, in the hypothetical example:

Compound “A” is metabolized to “B” by enzyme “X”, compound “B” is metabolized to “C” by enzyme “Y”, and compound “C” is metabolized to “D” by enzyme “Z”.If enzyme “Z” is missing, compound “D” will be missing, while compounds “A”, “B”, and “C” will build up. The pathogenesis of this particular condition could result from lack of compound “D”, if it is critical for some cellular function, or from toxicity due to excess “A”, “B”, and/or “C”, or from toxicity due to the excess of “E” which is normally only present in small amounts and only accumulates when “C” is in excess. Treatment of the metabolic disorder could be achieved through dietary supplementation of compound “D” and dietary restriction of compounds “A”, “B”, and/or “C” or by treatment with a medication that promoted disposal of excess “A”, “B”, “C” or “E”. Another approach that can be taken is enzyme replacement therapy, in which a patient is given an infusion of the missing enzyme “Z” or cofactor therapy to increase the efficacy of any residual “Z” activity.

Dietary restriction and supplementation are key measures taken in several well-known metabolic disorders, including galactosemia, phenylketonuria (PKU), maple syrup urine disease, organic acidurias and urea cycle disorders. Such restrictive diets can be difficult for the patient and family to maintain, and require close consultation with a nutritionist who has special experience in metabolic disorders. The composition of the diet will change depending on the caloric needs of the growing child and special attention is needed during a pregnancy if a woman is affected with one of these disorders.

Medical approaches include enhancement of residual enzyme activity (in cases where the enzyme is made but is not functioning properly), inhibition of other enzymes in the biochemical pathway to prevent buildup of a toxic compound, or diversion of a toxic compound to another form that can be excreted. Examples include the use of high doses of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) in some patients with homocystinuria to boost the activity of the residual cystathione synthase enzyme, administration of biotin to restore activity of several enzymes affected by deficiency of biotinidase, treatment with NTBC in Tyrosinemia to inhibit the production of succinylacetone which causes liver toxicity, and the use of sodium benzoate to decrease ammonia build-up in urea cycle disorders.

Certain lysosomal storage diseases are treated with infusions of a recombinant enzyme (produced in a laboratory), which can reduce the accumulation of the compounds in various tissues. Examples include Gaucher disease, Fabry disease, Mucopolysaccharidoses and Glycogen storage disease type II. Such treatments are limited by the ability of the enzyme to reach the affected areas (the blood brain barrier prevents enzyme from reaching the brain, for example), and can sometimes be associated with allergic reactions. The long-term clinical effectiveness of enzyme replacement therapies vary widely among different disorders.

There are a variety of career paths within the field of medical genetics, and naturally the training required for each area differs considerably. The information included in this section applies to the typical pathways in the United States and there may be differences in other countries. US practitioners in clinical, counseling, or diagnostic subspecialties generally obtain board certification through the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Genetic information provides a unique type of knowledge about an individual and his/her family, fundamentally different from a typically laboratory test that provides a “snapshot” of an individual’s health status. The unique status of genetic information and inherited disease has a number of ramifications with regard to ethical, legal, and societal concerns.

On 19 March 2015, scientists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[3][4][5][6] In April 2015 and April 2016, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[7][8][9] In February 2016, British scientists were given permission by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR and related techniques on condition that the embryos were destroyed within seven days.[10] In June 2016 the Dutch government was reported to be planning to follow suit with similar regulations which would specify a 14-day limit.[11]

The more empirical approach to human and medical genetics was formalized by the founding in 1948 of the American Society of Human Genetics. The Society first began annual meetings that year (1948) and its international counterpart, the International Congress of Human Genetics, has met every 5 years since its inception in 1956. The Society publishes the American Journal of Human Genetics on a monthly basis.

Medical genetics is now recognized as a distinct medical specialty in the U.S. with its own approved board (the American Board of Medical Genetics) and clinical specialty college (the American College of Medical Genetics). The College holds an annual scientific meeting, publishes a monthly journal, Genetics in Medicine, and issues position papers and clinical practice guidelines on a variety of topics relevant to human genetics.

The broad range of research in medical genetics reflects the overall scope of this field, including basic research on genetic inheritance and the human genome, mechanisms of genetic and metabolic disorders, translational research on new treatment modalities, and the impact of genetic testing

Basic research geneticists usually undertake research in universities, biotechnology firms and research institutes.

Sometimes the link between a disease and an unusual gene variant is more subtle. The genetic architecture of common diseases is an important factor in determining the extent to which patterns of genetic variation influence group differences in health outcomes.[12][13][14] According to the common disease/common variant hypothesis, common variants present in the ancestral population before the dispersal of modern humans from Africa play an important role in human diseases.[15] Genetic variants associated with Alzheimer disease, deep venous thrombosis, Crohn disease, and type 2 diabetes appear to adhere to this model.[16] However, the generality of the model has not yet been established and, in some cases, is in doubt.[13][17][18] Some diseases, such as many common cancers, appear not to be well described by the common disease/common variant model.[19]

Another possibility is that common diseases arise in part through the action of combinations of variants that are individually rare.[20][21] Most of the disease-associated alleles discovered to date have been rare, and rare variants are more likely than common variants to be differentially distributed among groups distinguished by ancestry.[19][22] However, groups could harbor different, though perhaps overlapping, sets of rare variants, which would reduce contrasts between groups in the incidence of the disease.

The number of variants contributing to a disease and the interactions among those variants also could influence the distribution of diseases among groups. The difficulty that has been encountered in finding contributory alleles for complex diseases and in replicating positive associations suggests that many complex diseases involve numerous variants rather than a moderate number of alleles, and the influence of any given variant may depend in critical ways on the genetic and environmental background.[17][23][24][25] If many alleles are required to increase susceptibility to a disease, the odds are low that the necessary combination of alleles would become concentrated in a particular group purely through drift.[26]

One area in which population categories can be important considerations in genetics research is in controlling for confounding between population substructure, environmental exposures, and health outcomes. Association studies can produce spurious results if cases and controls have differing allele frequencies for genes that are not related to the disease being studied,[27] although the magnitude of this problem in genetic association studies is subject to debate.[28][29] Various methods have been developed to detect and account for population substructure,[30][31] but these methods can be difficult to apply in practice.[32]

Population substructure also can be used to advantage in genetic association studies. For example, populations that represent recent mixtures of geographically separated ancestral groups can exhibit longer-range linkage disequilibrium between susceptibility alleles and genetic markers than is the case for other populations.[33][34][35][36] Genetic studies can use this admixture linkage disequilibrium to search for disease alleles with fewer markers than would be needed otherwise. Association studies also can take advantage of the contrasting experiences of racial or ethnic groups, including migrant groups, to search for interactions between particular alleles and environmental factors that might influence health.[37][38]

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Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Genetics – Wikipedia

This article is about the general scientific term. For the scientific journal, see Genetics (journal).

Science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms

Genetics is a branch of biology concerned with the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in living organisms.[1][2][3]

Gregor Mendel, a scientist and Augustinian friar, discovered genetics in the late 19th-century. Mendel studied “trait inheritance”, patterns in the way traits are handed down from parents to offspring. He observed that organisms (pea plants) inherit traits by way of discrete “units of inheritance”. This term, still used today, is a somewhat ambiguous definition of what is referred to as a gene.

Trait inheritance and molecular inheritance mechanisms of genes are still primary principles of genetics in the 21st century, but modern genetics has expanded beyond inheritance to studying the function and behavior of genes. Gene structure and function, variation, and distribution are studied within the context of the cell, the organism (e.g. dominance), and within the context of a population. Genetics has given rise to a number of subfields, including epigenetics and population genetics. Organisms studied within the broad field span the domains of life (archaea, bacteria, and eukarya).

Genetic processes work in combination with an organism’s environment and experiences to influence development and behavior, often referred to as nature versus nurture. The intracellular or extracellular environment of a cell or organism may switch gene transcription on or off. A classic example is two seeds of genetically identical corn, one placed in a temperate climate and one in an arid climate. While the average height of the two corn stalks may be genetically determined to be equal, the one in the arid climate only grows to half the height of the one in the temperate climate due to lack of water and nutrients in its environment.

The word genetics stems from the ancient Greek genetikos meaning “genitive”/”generative”, which in turn derives from genesis meaning “origin”.[4][5][6]

The observation that living things inherit traits from their parents has been used since prehistoric times to improve crop plants and animals through selective breeding.[7] The modern science of genetics, seeking to understand this process, began with the work of the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel in the mid-19th century.[8]

Prior to Mendel, Imre Festetics, a Hungarian noble, who lived in Kszeg before Mendel, was the first who used the word “genetics.” He described several rules of genetic inheritance in his work The genetic law of the Nature (Die genetische Gestze der Natur, 1819). His second law is the same as what Mendel published. In his third law, he developed the basic principles of mutation (he can be considered a forerunner of Hugo de Vries).[9]

Other theories of inheritance preceded Mendel’s work. A popular theory during the 19th century, and implied by Charles Darwin’s 1859 On the Origin of Species, was blending inheritance: the idea that individuals inherit a smooth blend of traits from their parents.[10] Mendel’s work provided examples where traits were definitely not blended after hybridization, showing that traits are produced by combinations of distinct genes rather than a continuous blend. Blending of traits in the progeny is now explained by the action of multiple genes with quantitative effects. Another theory that had some support at that time was the inheritance of acquired characteristics: the belief that individuals inherit traits strengthened by their parents. This theory (commonly associated with Jean-Baptiste Lamarck) is now known to be wrongthe experiences of individuals do not affect the genes they pass to their children,[11] although evidence in the field of epigenetics has revived some aspects of Lamarck’s theory.[12] Other theories included the pangenesis of Charles Darwin (which had both acquired and inherited aspects) and Francis Galton’s reformulation of pangenesis as both particulate and inherited.[13]

Modern genetics started with Mendel’s studies of the nature of inheritance in plants. In his paper “Versuche ber Pflanzenhybriden” (“Experiments on Plant Hybridization”), presented in 1865 to the Naturforschender Verein (Society for Research in Nature) in Brnn, Mendel traced the inheritance patterns of certain traits in pea plants and described them mathematically.[14] Although this pattern of inheritance could only be observed for a few traits, Mendel’s work suggested that heredity was particulate, not acquired, and that the inheritance patterns of many traits could be explained through simple rules and ratios.

The importance of Mendel’s work did not gain wide understanding until 1900, after his death, when Hugo de Vries and other scientists rediscovered his research. William Bateson, a proponent of Mendel’s work, coined the word genetics in 1905[15][16] (the adjective genetic, derived from the Greek word genesis, “origin”, predates the noun and was first used in a biological sense in 1860[17]). Bateson both acted as a mentor and was aided significantly by the work of female scientists from Newnham College at Cambridge, specifically the work of Becky Saunders, Nora Darwin Barlow, and Muriel Wheldale Onslow.[18] Bateson popularized the usage of the word genetics to describe the study of inheritance in his inaugural address to the Third International Conference on Plant Hybridization in London in 1906.[19]

After the rediscovery of Mendel’s work, scientists tried to determine which molecules in the cell were responsible for inheritance. In 1911, Thomas Hunt Morgan argued that genes are on chromosomes, based on observations of a sex-linked white eye mutation in fruit flies.[20] In 1913, his student Alfred Sturtevant used the phenomenon of genetic linkage to show that genes are arranged linearly on the chromosome.[21]

Although genes were known to exist on chromosomes, chromosomes are composed of both protein and DNA, and scientists did not know which of the two is responsible for inheritance. In 1928, Frederick Griffith discovered the phenomenon of transformation (see Griffith’s experiment): dead bacteria could transfer genetic material to “transform” other still-living bacteria. Sixteen years later, in 1944, the AveryMacLeodMcCarty experiment identified DNA as the molecule responsible for transformation.[22] The role of the nucleus as the repository of genetic information in eukaryotes had been established by Hmmerling in 1943 in his work on the single celled alga Acetabularia.[23] The HersheyChase experiment in 1952 confirmed that DNA (rather than protein) is the genetic material of the viruses that infect bacteria, providing further evidence that DNA is the molecule responsible for inheritance.[24]

James Watson and Francis Crick determined the structure of DNA in 1953, using the X-ray crystallography work of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins that indicated DNA has a helical structure (i.e., shaped like a corkscrew).[25][26] Their double-helix model had two strands of DNA with the nucleotides pointing inward, each matching a complementary nucleotide on the other strand to form what look like rungs on a twisted ladder.[27] This structure showed that genetic information exists in the sequence of nucleotides on each strand of DNA. The structure also suggested a simple method for replication: if the strands are separated, new partner strands can be reconstructed for each based on the sequence of the old strand. This property is what gives DNA its semi-conservative nature where one strand of new DNA is from an original parent strand.[28]

Although the structure of DNA showed how inheritance works, it was still not known how DNA influences the behavior of cells. In the following years, scientists tried to understand how DNA controls the process of protein production.[29] It was discovered that the cell uses DNA as a template to create matching messenger RNA, molecules with nucleotides very similar to DNA. The nucleotide sequence of a messenger RNA is used to create an amino acid sequence in protein; this translation between nucleotide sequences and amino acid sequences is known as the genetic code.[30]

With the newfound molecular understanding of inheritance came an explosion of research.[31] A notable theory arose from Tomoko Ohta in 1973 with her amendment to the neutral theory of molecular evolution through publishing the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution. In this theory, Ohta stressed the importance of natural selection and the environment to the rate at which genetic evolution occurs.[32] One important development was chain-termination DNA sequencing in 1977 by Frederick Sanger. This technology allows scientists to read the nucleotide sequence of a DNA molecule.[33] In 1983, Kary Banks Mullis developed the polymerase chain reaction, providing a quick way to isolate and amplify a specific section of DNA from a mixture.[34] The efforts of the Human Genome Project, Department of Energy, NIH, and parallel private efforts by Celera Genomics led to the sequencing of the human genome in 2003.[35][36]

At its most fundamental level, inheritance in organisms occurs by passing discrete heritable units, called genes, from parents to offspring.[37] This property was first observed by Gregor Mendel, who studied the segregation of heritable traits in pea plants.[14][38] In his experiments studying the trait for flower color, Mendel observed that the flowers of each pea plant were either purple or whitebut never an intermediate between the two colors. These different, discrete versions of the same gene are called alleles.

In the case of the pea, which is a diploid species, each individual plant has two copies of each gene, one copy inherited from each parent.[39] Many species, including humans, have this pattern of inheritance. Diploid organisms with two copies of the same allele of a given gene are called homozygous at that gene locus, while organisms with two different alleles of a given gene are called heterozygous.

The set of alleles for a given organism is called its genotype, while the observable traits of the organism are called its phenotype. When organisms are heterozygous at a gene, often one allele is called dominant as its qualities dominate the phenotype of the organism, while the other allele is called recessive as its qualities recede and are not observed. Some alleles do not have complete dominance and instead have incomplete dominance by expressing an intermediate phenotype, or codominance by expressing both alleles at once.[40]

When a pair of organisms reproduce sexually, their offspring randomly inherit one of the two alleles from each parent. These observations of discrete inheritance and the segregation of alleles are collectively known as Mendel’s first law or the Law of Segregation.

Geneticists use diagrams and symbols to describe inheritance. A gene is represented by one or a few letters. Often a “+” symbol is used to mark the usual, non-mutant allele for a gene.[41]

In fertilization and breeding experiments (and especially when discussing Mendel’s laws) the parents are referred to as the “P” generation and the offspring as the “F1” (first filial) generation. When the F1 offspring mate with each other, the offspring are called the “F2” (second filial) generation. One of the common diagrams used to predict the result of cross-breeding is the Punnett square.

When studying human genetic diseases, geneticists often use pedigree charts to represent the inheritance of traits.[42] These charts map the inheritance of a trait in a family tree.

Organisms have thousands of genes, and in sexually reproducing organisms these genes generally assort independently of each other. This means that the inheritance of an allele for yellow or green pea color is unrelated to the inheritance of alleles for white or purple flowers. This phenomenon, known as “Mendel’s second law” or the “law of independent assortment,” means that the alleles of different genes get shuffled between parents to form offspring with many different combinations. (Some genes do not assort independently, demonstrating genetic linkage, a topic discussed later in this article.)

Often different genes can interact in a way that influences the same trait. In the Blue-eyed Mary (Omphalodes verna), for example, there exists a gene with alleles that determine the color of flowers: blue or magenta. Another gene, however, controls whether the flowers have color at all or are white. When a plant has two copies of this white allele, its flowers are whiteregardless of whether the first gene has blue or magenta alleles. This interaction between genes is called epistasis, with the second gene epistatic to the first.[43]

Many traits are not discrete features (e.g. purple or white flowers) but are instead continuous features (e.g. human height and skin color). These complex traits are products of many genes.[44] The influence of these genes is mediated, to varying degrees, by the environment an organism has experienced. The degree to which an organism’s genes contribute to a complex trait is called heritability.[45] Measurement of the heritability of a trait is relativein a more variable environment, the environment has a bigger influence on the total variation of the trait. For example, human height is a trait with complex causes. It has a heritability of 89% in the United States. In Nigeria, however, where people experience a more variable access to good nutrition and health care, height has a heritability of only 62%.[46]

The molecular basis for genes is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is composed of a chain of nucleotides, of which there are four types: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). Genetic information exists in the sequence of these nucleotides, and genes exist as stretches of sequence along the DNA chain.[47] Viruses are the only exception to this rulesometimes viruses use the very similar molecule RNA instead of DNA as their genetic material.[48] Viruses cannot reproduce without a host and are unaffected by many genetic processes, so tend not to be considered living organisms.

DNA normally exists as a double-stranded molecule, coiled into the shape of a double helix. Each nucleotide in DNA preferentially pairs with its partner nucleotide on the opposite strand: A pairs with T, and C pairs with G. Thus, in its two-stranded form, each strand effectively contains all necessary information, redundant with its partner strand. This structure of DNA is the physical basis for inheritance: DNA replication duplicates the genetic information by splitting the strands and using each strand as a template for synthesis of a new partner strand.[49]

Genes are arranged linearly along long chains of DNA base-pair sequences. In bacteria, each cell usually contains a single circular genophore, while eukaryotic organisms (such as plants and animals) have their DNA arranged in multiple linear chromosomes. These DNA strands are often extremely long; the largest human chromosome, for example, is about 247 million base pairs in length.[50] The DNA of a chromosome is associated with structural proteins that organize, compact, and control access to the DNA, forming a material called chromatin; in eukaryotes, chromatin is usually composed of nucleosomes, segments of DNA wound around cores of histone proteins.[51] The full set of hereditary material in an organism (usually the combined DNA sequences of all chromosomes) is called the genome.

While haploid organisms have only one copy of each chromosome, most animals and many plants are diploid, containing two of each chromosome and thus two copies of every gene.[39] The two alleles for a gene are located on identical loci of the two homologous chromosomes, each allele inherited from a different parent.

Many species have so-called sex chromosomes that determine the gender of each organism.[52] In humans and many other animals, the Y chromosome contains the gene that triggers the development of the specifically male characteristics. In evolution, this chromosome has lost most of its content and also most of its genes, while the X chromosome is similar to the other chromosomes and contains many genes. The X and Y chromosomes form a strongly heterogeneous pair.

When cells divide, their full genome is copied and each daughter cell inherits one copy. This process, called mitosis, is the simplest form of reproduction and is the basis for asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction can also occur in multicellular organisms, producing offspring that inherit their genome from a single parent. Offspring that are genetically identical to their parents are called clones.

Eukaryotic organisms often use sexual reproduction to generate offspring that contain a mixture of genetic material inherited from two different parents. The process of sexual reproduction alternates between forms that contain single copies of the genome (haploid) and double copies (diploid).[39] Haploid cells fuse and combine genetic material to create a diploid cell with paired chromosomes. Diploid organisms form haploids by dividing, without replicating their DNA, to create daughter cells that randomly inherit one of each pair of chromosomes. Most animals and many plants are diploid for most of their lifespan, with the haploid form reduced to single cell gametes such as sperm or eggs.

Although they do not use the haploid/diploid method of sexual reproduction, bacteria have many methods of acquiring new genetic information. Some bacteria can undergo conjugation, transferring a small circular piece of DNA to another bacterium.[53] Bacteria can also take up raw DNA fragments found in the environment and integrate them into their genomes, a phenomenon known as transformation.[54] These processes result in horizontal gene transfer, transmitting fragments of genetic information between organisms that would be otherwise unrelated.

The diploid nature of chromosomes allows for genes on different chromosomes to assort independently or be separated from their homologous pair during sexual reproduction wherein haploid gametes are formed. In this way new combinations of genes can occur in the offspring of a mating pair. Genes on the same chromosome would theoretically never recombine. However, they do, via the cellular process of chromosomal crossover. During crossover, chromosomes exchange stretches of DNA, effectively shuffling the gene alleles between the chromosomes.[55] This process of chromosomal crossover generally occurs during meiosis, a series of cell divisions that creates haploid cells.

The first cytological demonstration of crossing over was performed by Harriet Creighton and Barbara McClintock in 1931. Their research and experiments on corn provided cytological evidence for the genetic theory that linked genes on paired chromosomes do in fact exchange places from one homolog to the other.[56]

The probability of chromosomal crossover occurring between two given points on the chromosome is related to the distance between the points. For an arbitrarily long distance, the probability of crossover is high enough that the inheritance of the genes is effectively uncorrelated.[57] For genes that are closer together, however, the lower probability of crossover means that the genes demonstrate genetic linkage; alleles for the two genes tend to be inherited together. The amounts of linkage between a series of genes can be combined to form a linear linkage map that roughly describes the arrangement of the genes along the chromosome.[58]

Genes generally express their functional effect through the production of proteins, which are complex molecules responsible for most functions in the cell. Proteins are made up of one or more polypeptide chains, each of which is composed of a sequence of amino acids, and the DNA sequence of a gene (through an RNA intermediate) is used to produce a specific amino acid sequence. This process begins with the production of an RNA molecule with a sequence matching the gene’s DNA sequence, a process called transcription.

This messenger RNA molecule is then used to produce a corresponding amino acid sequence through a process called translation. Each group of three nucleotides in the sequence, called a codon, corresponds either to one of the twenty possible amino acids in a protein or an instruction to end the amino acid sequence; this correspondence is called the genetic code.[59] The flow of information is unidirectional: information is transferred from nucleotide sequences into the amino acid sequence of proteins, but it never transfers from protein back into the sequence of DNAa phenomenon Francis Crick called the central dogma of molecular biology.[60]

The specific sequence of amino acids results in a unique three-dimensional structure for that protein, and the three-dimensional structures of proteins are related to their functions.[61][62] Some are simple structural molecules, like the fibers formed by the protein collagen. Proteins can bind to other proteins and simple molecules, sometimes acting as enzymes by facilitating chemical reactions within the bound molecules (without changing the structure of the protein itself). Protein structure is dynamic; the protein hemoglobin bends into slightly different forms as it facilitates the capture, transport, and release of oxygen molecules within mammalian blood.

A single nucleotide difference within DNA can cause a change in the amino acid sequence of a protein. Because protein structures are the result of their amino acid sequences, some changes can dramatically change the properties of a protein by destabilizing the structure or changing the surface of the protein in a way that changes its interaction with other proteins and molecules. For example, sickle-cell anemia is a human genetic disease that results from a single base difference within the coding region for the -globin section of hemoglobin, causing a single amino acid change that changes hemoglobin’s physical properties.[63] Sickle-cell versions of hemoglobin stick to themselves, stacking to form fibers that distort the shape of red blood cells carrying the protein. These sickle-shaped cells no longer flow smoothly through blood vessels, having a tendency to clog or degrade, causing the medical problems associated with this disease.

Some DNA sequences are transcribed into RNA but are not translated into protein productssuch RNA molecules are called non-coding RNA. In some cases, these products fold into structures which are involved in critical cell functions (e.g. ribosomal RNA and transfer RNA). RNA can also have regulatory effects through hybridization interactions with other RNA molecules (e.g. microRNA).

Although genes contain all the information an organism uses to function, the environment plays an important role in determining the ultimate phenotypes an organism displays. The phrase “nature and nurture” refers to this complementary relationship. The phenotype of an organism depends on the interaction of genes and the environment. An interesting example is the coat coloration of the Siamese cat. In this case, the body temperature of the cat plays the role of the environment. The cat’s genes code for dark hair, thus the hair-producing cells in the cat make cellular proteins resulting in dark hair. But these dark hair-producing proteins are sensitive to temperature (i.e. have a mutation causing temperature-sensitivity) and denature in higher-temperature environments, failing to produce dark-hair pigment in areas where the cat has a higher body temperature. In a low-temperature environment, however, the protein’s structure is stable and produces dark-hair pigment normally. The protein remains functional in areas of skin that are coldersuch as its legs, ears, tail and faceso the cat has dark-hair at its extremities.[64]

Environment plays a major role in effects of the human genetic disease phenylketonuria.[65] The mutation that causes phenylketonuria disrupts the ability of the body to break down the amino acid phenylalanine, causing a toxic build-up of an intermediate molecule that, in turn, causes severe symptoms of progressive intellectual disability and seizures. However, if someone with the phenylketonuria mutation follows a strict diet that avoids this amino acid, they remain normal and healthy.

A common method for determining how genes and environment (“nature and nurture”) contribute to a phenotype involves studying identical and fraternal twins, or other siblings of multiple births.[66] Identical siblings are genetically the same since they come from the same zygote. Meanwhile, fraternal twins are as genetically different from one another as normal siblings. By comparing how often a certain disorder occurs in a pair of identical twins to how often it occurs in a pair of fraternal twins, scientists can determine whether that disorder is caused by genetic or postnatal environmental factors. One famous example involved the study of the Genain quadruplets, who were identical quadruplets all diagnosed with schizophrenia.[67]However, such tests cannot separate genetic factors from environmental factors affecting fetal development.

The genome of a given organism contains thousands of genes, but not all these genes need to be active at any given moment. A gene is expressed when it is being transcribed into mRNA and there exist many cellular methods of controlling the expression of genes such that proteins are produced only when needed by the cell. Transcription factors are regulatory proteins that bind to DNA, either promoting or inhibiting the transcription of a gene.[68] Within the genome of Escherichia coli bacteria, for example, there exists a series of genes necessary for the synthesis of the amino acid tryptophan. However, when tryptophan is already available to the cell, these genes for tryptophan synthesis are no longer needed. The presence of tryptophan directly affects the activity of the genestryptophan molecules bind to the tryptophan repressor (a transcription factor), changing the repressor’s structure such that the repressor binds to the genes. The tryptophan repressor blocks the transcription and expression of the genes, thereby creating negative feedback regulation of the tryptophan synthesis process.[69]

Differences in gene expression are especially clear within multicellular organisms, where cells all contain the same genome but have very different structures and behaviors due to the expression of different sets of genes. All the cells in a multicellular organism derive from a single cell, differentiating into variant cell types in response to external and intercellular signals and gradually establishing different patterns of gene expression to create different behaviors. As no single gene is responsible for the development of structures within multicellular organisms, these patterns arise from the complex interactions between many cells.

Within eukaryotes, there exist structural features of chromatin that influence the transcription of genes, often in the form of modifications to DNA and chromatin that are stably inherited by daughter cells.[70] These features are called “epigenetic” because they exist “on top” of the DNA sequence and retain inheritance from one cell generation to the next. Because of epigenetic features, different cell types grown within the same medium can retain very different properties. Although epigenetic features are generally dynamic over the course of development, some, like the phenomenon of paramutation, have multigenerational inheritance and exist as rare exceptions to the general rule of DNA as the basis for inheritance.[71]

During the process of DNA replication, errors occasionally occur in the polymerization of the second strand. These errors, called mutations, can affect the phenotype of an organism, especially if they occur within the protein coding sequence of a gene. Error rates are usually very low1 error in every 10100million basesdue to the “proofreading” ability of DNA polymerases.[72][73] Processes that increase the rate of changes in DNA are called mutagenic: mutagenic chemicals promote errors in DNA replication, often by interfering with the structure of base-pairing, while UV radiation induces mutations by causing damage to the DNA structure.[74] Chemical damage to DNA occurs naturally as well and cells use DNA repair mechanisms to repair mismatches and breaks. The repair does not, however, always restore the original sequence.

In organisms that use chromosomal crossover to exchange DNA and recombine genes, errors in alignment during meiosis can also cause mutations.[75] Errors in crossover are especially likely when similar sequences cause partner chromosomes to adopt a mistaken alignment; this makes some regions in genomes more prone to mutating in this way. These errors create large structural changes in DNA sequence duplications, inversions, deletions of entire regions or the accidental exchange of whole parts of sequences between different chromosomes (chromosomal translocation).

Mutations alter an organism’s genotype and occasionally this causes different phenotypes to appear. Most mutations have little effect on an organism’s phenotype, health, or reproductive fitness.[76] Mutations that do have an effect are usually detrimental, but occasionally some can be beneficial.[77] Studies in the fly Drosophila melanogaster suggest that if a mutation changes a protein produced by a gene, about 70 percent of these mutations will be harmful with the remainder being either neutral or weakly beneficial.[78]

Population genetics studies the distribution of genetic differences within populations and how these distributions change over time.[79] Changes in the frequency of an allele in a population are mainly influenced by natural selection, where a given allele provides a selective or reproductive advantage to the organism,[80] as well as other factors such as mutation, genetic drift, genetic hitchhiking,[81] artificial selection and migration.[82]

Over many generations, the genomes of organisms can change significantly, resulting in evolution. In the process called adaptation, selection for beneficial mutations can cause a species to evolve into forms better able to survive in their environment.[83] New species are formed through the process of speciation, often caused by geographical separations that prevent populations from exchanging genes with each other.[84]

By comparing the homology between different species’ genomes, it is possible to calculate the evolutionary distance between them and when they may have diverged. Genetic comparisons are generally considered a more accurate method of characterizing the relatedness between species than the comparison of phenotypic characteristics. The evolutionary distances between species can be used to form evolutionary trees; these trees represent the common descent and divergence of species over time, although they do not show the transfer of genetic material between unrelated species (known as horizontal gene transfer and most common in bacteria).[85]

Although geneticists originally studied inheritance in a wide range of organisms, researchers began to specialize in studying the genetics of a particular subset of organisms. The fact that significant research already existed for a given organism would encourage new researchers to choose it for further study, and so eventually a few model organisms became the basis for most genetics research.[86] Common research topics in model organism genetics include the study of gene regulation and the involvement of genes in development and cancer.

Organisms were chosen, in part, for convenienceshort generation times and easy genetic manipulation made some organisms popular genetics research tools. Widely used model organisms include the gut bacterium Escherichia coli, the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), and the common house mouse (Mus musculus).

Medical genetics seeks to understand how genetic variation relates to human health and disease.[87] When searching for an unknown gene that may be involved in a disease, researchers commonly use genetic linkage and genetic pedigree charts to find the location on the genome associated with the disease. At the population level, researchers take advantage of Mendelian randomization to look for locations in the genome that are associated with diseases, a method especially useful for multigenic traits not clearly defined by a single gene.[88] Once a candidate gene is found, further research is often done on the corresponding (or homologous) genes of model organisms. In addition to studying genetic diseases, the increased availability of genotyping methods has led to the field of pharmacogenetics: the study of how genotype can affect drug responses.[89]

Individuals differ in their inherited tendency to develop cancer,[90] and cancer is a genetic disease.[91] The process of cancer development in the body is a combination of events. Mutations occasionally occur within cells in the body as they divide. Although these mutations will not be inherited by any offspring, they can affect the behavior of cells, sometimes causing them to grow and divide more frequently. There are biological mechanisms that attempt to stop this process; signals are given to inappropriately dividing cells that should trigger cell death, but sometimes additional mutations occur that cause cells to ignore these messages. An internal process of natural selection occurs within the body and eventually mutations accumulate within cells to promote their own growth, creating a cancerous tumor that grows and invades various tissues of the body.

Normally, a cell divides only in response to signals called growth factors and stops growing once in contact with surrounding cells and in response to growth-inhibitory signals. It usually then divides a limited number of times and dies, staying within the epithelium where it is unable to migrate to other organs. To become a cancer cell, a cell has to accumulate mutations in a number of genes (three to seven). A cancer cell can divide without growth factor and ignores inhibitory signals. Also, it is immortal and it can grow indefinitely, even after it makes contact with neighboring cells. It may escape from the epithelium and ultimately from the primary tumor. Then, the escaped cell can cross the endothelium of a blood vessel and get transported by the bloodstream to colonize a new organ, forming deadly metastasis. Although there are some genetic predispositions in a small fraction of cancers, the major fraction is due to a set of new genetic mutations that originally appear and accumulate in one or a small number of cells that will divide to form the tumor and are not transmitted to the progeny (somatic mutations). The most frequent mutations are a loss of function of p53 protein, a tumor suppressor, or in the p53 pathway, and gain of function mutations in the Ras proteins, or in other oncogenes.

DNA can be manipulated in the laboratory. Restriction enzymes are commonly used enzymes that cut DNA at specific sequences, producing predictable fragments of DNA.[92] DNA fragments can be visualized through use of gel electrophoresis, which separates fragments according to their length.

The use of ligation enzymes allows DNA fragments to be connected. By binding (“ligating”) fragments of DNA together from different sources, researchers can create recombinant DNA, the DNA often associated with genetically modified organisms. Recombinant DNA is commonly used in the context of plasmids: short circular DNA molecules with a few genes on them. In the process known as molecular cloning, researchers can amplify the DNA fragments by inserting plasmids into bacteria and then culturing them on plates of agar (to isolate clones of bacteria cells “cloning” can also refer to the various means of creating cloned (“clonal”) organisms).

DNA can also be amplified using a procedure called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).[93] By using specific short sequences of DNA, PCR can isolate and exponentially amplify a targeted region of DNA. Because it can amplify from extremely small amounts of DNA, PCR is also often used to detect the presence of specific DNA sequences.

DNA sequencing, one of the most fundamental technologies developed to study genetics, allows researchers to determine the sequence of nucleotides in DNA fragments. The technique of chain-termination sequencing, developed in 1977 by a team led by Frederick Sanger, is still routinely used to sequence DNA fragments.[94] Using this technology, researchers have been able to study the molecular sequences associated with many human diseases.

As sequencing has become less expensive, researchers have sequenced the genomes of many organisms using a process called genome assembly, which utilizes computational tools to stitch together sequences from many different fragments.[95] These technologies were used to sequence the human genome in the Human Genome Project completed in 2003.[35] New high-throughput sequencing technologies are dramatically lowering the cost of DNA sequencing, with many researchers hoping to bring the cost of resequencing a human genome down to a thousand dollars.[96]

Next-generation sequencing (or high-throughput sequencing) came about due to the ever-increasing demand for low-cost sequencing. These sequencing technologies allow the production of potentially millions of sequences concurrently.[97][98] The large amount of sequence data available has created the field of genomics, research that uses computational tools to search for and analyze patterns in the full genomes of organisms. Genomics can also be considered a subfield of bioinformatics, which uses computational approaches to analyze large sets of biological data. A common problem to these fields of research is how to manage and share data that deals with human subject and personally identifiable information. See also genomics data sharing.

On 19 March 2015, a group of leading biologists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[99][100][101][102] In April 2015, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[103][104]

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Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Medical genetics is the branch of medicine that involves the diagnosis and management of hereditary disorders. Medical genetics differs from human genetics in that human genetics is a field of scientific research that may or may not apply to medicine, while medical genetics refers to the application of genetics to medical care. For example, research on the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders would be considered within both human genetics and medical genetics, while the diagnosis, management, and counselling people with genetic disorders would be considered part of medical genetics.

In contrast, the study of typically non-medical phenotypes such as the genetics of eye color would be considered part of human genetics, but not necessarily relevant to medical genetics (except in situations such as albinism). Genetic medicine is a newer term for medical genetics and incorporates areas such as gene therapy, personalized medicine, and the rapidly emerging new medical specialty, predictive medicine.

Medical genetics encompasses many different areas, including clinical practice of physicians, genetic counselors, and nutritionists, clinical diagnostic laboratory activities, and research into the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders. Examples of conditions that fall within the scope of medical genetics include birth defects and dysmorphology, mental retardation, autism, mitochondrial disorders, skeletal dysplasia, connective tissue disorders, cancer genetics, teratogens, and prenatal diagnosis. Medical genetics is increasingly becoming relevant to many common diseases. Overlaps with other medical specialties are beginning to emerge, as recent advances in genetics are revealing etiologies for neurologic, endocrine, cardiovascular, pulmonary, ophthalmologic, renal, psychiatric, and dermatologic conditions.

In some ways, many of the individual fields within medical genetics are hybrids between clinical care and research. This is due in part to recent advances in science and technology (for example, see the Human genome project) that have enabled an unprecedented understanding of genetic disorders.

Clinical genetics is the practice of clinical medicine with particular attention to hereditary disorders. Referrals are made to genetics clinics for a variety of reasons, including birth defects, developmental delay, autism, epilepsy, short stature, and many others. Examples of genetic syndromes that are commonly seen in the genetics clinic include chromosomal rearrangements, Down syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome), Fragile X syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Neurofibromatosis, Turner syndrome, and Williams syndrome.

In the United States, physicians who practice clinical genetics are accredited by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG).[1] In order to become a board-certified practitioner of Clinical Genetics, a physician must complete a minimum of 24 months of training in a program accredited by the ABMGG. Individuals seeking acceptance into clinical genetics training programs must hold an M.D. or D.O. degree (or their equivalent) and have completed a minimum of 24 months of training in an ACGME-accredited residency program in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, or other medical specialty.[2]

Metabolic (or biochemical) genetics involves the diagnosis and management of inborn errors of metabolism in which patients have enzymatic deficiencies that perturb biochemical pathways involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and lipids. Examples of metabolic disorders include galactosemia, glycogen storage disease, lysosomal storage disorders, metabolic acidosis, peroxisomal disorders, phenylketonuria, and urea cycle disorders.

Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes and chromosome abnormalities. While cytogenetics historically relied on microscopy to analyze chromosomes, new molecular technologies such as array comparative genomic hybridization are now becoming widely used. Examples of chromosome abnormalities include aneuploidy, chromosomal rearrangements, and genomic deletion/duplication disorders.

Molecular genetics involves the discovery of and laboratory testing for DNA mutations that underlie many single gene disorders. Examples of single gene disorders include achondroplasia, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1/2), Huntington disease, Marfan syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and Rett syndrome. Molecular tests are also used in the diagnosis of syndromes involving epigenetic abnormalities, such as Angelman syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Prader-willi syndrome, and uniparental disomy.

Mitochondrial genetics concerns the diagnosis and management of mitochondrial disorders, which have a molecular basis but often result in biochemical abnormalities due to deficient energy production.

There exists some overlap between medical genetic diagnostic laboratories and molecular pathology.

Genetic counseling is the process of providing information about genetic conditions, diagnostic testing, and risks in other family members, within the framework of nondirective counseling. Genetic counselors are non-physician members of the medical genetics team who specialize in family risk assessment and counseling of patients regarding genetic disorders. The precise role of the genetic counselor varies somewhat depending on the disorder.

Although genetics has its roots back in the 19th century with the work of the Bohemian monk Gregor Mendel and other pioneering scientists, human genetics emerged later. It started to develop, albeit slowly, during the first half of the 20th century. Mendelian (single-gene) inheritance was studied in a number of important disorders such as albinism, brachydactyly (short fingers and toes), and hemophilia. Mathematical approaches were also devised and applied to human genetics. Population genetics was created.

Medical genetics was a late developer, emerging largely after the close of World War II (1945) when the eugenics movement had fallen into disrepute. The Nazi misuse of eugenics sounded its death knell. Shorn of eugenics, a scientific approach could be used and was applied to human and medical genetics. Medical genetics saw an increasingly rapid rise in the second half of the 20th century and continues in the 21st century.

The clinical setting in which patients are evaluated determines the scope of practice, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions. For the purposes of general discussion, the typical encounters between patients and genetic practitioners may involve:

Each patient will undergo a diagnostic evaluation tailored to their own particular presenting signs and symptoms. The geneticist will establish a differential diagnosis and recommend appropriate testing. These tests might evaluate for chromosomal disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, or single gene disorders.

Chromosome studies are used in the general genetics clinic to determine a cause for developmental delay/mental retardation, birth defects, dysmorphic features, and/or autism. Chromosome analysis is also performed in the prenatal setting to determine whether a fetus is affected with aneuploidy or other chromosome rearrangements. Finally, chromosome abnormalities are often detected in cancer samples. A large number of different methods have been developed for chromosome analysis:

Biochemical studies are performed to screen for imbalances of metabolites in the bodily fluid, usually the blood (plasma/serum) or urine, but also in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Specific tests of enzyme function (either in leukocytes, skin fibroblasts, liver, or muscle) are also employed under certain circumstances. In the US, the newborn screen incorporates biochemical tests to screen for treatable conditions such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria (PKU). Patients suspected to have a metabolic condition might undergo the following tests:

Each cell of the body contains the hereditary information (DNA) wrapped up in structures called chromosomes. Since genetic syndromes are typically the result of alterations of the chromosomes or genes, there is no treatment currently available that can correct the genetic alterations in every cell of the body. Therefore, there is currently no “cure” for genetic disorders. However, for many genetic syndromes there is treatment available to manage the symptoms. In some cases, particularly inborn errors of metabolism, the mechanism of disease is well understood and offers the potential for dietary and medical management to prevent or reduce the long-term complications. In other cases, infusion therapy is used to replace the missing enzyme. Current research is actively seeking to use gene therapy or other new medications to treat specific genetic disorders.

In general, metabolic disorders arise from enzyme deficiencies that disrupt normal metabolic pathways. For instance, in the hypothetical example:

Compound “A” is metabolized to “B” by enzyme “X”, compound “B” is metabolized to “C” by enzyme “Y”, and compound “C” is metabolized to “D” by enzyme “Z”.If enzyme “Z” is missing, compound “D” will be missing, while compounds “A”, “B”, and “C” will build up. The pathogenesis of this particular condition could result from lack of compound “D”, if it is critical for some cellular function, or from toxicity due to excess “A”, “B”, and/or “C”, or from toxicity due to the excess of “E” which is normally only present in small amounts and only accumulates when “C” is in excess. Treatment of the metabolic disorder could be achieved through dietary supplementation of compound “D” and dietary restriction of compounds “A”, “B”, and/or “C” or by treatment with a medication that promoted disposal of excess “A”, “B”, “C” or “E”. Another approach that can be taken is enzyme replacement therapy, in which a patient is given an infusion of the missing enzyme “Z” or cofactor therapy to increase the efficacy of any residual “Z” activity.

Dietary restriction and supplementation are key measures taken in several well-known metabolic disorders, including galactosemia, phenylketonuria (PKU), maple syrup urine disease, organic acidurias and urea cycle disorders. Such restrictive diets can be difficult for the patient and family to maintain, and require close consultation with a nutritionist who has special experience in metabolic disorders. The composition of the diet will change depending on the caloric needs of the growing child and special attention is needed during a pregnancy if a woman is affected with one of these disorders.

Medical approaches include enhancement of residual enzyme activity (in cases where the enzyme is made but is not functioning properly), inhibition of other enzymes in the biochemical pathway to prevent buildup of a toxic compound, or diversion of a toxic compound to another form that can be excreted. Examples include the use of high doses of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) in some patients with homocystinuria to boost the activity of the residual cystathione synthase enzyme, administration of biotin to restore activity of several enzymes affected by deficiency of biotinidase, treatment with NTBC in Tyrosinemia to inhibit the production of succinylacetone which causes liver toxicity, and the use of sodium benzoate to decrease ammonia build-up in urea cycle disorders.

Certain lysosomal storage diseases are treated with infusions of a recombinant enzyme (produced in a laboratory), which can reduce the accumulation of the compounds in various tissues. Examples include Gaucher disease, Fabry disease, Mucopolysaccharidoses and Glycogen storage disease type II. Such treatments are limited by the ability of the enzyme to reach the affected areas (the blood brain barrier prevents enzyme from reaching the brain, for example), and can sometimes be associated with allergic reactions. The long-term clinical effectiveness of enzyme replacement therapies vary widely among different disorders.

There are a variety of career paths within the field of medical genetics, and naturally the training required for each area differs considerably. The information included in this section applies to the typical pathways in the United States and there may be differences in other countries. US practitioners in clinical, counseling, or diagnostic subspecialties generally obtain board certification through the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Genetic information provides a unique type of knowledge about an individual and his/her family, fundamentally different from a typically laboratory test that provides a “snapshot” of an individual’s health status. The unique status of genetic information and inherited disease has a number of ramifications with regard to ethical, legal, and societal concerns.

On 19 March 2015, scientists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[3][4][5][6] In April 2015 and April 2016, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[7][8][9] In February 2016, British scientists were given permission by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR and related techniques on condition that the embryos were destroyed within seven days.[10] In June 2016 the Dutch government was reported to be planning to follow suit with similar regulations which would specify a 14-day limit.[11]

The more empirical approach to human and medical genetics was formalized by the founding in 1948 of the American Society of Human Genetics. The Society first began annual meetings that year (1948) and its international counterpart, the International Congress of Human Genetics, has met every 5 years since its inception in 1956. The Society publishes the American Journal of Human Genetics on a monthly basis.

Medical genetics is now recognized as a distinct medical specialty in the U.S. with its own approved board (the American Board of Medical Genetics) and clinical specialty college (the American College of Medical Genetics). The College holds an annual scientific meeting, publishes a monthly journal, Genetics in Medicine, and issues position papers and clinical practice guidelines on a variety of topics relevant to human genetics.

The broad range of research in medical genetics reflects the overall scope of this field, including basic research on genetic inheritance and the human genome, mechanisms of genetic and metabolic disorders, translational research on new treatment modalities, and the impact of genetic testing

Basic research geneticists usually undertake research in universities, biotechnology firms and research institutes.

Sometimes the link between a disease and an unusual gene variant is more subtle. The genetic architecture of common diseases is an important factor in determining the extent to which patterns of genetic variation influence group differences in health outcomes.[12][13][14] According to the common disease/common variant hypothesis, common variants present in the ancestral population before the dispersal of modern humans from Africa play an important role in human diseases.[15] Genetic variants associated with Alzheimer disease, deep venous thrombosis, Crohn disease, and type 2 diabetes appear to adhere to this model.[16] However, the generality of the model has not yet been established and, in some cases, is in doubt.[13][17][18] Some diseases, such as many common cancers, appear not to be well described by the common disease/common variant model.[19]

Another possibility is that common diseases arise in part through the action of combinations of variants that are individually rare.[20][21] Most of the disease-associated alleles discovered to date have been rare, and rare variants are more likely than common variants to be differentially distributed among groups distinguished by ancestry.[19][22] However, groups could harbor different, though perhaps overlapping, sets of rare variants, which would reduce contrasts between groups in the incidence of the disease.

The number of variants contributing to a disease and the interactions among those variants also could influence the distribution of diseases among groups. The difficulty that has been encountered in finding contributory alleles for complex diseases and in replicating positive associations suggests that many complex diseases involve numerous variants rather than a moderate number of alleles, and the influence of any given variant may depend in critical ways on the genetic and environmental background.[17][23][24][25] If many alleles are required to increase susceptibility to a disease, the odds are low that the necessary combination of alleles would become concentrated in a particular group purely through drift.[26]

One area in which population categories can be important considerations in genetics research is in controlling for confounding between population substructure, environmental exposures, and health outcomes. Association studies can produce spurious results if cases and controls have differing allele frequencies for genes that are not related to the disease being studied,[27] although the magnitude of this problem in genetic association studies is subject to debate.[28][29] Various methods have been developed to detect and account for population substructure,[30][31] but these methods can be difficult to apply in practice.[32]

Population substructure also can be used to advantage in genetic association studies. For example, populations that represent recent mixtures of geographically separated ancestral groups can exhibit longer-range linkage disequilibrium between susceptibility alleles and genetic markers than is the case for other populations.[33][34][35][36] Genetic studies can use this admixture linkage disequilibrium to search for disease alleles with fewer markers than would be needed otherwise. Association studies also can take advantage of the contrasting experiences of racial or ethnic groups, including migrant groups, to search for interactions between particular alleles and environmental factors that might influence health.[37][38]

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J Genet Med – e-kjgm.org

Review ArticleClinical significance of sonographic soft markers: A reviewMi Sun Kim, Sukho Kang, and Hee Young Cho

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:1-7

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:8-12

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:13-16

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:17-19

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:20-23

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:24-27

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:28-33

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:34-37

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:38-42

Journal of Genetic Medicine 2018;15:43-47

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Genetic Medicine | Internal Medicine | Michigan Medicine …

Goutham Narla, MD, PhD, Chief, Division of Genetic Medicine

As use of genomic technologies continue to increase in research and clinical settings, the Division of Genetic Medicine serves a key role in bringing together basic, clinical, and translational expertise in genomic medicine, with multidisciplinary faculty comprised of MDs, PhD scientists, and genetic counselors. Demand for expertise in genetics continues to increase, and the Division of Genetic Medicine is committed to advancing scientific discovery and clinical care of patients.

In addition to our Medical Genetics Clinic, genetics services are available through several other Michigan Medicine clinics and programs, including the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, Cancer GeneticsClinic,Inherited Cardiomyopathies and Arrhythmias Program,Neurogenetics Clinic, Pediatric Genetics Clinic, and Prenatal Evaluation Clinic.

Our faculty are focused on various research areas including cancer genetics, inherited hematologic disorders, neural stem cells,the mechanisms and regulation of DNA repair processes in mammalian cells, predictive genetic testing,understanding the mechanisms controlled by Hox genes, birth defects, bleeding and thrombotic disorders, and human limb malformations.

Division of Genetic Medicinefaculty are actively engaged in the education, teaching, and mentorship of clinicians, and clinical and basic scientists, including undergraduate and graduate students, medical students, residents, and fellows from various subspecialties.

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Genetic Medicine | Internal Medicine | Michigan Medicine …

Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Medical genetics is the branch of medicine that involves the diagnosis and management of hereditary disorders. Medical genetics differs from human genetics in that human genetics is a field of scientific research that may or may not apply to medicine, while medical genetics refers to the application of genetics to medical care. For example, research on the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders would be considered within both human genetics and medical genetics, while the diagnosis, management, and counselling people with genetic disorders would be considered part of medical genetics.

In contrast, the study of typically non-medical phenotypes such as the genetics of eye color would be considered part of human genetics, but not necessarily relevant to medical genetics (except in situations such as albinism). Genetic medicine is a newer term for medical genetics and incorporates areas such as gene therapy, personalized medicine, and the rapidly emerging new medical specialty, predictive medicine.

Medical genetics encompasses many different areas, including clinical practice of physicians, genetic counselors, and nutritionists, clinical diagnostic laboratory activities, and research into the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders. Examples of conditions that fall within the scope of medical genetics include birth defects and dysmorphology, mental retardation, autism, mitochondrial disorders, skeletal dysplasia, connective tissue disorders, cancer genetics, teratogens, and prenatal diagnosis. Medical genetics is increasingly becoming relevant to many common diseases. Overlaps with other medical specialties are beginning to emerge, as recent advances in genetics are revealing etiologies for neurologic, endocrine, cardiovascular, pulmonary, ophthalmologic, renal, psychiatric, and dermatologic conditions.

In some ways, many of the individual fields within medical genetics are hybrids between clinical care and research. This is due in part to recent advances in science and technology (for example, see the Human genome project) that have enabled an unprecedented understanding of genetic disorders.

Clinical genetics is the practice of clinical medicine with particular attention to hereditary disorders. Referrals are made to genetics clinics for a variety of reasons, including birth defects, developmental delay, autism, epilepsy, short stature, and many others. Examples of genetic syndromes that are commonly seen in the genetics clinic include chromosomal rearrangements, Down syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome), Fragile X syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Neurofibromatosis, Turner syndrome, and Williams syndrome.

In the United States, physicians who practice clinical genetics are accredited by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG).[1] In order to become a board-certified practitioner of Clinical Genetics, a physician must complete a minimum of 24 months of training in a program accredited by the ABMGG. Individuals seeking acceptance into clinical genetics training programs must hold an M.D. or D.O. degree (or their equivalent) and have completed a minimum of 24 months of training in an ACGME-accredited residency program in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, or other medical specialty.[2]

Metabolic (or biochemical) genetics involves the diagnosis and management of inborn errors of metabolism in which patients have enzymatic deficiencies that perturb biochemical pathways involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and lipids. Examples of metabolic disorders include galactosemia, glycogen storage disease, lysosomal storage disorders, metabolic acidosis, peroxisomal disorders, phenylketonuria, and urea cycle disorders.

Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes and chromosome abnormalities. While cytogenetics historically relied on microscopy to analyze chromosomes, new molecular technologies such as array comparative genomic hybridization are now becoming widely used. Examples of chromosome abnormalities include aneuploidy, chromosomal rearrangements, and genomic deletion/duplication disorders.

Molecular genetics involves the discovery of and laboratory testing for DNA mutations that underlie many single gene disorders. Examples of single gene disorders include achondroplasia, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1/2), Huntington disease, Marfan syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and Rett syndrome. Molecular tests are also used in the diagnosis of syndromes involving epigenetic abnormalities, such as Angelman syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Prader-willi syndrome, and uniparental disomy.

Mitochondrial genetics concerns the diagnosis and management of mitochondrial disorders, which have a molecular basis but often result in biochemical abnormalities due to deficient energy production.

There exists some overlap between medical genetic diagnostic laboratories and molecular pathology.

Genetic counseling is the process of providing information about genetic conditions, diagnostic testing, and risks in other family members, within the framework of nondirective counseling. Genetic counselors are non-physician members of the medical genetics team who specialize in family risk assessment and counseling of patients regarding genetic disorders. The precise role of the genetic counselor varies somewhat depending on the disorder.

Although genetics has its roots back in the 19th century with the work of the Bohemian monk Gregor Mendel and other pioneering scientists, human genetics emerged later. It started to develop, albeit slowly, during the first half of the 20th century. Mendelian (single-gene) inheritance was studied in a number of important disorders such as albinism, brachydactyly (short fingers and toes), and hemophilia. Mathematical approaches were also devised and applied to human genetics. Population genetics was created.

Medical genetics was a late developer, emerging largely after the close of World War II (1945) when the eugenics movement had fallen into disrepute. The Nazi misuse of eugenics sounded its death knell. Shorn of eugenics, a scientific approach could be used and was applied to human and medical genetics. Medical genetics saw an increasingly rapid rise in the second half of the 20th century and continues in the 21st century.

The clinical setting in which patients are evaluated determines the scope of practice, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions. For the purposes of general discussion, the typical encounters between patients and genetic practitioners may involve:

Each patient will undergo a diagnostic evaluation tailored to their own particular presenting signs and symptoms. The geneticist will establish a differential diagnosis and recommend appropriate testing. These tests might evaluate for chromosomal disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, or single gene disorders.

Chromosome studies are used in the general genetics clinic to determine a cause for developmental delay/mental retardation, birth defects, dysmorphic features, and/or autism. Chromosome analysis is also performed in the prenatal setting to determine whether a fetus is affected with aneuploidy or other chromosome rearrangements. Finally, chromosome abnormalities are often detected in cancer samples. A large number of different methods have been developed for chromosome analysis:

Biochemical studies are performed to screen for imbalances of metabolites in the bodily fluid, usually the blood (plasma/serum) or urine, but also in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Specific tests of enzyme function (either in leukocytes, skin fibroblasts, liver, or muscle) are also employed under certain circumstances. In the US, the newborn screen incorporates biochemical tests to screen for treatable conditions such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria (PKU). Patients suspected to have a metabolic condition might undergo the following tests:

Each cell of the body contains the hereditary information (DNA) wrapped up in structures called chromosomes. Since genetic syndromes are typically the result of alterations of the chromosomes or genes, there is no treatment currently available that can correct the genetic alterations in every cell of the body. Therefore, there is currently no “cure” for genetic disorders. However, for many genetic syndromes there is treatment available to manage the symptoms. In some cases, particularly inborn errors of metabolism, the mechanism of disease is well understood and offers the potential for dietary and medical management to prevent or reduce the long-term complications. In other cases, infusion therapy is used to replace the missing enzyme. Current research is actively seeking to use gene therapy or other new medications to treat specific genetic disorders.

In general, metabolic disorders arise from enzyme deficiencies that disrupt normal metabolic pathways. For instance, in the hypothetical example:

Compound “A” is metabolized to “B” by enzyme “X”, compound “B” is metabolized to “C” by enzyme “Y”, and compound “C” is metabolized to “D” by enzyme “Z”.If enzyme “Z” is missing, compound “D” will be missing, while compounds “A”, “B”, and “C” will build up. The pathogenesis of this particular condition could result from lack of compound “D”, if it is critical for some cellular function, or from toxicity due to excess “A”, “B”, and/or “C”, or from toxicity due to the excess of “E” which is normally only present in small amounts and only accumulates when “C” is in excess. Treatment of the metabolic disorder could be achieved through dietary supplementation of compound “D” and dietary restriction of compounds “A”, “B”, and/or “C” or by treatment with a medication that promoted disposal of excess “A”, “B”, “C” or “E”. Another approach that can be taken is enzyme replacement therapy, in which a patient is given an infusion of the missing enzyme “Z” or cofactor therapy to increase the efficacy of any residual “Z” activity.

Dietary restriction and supplementation are key measures taken in several well-known metabolic disorders, including galactosemia, phenylketonuria (PKU), maple syrup urine disease, organic acidurias and urea cycle disorders. Such restrictive diets can be difficult for the patient and family to maintain, and require close consultation with a nutritionist who has special experience in metabolic disorders. The composition of the diet will change depending on the caloric needs of the growing child and special attention is needed during a pregnancy if a woman is affected with one of these disorders.

Medical approaches include enhancement of residual enzyme activity (in cases where the enzyme is made but is not functioning properly), inhibition of other enzymes in the biochemical pathway to prevent buildup of a toxic compound, or diversion of a toxic compound to another form that can be excreted. Examples include the use of high doses of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) in some patients with homocystinuria to boost the activity of the residual cystathione synthase enzyme, administration of biotin to restore activity of several enzymes affected by deficiency of biotinidase, treatment with NTBC in Tyrosinemia to inhibit the production of succinylacetone which causes liver toxicity, and the use of sodium benzoate to decrease ammonia build-up in urea cycle disorders.

Certain lysosomal storage diseases are treated with infusions of a recombinant enzyme (produced in a laboratory), which can reduce the accumulation of the compounds in various tissues. Examples include Gaucher disease, Fabry disease, Mucopolysaccharidoses and Glycogen storage disease type II. Such treatments are limited by the ability of the enzyme to reach the affected areas (the blood brain barrier prevents enzyme from reaching the brain, for example), and can sometimes be associated with allergic reactions. The long-term clinical effectiveness of enzyme replacement therapies vary widely among different disorders.

There are a variety of career paths within the field of medical genetics, and naturally the training required for each area differs considerably. The information included in this section applies to the typical pathways in the United States and there may be differences in other countries. US practitioners in clinical, counseling, or diagnostic subspecialties generally obtain board certification through the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Genetic information provides a unique type of knowledge about an individual and his/her family, fundamentally different from a typically laboratory test that provides a “snapshot” of an individual’s health status. The unique status of genetic information and inherited disease has a number of ramifications with regard to ethical, legal, and societal concerns.

On 19 March 2015, scientists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[3][4][5][6] In April 2015 and April 2016, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[7][8][9] In February 2016, British scientists were given permission by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR and related techniques on condition that the embryos were destroyed within seven days.[10] In June 2016 the Dutch government was reported to be planning to follow suit with similar regulations which would specify a 14-day limit.[11]

The more empirical approach to human and medical genetics was formalized by the founding in 1948 of the American Society of Human Genetics. The Society first began annual meetings that year (1948) and its international counterpart, the International Congress of Human Genetics, has met every 5 years since its inception in 1956. The Society publishes the American Journal of Human Genetics on a monthly basis.

Medical genetics is now recognized as a distinct medical specialty in the U.S. with its own approved board (the American Board of Medical Genetics) and clinical specialty college (the American College of Medical Genetics). The College holds an annual scientific meeting, publishes a monthly journal, Genetics in Medicine, and issues position papers and clinical practice guidelines on a variety of topics relevant to human genetics.

The broad range of research in medical genetics reflects the overall scope of this field, including basic research on genetic inheritance and the human genome, mechanisms of genetic and metabolic disorders, translational research on new treatment modalities, and the impact of genetic testing

Basic research geneticists usually undertake research in universities, biotechnology firms and research institutes.

Sometimes the link between a disease and an unusual gene variant is more subtle. The genetic architecture of common diseases is an important factor in determining the extent to which patterns of genetic variation influence group differences in health outcomes.[12][13][14] According to the common disease/common variant hypothesis, common variants present in the ancestral population before the dispersal of modern humans from Africa play an important role in human diseases.[15] Genetic variants associated with Alzheimer disease, deep venous thrombosis, Crohn disease, and type 2 diabetes appear to adhere to this model.[16] However, the generality of the model has not yet been established and, in some cases, is in doubt.[13][17][18] Some diseases, such as many common cancers, appear not to be well described by the common disease/common variant model.[19]

Another possibility is that common diseases arise in part through the action of combinations of variants that are individually rare.[20][21] Most of the disease-associated alleles discovered to date have been rare, and rare variants are more likely than common variants to be differentially distributed among groups distinguished by ancestry.[19][22] However, groups could harbor different, though perhaps overlapping, sets of rare variants, which would reduce contrasts between groups in the incidence of the disease.

The number of variants contributing to a disease and the interactions among those variants also could influence the distribution of diseases among groups. The difficulty that has been encountered in finding contributory alleles for complex diseases and in replicating positive associations suggests that many complex diseases involve numerous variants rather than a moderate number of alleles, and the influence of any given variant may depend in critical ways on the genetic and environmental background.[17][23][24][25] If many alleles are required to increase susceptibility to a disease, the odds are low that the necessary combination of alleles would become concentrated in a particular group purely through drift.[26]

One area in which population categories can be important considerations in genetics research is in controlling for confounding between population substructure, environmental exposures, and health outcomes. Association studies can produce spurious results if cases and controls have differing allele frequencies for genes that are not related to the disease being studied,[27] although the magnitude of this problem in genetic association studies is subject to debate.[28][29] Various methods have been developed to detect and account for population substructure,[30][31] but these methods can be difficult to apply in practice.[32]

Population substructure also can be used to advantage in genetic association studies. For example, populations that represent recent mixtures of geographically separated ancestral groups can exhibit longer-range linkage disequilibrium between susceptibility alleles and genetic markers than is the case for other populations.[33][34][35][36] Genetic studies can use this admixture linkage disequilibrium to search for disease alleles with fewer markers than would be needed otherwise. Association studies also can take advantage of the contrasting experiences of racial or ethnic groups, including migrant groups, to search for interactions between particular alleles and environmental factors that might influence health.[37][38]

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Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Genetic Medicine : Division Home | Department of Medicine

Advances in molecular biology and human genetics, coupled with the completion of the Human Genome Project and the increasing power of quantitative genetics to identify disease susceptibility genes, are contributing to a revolution in the practice of medicine. In the 21st century, practicing physicians will focus more on defining genetically determined disease susceptibility in individual patients. This strategy will be used to prevent, modify, and treat a wide array of common disorders that have unique heritable risk factors such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes, arthrosclerosis, and cancer.

The Division of Genetic Medicine provides an academic environment enabling researchers to explore new relationships between disease susceptibility and human genetics. The Division of Genetic Medicine was established to host both research and clinical research programs focused on the genetic basis of health and disease. Equipped with state-of-the-art research tools and facilities, our faculty members are advancing knowledge of the common genetic determinants of cancer, congenital neuropathies, and heart disease. The Division faculty work jointly with the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to support the Hereditary Cancer Clinic for treating patients and families who have an inherited predisposition to various malignancies.

Genetic differences in humans at the molecular level not only contribute to the disease process but also significantly impact an individuals ability to respond optimally to drug therapy. Vanderbilt is a pioneer in precisely identifying genetic differences between patients and making rational treatment decisions at the bedside.

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Genetic Medicine : Division Home | Department of Medicine

Gene Therapy | Genetic Medicine

The basis of gene therapy research within our department is the use of genetic material, whether in the form of DNA or RNA, to accomplish therapeutic changes in the physiology of our patients. Our knowledge of the human genome provides us with the blueprints to change human biology and, importantly, provide a means to treat or prevent disease.

The Weill Cornell Department of Genetic Medicine has an enduring history of accomplishment in the field of gene therapy. Before coming to Weill Cornell Medical College in 1993, our department chairman, Ronald G. Crystal, was the first physician to administer a genetically modified, replication-deficient virus to a human patient in an approved clinical trial. At Weill Cornell, investigators have continued this innovative legacy with gene therapy breakthroughs including:

Our investigators are now using gene transfer strategies to develop therapies for clinically significant disorders including:

Original post:

Gene Therapy | Genetic Medicine

Genetic Medicine | Internal Medicine | Michigan Medicine …

Goutham Narla, MD, PhD, Chief, Division of Genetic Medicine

As use of genomic technologies continue to increase in research and clinical settings, the Division of Genetic Medicine serves a key role in bringing together basic, clinical, and translational expertise in genomic medicine, with multidisciplinary faculty comprised of MDs, PhD scientists, and genetic counselors. Demand for expertise in genetics continues to increase, and the Division of Genetic Medicine is committed to advancing scientific discovery and clinical care of patients.

In addition to our Medical Genetics Clinic, genetics services are available through several other Michigan Medicine clinics and programs, including the Breast and Ovarian Cancer Risk Evaluation Program, Cancer GeneticsClinic,Inherited Cardiomyopathies and Arrhythmias Program,Neurogenetics Clinic, Pediatric Genetics Clinic, and Prenatal Evaluation Clinic.

Our faculty are focused on various research areas including cancer genetics, inherited hematologic disorders, neural stem cells,the mechanisms and regulation of DNA repair processes in mammalian cells, predictive genetic testing,understanding the mechanisms controlled by Hox genes, birth defects, bleeding and thrombotic disorders, and human limb malformations.

Division of Genetic Medicinefaculty are actively engaged in the education, teaching, and mentorship of clinicians, and clinical and basic scientists, including undergraduate and graduate students, medical students, residents, and fellows from various subspecialties.

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Genetic Medicine | Internal Medicine | Michigan Medicine …

Genetics – Wikipedia

This article is about the general scientific term. For the scientific journal, see Genetics (journal).

Science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms

Genetics is a branch of biology concerned with the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in living organisms.[1][2][3]

The discoverer of genetics is Gregor Mendel, a late 19th-century scientist and Augustinian friar. Mendel studied “trait inheritance”, patterns in the way traits are handed down from parents to offspring. He observed that organisms (pea plants) inherit traits by way of discrete “units of inheritance”. This term, still used today, is a somewhat ambiguous definition of what is referred to as a gene.

Trait inheritance and molecular inheritance mechanisms of genes are still primary principles of genetics in the 21st century, but modern genetics has expanded beyond inheritance to studying the function and behavior of genes. Gene structure and function, variation, and distribution are studied within the context of the cell, the organism (e.g. dominance), and within the context of a population. Genetics has given rise to a number of subfields, including epigenetics and population genetics. Organisms studied within the broad field span the domains of life (archaea, bacteria, and eukarya).

Genetic processes work in combination with an organism’s environment and experiences to influence development and behavior, often referred to as nature versus nurture. The intracellular or extracellular environment of a cell or organism may switch gene transcription on or off. A classic example is two seeds of genetically identical corn, one placed in a temperate climate and one in an arid climate. While the average height of the two corn stalks may be genetically determined to be equal, the one in the arid climate only grows to half the height of the one in the temperate climate due to lack of water and nutrients in its environment.

The word genetics stems from the ancient Greek genetikos meaning “genitive”/”generative”, which in turn derives from genesis meaning “origin”.[4][5][6]

The observation that living things inherit traits from their parents has been used since prehistoric times to improve crop plants and animals through selective breeding.[7] The modern science of genetics, seeking to understand this process, began with the work of the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel in the mid-19th century.[8]

Prior to Mendel, Imre Festetics, a Hungarian noble, who lived in Kszeg before Mendel, was the first who used the word “genetics.” He described several rules of genetic inheritance in his work The genetic law of the Nature (Die genetische Gestze der Natur, 1819). His second law is the same as what Mendel published. In his third law, he developed the basic principles of mutation (he can be considered a forerunner of Hugo de Vries).[9]

Other theories of inheritance preceded Mendel’s work. A popular theory during the 19th century, and implied by Charles Darwin’s 1859 On the Origin of Species, was blending inheritance: the idea that individuals inherit a smooth blend of traits from their parents.[10] Mendel’s work provided examples where traits were definitely not blended after hybridization, showing that traits are produced by combinations of distinct genes rather than a continuous blend. Blending of traits in the progeny is now explained by the action of multiple genes with quantitative effects. Another theory that had some support at that time was the inheritance of acquired characteristics: the belief that individuals inherit traits strengthened by their parents. This theory (commonly associated with Jean-Baptiste Lamarck) is now known to be wrongthe experiences of individuals do not affect the genes they pass to their children,[11] although evidence in the field of epigenetics has revived some aspects of Lamarck’s theory.[12] Other theories included the pangenesis of Charles Darwin (which had both acquired and inherited aspects) and Francis Galton’s reformulation of pangenesis as both particulate and inherited.[13]

Modern genetics started with Mendel’s studies of the nature of inheritance in plants. In his paper “Versuche ber Pflanzenhybriden” (“Experiments on Plant Hybridization”), presented in 1865 to the Naturforschender Verein (Society for Research in Nature) in Brnn, Mendel traced the inheritance patterns of certain traits in pea plants and described them mathematically.[14] Although this pattern of inheritance could only be observed for a few traits, Mendel’s work suggested that heredity was particulate, not acquired, and that the inheritance patterns of many traits could be explained through simple rules and ratios.

The importance of Mendel’s work did not gain wide understanding until 1900, after his death, when Hugo de Vries and other scientists rediscovered his research. William Bateson, a proponent of Mendel’s work, coined the word genetics in 1905[15][16] (the adjective genetic, derived from the Greek word genesis, “origin”, predates the noun and was first used in a biological sense in 1860[17]). Bateson both acted as a mentor and was aided significantly by the work of female scientists from Newnham College at Cambridge, specifically the work of Becky Saunders, Nora Darwin Barlow, and Muriel Wheldale Onslow.[18] Bateson popularized the usage of the word genetics to describe the study of inheritance in his inaugural address to the Third International Conference on Plant Hybridization in London in 1906.[19]

After the rediscovery of Mendel’s work, scientists tried to determine which molecules in the cell were responsible for inheritance. In 1911, Thomas Hunt Morgan argued that genes are on chromosomes, based on observations of a sex-linked white eye mutation in fruit flies.[20] In 1913, his student Alfred Sturtevant used the phenomenon of genetic linkage to show that genes are arranged linearly on the chromosome.[21]

Although genes were known to exist on chromosomes, chromosomes are composed of both protein and DNA, and scientists did not know which of the two is responsible for inheritance. In 1928, Frederick Griffith discovered the phenomenon of transformation (see Griffith’s experiment): dead bacteria could transfer genetic material to “transform” other still-living bacteria. Sixteen years later, in 1944, the AveryMacLeodMcCarty experiment identified DNA as the molecule responsible for transformation.[22] The role of the nucleus as the repository of genetic information in eukaryotes had been established by Hmmerling in 1943 in his work on the single celled alga Acetabularia.[23] The HersheyChase experiment in 1952 confirmed that DNA (rather than protein) is the genetic material of the viruses that infect bacteria, providing further evidence that DNA is the molecule responsible for inheritance.[24]

James Watson and Francis Crick determined the structure of DNA in 1953, using the X-ray crystallography work of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins that indicated DNA has a helical structure (i.e., shaped like a corkscrew).[25][26] Their double-helix model had two strands of DNA with the nucleotides pointing inward, each matching a complementary nucleotide on the other strand to form what look like rungs on a twisted ladder.[27] This structure showed that genetic information exists in the sequence of nucleotides on each strand of DNA. The structure also suggested a simple method for replication: if the strands are separated, new partner strands can be reconstructed for each based on the sequence of the old strand. This property is what gives DNA its semi-conservative nature where one strand of new DNA is from an original parent strand.[28]

Although the structure of DNA showed how inheritance works, it was still not known how DNA influences the behavior of cells. In the following years, scientists tried to understand how DNA controls the process of protein production.[29] It was discovered that the cell uses DNA as a template to create matching messenger RNA, molecules with nucleotides very similar to DNA. The nucleotide sequence of a messenger RNA is used to create an amino acid sequence in protein; this translation between nucleotide sequences and amino acid sequences is known as the genetic code.[30]

With the newfound molecular understanding of inheritance came an explosion of research.[31] A notable theory arose from Tomoko Ohta in 1973 with her amendment to the neutral theory of molecular evolution through publishing the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution. In this theory, Ohta stressed the importance of natural selection and the environment to the rate at which genetic evolution occurs.[32] One important development was chain-termination DNA sequencing in 1977 by Frederick Sanger. This technology allows scientists to read the nucleotide sequence of a DNA molecule.[33] In 1983, Kary Banks Mullis developed the polymerase chain reaction, providing a quick way to isolate and amplify a specific section of DNA from a mixture.[34] The efforts of the Human Genome Project, Department of Energy, NIH, and parallel private efforts by Celera Genomics led to the sequencing of the human genome in 2003.[35][36]

At its most fundamental level, inheritance in organisms occurs by passing discrete heritable units, called genes, from parents to offspring.[37] This property was first observed by Gregor Mendel, who studied the segregation of heritable traits in pea plants.[14][38] In his experiments studying the trait for flower color, Mendel observed that the flowers of each pea plant were either purple or whitebut never an intermediate between the two colors. These different, discrete versions of the same gene are called alleles.

In the case of the pea, which is a diploid species, each individual plant has two copies of each gene, one copy inherited from each parent.[39] Many species, including humans, have this pattern of inheritance. Diploid organisms with two copies of the same allele of a given gene are called homozygous at that gene locus, while organisms with two different alleles of a given gene are called heterozygous.

The set of alleles for a given organism is called its genotype, while the observable traits of the organism are called its phenotype. When organisms are heterozygous at a gene, often one allele is called dominant as its qualities dominate the phenotype of the organism, while the other allele is called recessive as its qualities recede and are not observed. Some alleles do not have complete dominance and instead have incomplete dominance by expressing an intermediate phenotype, or codominance by expressing both alleles at once.[40]

When a pair of organisms reproduce sexually, their offspring randomly inherit one of the two alleles from each parent. These observations of discrete inheritance and the segregation of alleles are collectively known as Mendel’s first law or the Law of Segregation.

Geneticists use diagrams and symbols to describe inheritance. A gene is represented by one or a few letters. Often a “+” symbol is used to mark the usual, non-mutant allele for a gene.[41]

In fertilization and breeding experiments (and especially when discussing Mendel’s laws) the parents are referred to as the “P” generation and the offspring as the “F1” (first filial) generation. When the F1 offspring mate with each other, the offspring are called the “F2” (second filial) generation. One of the common diagrams used to predict the result of cross-breeding is the Punnett square.

When studying human genetic diseases, geneticists often use pedigree charts to represent the inheritance of traits.[42] These charts map the inheritance of a trait in a family tree.

Organisms have thousands of genes, and in sexually reproducing organisms these genes generally assort independently of each other. This means that the inheritance of an allele for yellow or green pea color is unrelated to the inheritance of alleles for white or purple flowers. This phenomenon, known as “Mendel’s second law” or the “law of independent assortment,” means that the alleles of different genes get shuffled between parents to form offspring with many different combinations. (Some genes do not assort independently, demonstrating genetic linkage, a topic discussed later in this article.)

Often different genes can interact in a way that influences the same trait. In the Blue-eyed Mary (Omphalodes verna), for example, there exists a gene with alleles that determine the color of flowers: blue or magenta. Another gene, however, controls whether the flowers have color at all or are white. When a plant has two copies of this white allele, its flowers are whiteregardless of whether the first gene has blue or magenta alleles. This interaction between genes is called epistasis, with the second gene epistatic to the first.[43]

Many traits are not discrete features (e.g. purple or white flowers) but are instead continuous features (e.g. human height and skin color). These complex traits are products of many genes.[44] The influence of these genes is mediated, to varying degrees, by the environment an organism has experienced. The degree to which an organism’s genes contribute to a complex trait is called heritability.[45] Measurement of the heritability of a trait is relativein a more variable environment, the environment has a bigger influence on the total variation of the trait. For example, human height is a trait with complex causes. It has a heritability of 89% in the United States. In Nigeria, however, where people experience a more variable access to good nutrition and health care, height has a heritability of only 62%.[46]

The molecular basis for genes is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is composed of a chain of nucleotides, of which there are four types: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). Genetic information exists in the sequence of these nucleotides, and genes exist as stretches of sequence along the DNA chain.[47] Viruses are the only exception to this rulesometimes viruses use the very similar molecule RNA instead of DNA as their genetic material.[48] Viruses cannot reproduce without a host and are unaffected by many genetic processes, so tend not to be considered living organisms.

DNA normally exists as a double-stranded molecule, coiled into the shape of a double helix. Each nucleotide in DNA preferentially pairs with its partner nucleotide on the opposite strand: A pairs with T, and C pairs with G. Thus, in its two-stranded form, each strand effectively contains all necessary information, redundant with its partner strand. This structure of DNA is the physical basis for inheritance: DNA replication duplicates the genetic information by splitting the strands and using each strand as a template for synthesis of a new partner strand.[49]

Genes are arranged linearly along long chains of DNA base-pair sequences. In bacteria, each cell usually contains a single circular genophore, while eukaryotic organisms (such as plants and animals) have their DNA arranged in multiple linear chromosomes. These DNA strands are often extremely long; the largest human chromosome, for example, is about 247 million base pairs in length.[50] The DNA of a chromosome is associated with structural proteins that organize, compact, and control access to the DNA, forming a material called chromatin; in eukaryotes, chromatin is usually composed of nucleosomes, segments of DNA wound around cores of histone proteins.[51] The full set of hereditary material in an organism (usually the combined DNA sequences of all chromosomes) is called the genome.

While haploid organisms have only one copy of each chromosome, most animals and many plants are diploid, containing two of each chromosome and thus two copies of every gene.[39] The two alleles for a gene are located on identical loci of the two homologous chromosomes, each allele inherited from a different parent.

Many species have so-called sex chromosomes that determine the gender of each organism.[52] In humans and many other animals, the Y chromosome contains the gene that triggers the development of the specifically male characteristics. In evolution, this chromosome has lost most of its content and also most of its genes, while the X chromosome is similar to the other chromosomes and contains many genes. The X and Y chromosomes form a strongly heterogeneous pair.

When cells divide, their full genome is copied and each daughter cell inherits one copy. This process, called mitosis, is the simplest form of reproduction and is the basis for asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction can also occur in multicellular organisms, producing offspring that inherit their genome from a single parent. Offspring that are genetically identical to their parents are called clones.

Eukaryotic organisms often use sexual reproduction to generate offspring that contain a mixture of genetic material inherited from two different parents. The process of sexual reproduction alternates between forms that contain single copies of the genome (haploid) and double copies (diploid).[39] Haploid cells fuse and combine genetic material to create a diploid cell with paired chromosomes. Diploid organisms form haploids by dividing, without replicating their DNA, to create daughter cells that randomly inherit one of each pair of chromosomes. Most animals and many plants are diploid for most of their lifespan, with the haploid form reduced to single cell gametes such as sperm or eggs.

Although they do not use the haploid/diploid method of sexual reproduction, bacteria have many methods of acquiring new genetic information. Some bacteria can undergo conjugation, transferring a small circular piece of DNA to another bacterium.[53] Bacteria can also take up raw DNA fragments found in the environment and integrate them into their genomes, a phenomenon known as transformation.[54] These processes result in horizontal gene transfer, transmitting fragments of genetic information between organisms that would be otherwise unrelated.

The diploid nature of chromosomes allows for genes on different chromosomes to assort independently or be separated from their homologous pair during sexual reproduction wherein haploid gametes are formed. In this way new combinations of genes can occur in the offspring of a mating pair. Genes on the same chromosome would theoretically never recombine. However, they do, via the cellular process of chromosomal crossover. During crossover, chromosomes exchange stretches of DNA, effectively shuffling the gene alleles between the chromosomes.[55] This process of chromosomal crossover generally occurs during meiosis, a series of cell divisions that creates haploid cells.

The first cytological demonstration of crossing over was performed by Harriet Creighton and Barbara McClintock in 1931. Their research and experiments on corn provided cytological evidence for the genetic theory that linked genes on paired chromosomes do in fact exchange places from one homolog to the other.[56]

The probability of chromosomal crossover occurring between two given points on the chromosome is related to the distance between the points. For an arbitrarily long distance, the probability of crossover is high enough that the inheritance of the genes is effectively uncorrelated.[57] For genes that are closer together, however, the lower probability of crossover means that the genes demonstrate genetic linkage; alleles for the two genes tend to be inherited together. The amounts of linkage between a series of genes can be combined to form a linear linkage map that roughly describes the arrangement of the genes along the chromosome.[58]

Genes generally express their functional effect through the production of proteins, which are complex molecules responsible for most functions in the cell. Proteins are made up of one or more polypeptide chains, each of which is composed of a sequence of amino acids, and the DNA sequence of a gene (through an RNA intermediate) is used to produce a specific amino acid sequence. This process begins with the production of an RNA molecule with a sequence matching the gene’s DNA sequence, a process called transcription.

This messenger RNA molecule is then used to produce a corresponding amino acid sequence through a process called translation. Each group of three nucleotides in the sequence, called a codon, corresponds either to one of the twenty possible amino acids in a protein or an instruction to end the amino acid sequence; this correspondence is called the genetic code.[59] The flow of information is unidirectional: information is transferred from nucleotide sequences into the amino acid sequence of proteins, but it never transfers from protein back into the sequence of DNAa phenomenon Francis Crick called the central dogma of molecular biology.[60]

The specific sequence of amino acids results in a unique three-dimensional structure for that protein, and the three-dimensional structures of proteins are related to their functions.[61][62] Some are simple structural molecules, like the fibers formed by the protein collagen. Proteins can bind to other proteins and simple molecules, sometimes acting as enzymes by facilitating chemical reactions within the bound molecules (without changing the structure of the protein itself). Protein structure is dynamic; the protein hemoglobin bends into slightly different forms as it facilitates the capture, transport, and release of oxygen molecules within mammalian blood.

A single nucleotide difference within DNA can cause a change in the amino acid sequence of a protein. Because protein structures are the result of their amino acid sequences, some changes can dramatically change the properties of a protein by destabilizing the structure or changing the surface of the protein in a way that changes its interaction with other proteins and molecules. For example, sickle-cell anemia is a human genetic disease that results from a single base difference within the coding region for the -globin section of hemoglobin, causing a single amino acid change that changes hemoglobin’s physical properties.[63] Sickle-cell versions of hemoglobin stick to themselves, stacking to form fibers that distort the shape of red blood cells carrying the protein. These sickle-shaped cells no longer flow smoothly through blood vessels, having a tendency to clog or degrade, causing the medical problems associated with this disease.

Some DNA sequences are transcribed into RNA but are not translated into protein productssuch RNA molecules are called non-coding RNA. In some cases, these products fold into structures which are involved in critical cell functions (e.g. ribosomal RNA and transfer RNA). RNA can also have regulatory effects through hybridization interactions with other RNA molecules (e.g. microRNA).

Although genes contain all the information an organism uses to function, the environment plays an important role in determining the ultimate phenotypes an organism displays. The phrase “nature and nurture” refers to this complementary relationship. The phenotype of an organism depends on the interaction of genes and the environment. An interesting example is the coat coloration of the Siamese cat. In this case, the body temperature of the cat plays the role of the environment. The cat’s genes code for dark hair, thus the hair-producing cells in the cat make cellular proteins resulting in dark hair. But these dark hair-producing proteins are sensitive to temperature (i.e. have a mutation causing temperature-sensitivity) and denature in higher-temperature environments, failing to produce dark-hair pigment in areas where the cat has a higher body temperature. In a low-temperature environment, however, the protein’s structure is stable and produces dark-hair pigment normally. The protein remains functional in areas of skin that are coldersuch as its legs, ears, tail and faceso the cat has dark-hair at its extremities.[64]

Environment plays a major role in effects of the human genetic disease phenylketonuria.[65] The mutation that causes phenylketonuria disrupts the ability of the body to break down the amino acid phenylalanine, causing a toxic build-up of an intermediate molecule that, in turn, causes severe symptoms of progressive intellectual disability and seizures. However, if someone with the phenylketonuria mutation follows a strict diet that avoids this amino acid, they remain normal and healthy.

A common method for determining how genes and environment (“nature and nurture”) contribute to a phenotype involves studying identical and fraternal twins, or other siblings of multiple births.[66] Because identical siblings come from the same zygote, they are genetically the same. Fraternal twins are as genetically different from one another as normal siblings. By comparing how often a certain disorder occurs in a pair of identical twins to how often it occurs in a pair of fraternal twins, scientists can determine whether that disorder is caused by genetic or postnatal environmental factors whether it has “nature” or “nurture” causes. One famous example involved the study of the Genain quadruplets, who were identical quadruplets all diagnosed with schizophrenia.[67]However such tests cannot separate genetic factors from environmental factors affecting fetal development.

The genome of a given organism contains thousands of genes, but not all these genes need to be active at any given moment. A gene is expressed when it is being transcribed into mRNA and there exist many cellular methods of controlling the expression of genes such that proteins are produced only when needed by the cell. Transcription factors are regulatory proteins that bind to DNA, either promoting or inhibiting the transcription of a gene.[68] Within the genome of Escherichia coli bacteria, for example, there exists a series of genes necessary for the synthesis of the amino acid tryptophan. However, when tryptophan is already available to the cell, these genes for tryptophan synthesis are no longer needed. The presence of tryptophan directly affects the activity of the genestryptophan molecules bind to the tryptophan repressor (a transcription factor), changing the repressor’s structure such that the repressor binds to the genes. The tryptophan repressor blocks the transcription and expression of the genes, thereby creating negative feedback regulation of the tryptophan synthesis process.[69]

Differences in gene expression are especially clear within multicellular organisms, where cells all contain the same genome but have very different structures and behaviors due to the expression of different sets of genes. All the cells in a multicellular organism derive from a single cell, differentiating into variant cell types in response to external and intercellular signals and gradually establishing different patterns of gene expression to create different behaviors. As no single gene is responsible for the development of structures within multicellular organisms, these patterns arise from the complex interactions between many cells.

Within eukaryotes, there exist structural features of chromatin that influence the transcription of genes, often in the form of modifications to DNA and chromatin that are stably inherited by daughter cells.[70] These features are called “epigenetic” because they exist “on top” of the DNA sequence and retain inheritance from one cell generation to the next. Because of epigenetic features, different cell types grown within the same medium can retain very different properties. Although epigenetic features are generally dynamic over the course of development, some, like the phenomenon of paramutation, have multigenerational inheritance and exist as rare exceptions to the general rule of DNA as the basis for inheritance.[71]

During the process of DNA replication, errors occasionally occur in the polymerization of the second strand. These errors, called mutations, can affect the phenotype of an organism, especially if they occur within the protein coding sequence of a gene. Error rates are usually very low1 error in every 10100million basesdue to the “proofreading” ability of DNA polymerases.[72][73] Processes that increase the rate of changes in DNA are called mutagenic: mutagenic chemicals promote errors in DNA replication, often by interfering with the structure of base-pairing, while UV radiation induces mutations by causing damage to the DNA structure.[74] Chemical damage to DNA occurs naturally as well and cells use DNA repair mechanisms to repair mismatches and breaks. The repair does not, however, always restore the original sequence.

In organisms that use chromosomal crossover to exchange DNA and recombine genes, errors in alignment during meiosis can also cause mutations.[75] Errors in crossover are especially likely when similar sequences cause partner chromosomes to adopt a mistaken alignment; this makes some regions in genomes more prone to mutating in this way. These errors create large structural changes in DNA sequence duplications, inversions, deletions of entire regions or the accidental exchange of whole parts of sequences between different chromosomes (chromosomal translocation).

Mutations alter an organism’s genotype and occasionally this causes different phenotypes to appear. Most mutations have little effect on an organism’s phenotype, health, or reproductive fitness.[76] Mutations that do have an effect are usually detrimental, but occasionally some can be beneficial.[77] Studies in the fly Drosophila melanogaster suggest that if a mutation changes a protein produced by a gene, about 70 percent of these mutations will be harmful with the remainder being either neutral or weakly beneficial.[78]

Population genetics studies the distribution of genetic differences within populations and how these distributions change over time.[79] Changes in the frequency of an allele in a population are mainly influenced by natural selection, where a given allele provides a selective or reproductive advantage to the organism,[80] as well as other factors such as mutation, genetic drift, genetic hitchhiking,[81] artificial selection and migration.[82]

Over many generations, the genomes of organisms can change significantly, resulting in evolution. In the process called adaptation, selection for beneficial mutations can cause a species to evolve into forms better able to survive in their environment.[83] New species are formed through the process of speciation, often caused by geographical separations that prevent populations from exchanging genes with each other.[84]

By comparing the homology between different species’ genomes, it is possible to calculate the evolutionary distance between them and when they may have diverged. Genetic comparisons are generally considered a more accurate method of characterizing the relatedness between species than the comparison of phenotypic characteristics. The evolutionary distances between species can be used to form evolutionary trees; these trees represent the common descent and divergence of species over time, although they do not show the transfer of genetic material between unrelated species (known as horizontal gene transfer and most common in bacteria).[85]

Although geneticists originally studied inheritance in a wide range of organisms, researchers began to specialize in studying the genetics of a particular subset of organisms. The fact that significant research already existed for a given organism would encourage new researchers to choose it for further study, and so eventually a few model organisms became the basis for most genetics research.[86] Common research topics in model organism genetics include the study of gene regulation and the involvement of genes in development and cancer.

Organisms were chosen, in part, for convenienceshort generation times and easy genetic manipulation made some organisms popular genetics research tools. Widely used model organisms include the gut bacterium Escherichia coli, the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), and the common house mouse (Mus musculus).

Medical genetics seeks to understand how genetic variation relates to human health and disease.[87] When searching for an unknown gene that may be involved in a disease, researchers commonly use genetic linkage and genetic pedigree charts to find the location on the genome associated with the disease. At the population level, researchers take advantage of Mendelian randomization to look for locations in the genome that are associated with diseases, a method especially useful for multigenic traits not clearly defined by a single gene.[88] Once a candidate gene is found, further research is often done on the corresponding (or homologous) genes of model organisms. In addition to studying genetic diseases, the increased availability of genotyping methods has led to the field of pharmacogenetics: the study of how genotype can affect drug responses.[89]

Individuals differ in their inherited tendency to develop cancer,[90] and cancer is a genetic disease.[91] The process of cancer development in the body is a combination of events. Mutations occasionally occur within cells in the body as they divide. Although these mutations will not be inherited by any offspring, they can affect the behavior of cells, sometimes causing them to grow and divide more frequently. There are biological mechanisms that attempt to stop this process; signals are given to inappropriately dividing cells that should trigger cell death, but sometimes additional mutations occur that cause cells to ignore these messages. An internal process of natural selection occurs within the body and eventually mutations accumulate within cells to promote their own growth, creating a cancerous tumor that grows and invades various tissues of the body.

Normally, a cell divides only in response to signals called growth factors and stops growing once in contact with surrounding cells and in response to growth-inhibitory signals. It usually then divides a limited number of times and dies, staying within the epithelium where it is unable to migrate to other organs. To become a cancer cell, a cell has to accumulate mutations in a number of genes (three to seven) that allow it to bypass this regulation: it no longer needs growth factors to divide, continues growing when making contact to neighbor cells, ignores inhibitory signals, keeps growing indefinitely and is immortal, escapes from the epithelium and ultimately may be able to escape from the primary tumor, cross the endothelium of a blood vessel, be transported by the bloodstream and colonize a new organ, forming deadly metastasis. Although there are some genetic predispositions in a small fraction of cancers, the major fraction is due to a set of new genetic mutations that originally appear and accumulate in one or a small number of cells that will divide to form the tumor and are not transmitted to the progeny (somatic mutations). The most frequent mutations are a loss of function of p53 protein, a tumor suppressor, or in the p53 pathway, and gain of function mutations in the Ras proteins, or in other oncogenes.

DNA can be manipulated in the laboratory. Restriction enzymes are commonly used enzymes that cut DNA at specific sequences, producing predictable fragments of DNA.[92] DNA fragments can be visualized through use of gel electrophoresis, which separates fragments according to their length.

The use of ligation enzymes allows DNA fragments to be connected. By binding (“ligating”) fragments of DNA together from different sources, researchers can create recombinant DNA, the DNA often associated with genetically modified organisms. Recombinant DNA is commonly used in the context of plasmids: short circular DNA molecules with a few genes on them. In the process known as molecular cloning, researchers can amplify the DNA fragments by inserting plasmids into bacteria and then culturing them on plates of agar (to isolate clones of bacteria cells “cloning” can also refer to the various means of creating cloned (“clonal”) organisms).

DNA can also be amplified using a procedure called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).[93] By using specific short sequences of DNA, PCR can isolate and exponentially amplify a targeted region of DNA. Because it can amplify from extremely small amounts of DNA, PCR is also often used to detect the presence of specific DNA sequences.

DNA sequencing, one of the most fundamental technologies developed to study genetics, allows researchers to determine the sequence of nucleotides in DNA fragments. The technique of chain-termination sequencing, developed in 1977 by a team led by Frederick Sanger, is still routinely used to sequence DNA fragments.[94] Using this technology, researchers have been able to study the molecular sequences associated with many human diseases.

As sequencing has become less expensive, researchers have sequenced the genomes of many organisms using a process called genome assembly, which utilizes computational tools to stitch together sequences from many different fragments.[95] These technologies were used to sequence the human genome in the Human Genome Project completed in 2003.[35] New high-throughput sequencing technologies are dramatically lowering the cost of DNA sequencing, with many researchers hoping to bring the cost of resequencing a human genome down to a thousand dollars.[96]

Next-generation sequencing (or high-throughput sequencing) came about due to the ever-increasing demand for low-cost sequencing. These sequencing technologies allow the production of potentially millions of sequences concurrently.[97][98] The large amount of sequence data available has created the field of genomics, research that uses computational tools to search for and analyze patterns in the full genomes of organisms. Genomics can also be considered a subfield of bioinformatics, which uses computational approaches to analyze large sets of biological data. A common problem to these fields of research is how to manage and share data that deals with human subject and personally identifiable information. See also genomics data sharing.

On 19 March 2015, a group of leading biologists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[99][100][101][102] In April 2015, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[103][104]

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Genetics – Wikipedia

Genetic Testing for Personalized Medicine and … – Genomind

The complexity of biological systems is astounding, and to us at Genomind, this means understanding and treating the whole person as something much greater than the sum of his or her parts.

Mindful DNA Professional is a genetic test that uses systems biology, patient individuality, and our Philosophy of Domains to analyze gene networks that influence health and wellness. The test is grounded in Genominds expertise in brain health and core belief in the importance of mind-body connection.

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Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Medical genetics is the branch of medicine that involves the diagnosis and management of hereditary disorders. Medical genetics differs from human genetics in that human genetics is a field of scientific research that may or may not apply to medicine, while medical genetics refers to the application of genetics to medical care. For example, research on the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders would be considered within both human genetics and medical genetics, while the diagnosis, management, and counselling people with genetic disorders would be considered part of medical genetics.

In contrast, the study of typically non-medical phenotypes such as the genetics of eye color would be considered part of human genetics, but not necessarily relevant to medical genetics (except in situations such as albinism). Genetic medicine is a newer term for medical genetics and incorporates areas such as gene therapy, personalized medicine, and the rapidly emerging new medical specialty, predictive medicine.

Medical genetics encompasses many different areas, including clinical practice of physicians, genetic counselors, and nutritionists, clinical diagnostic laboratory activities, and research into the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders. Examples of conditions that fall within the scope of medical genetics include birth defects and dysmorphology, mental retardation, autism, mitochondrial disorders, skeletal dysplasia, connective tissue disorders, cancer genetics, teratogens, and prenatal diagnosis. Medical genetics is increasingly becoming relevant to many common diseases. Overlaps with other medical specialties are beginning to emerge, as recent advances in genetics are revealing etiologies for neurologic, endocrine, cardiovascular, pulmonary, ophthalmologic, renal, psychiatric, and dermatologic conditions.

In some ways, many of the individual fields within medical genetics are hybrids between clinical care and research. This is due in part to recent advances in science and technology (for example, see the Human genome project) that have enabled an unprecedented understanding of genetic disorders.

Clinical genetics is the practice of clinical medicine with particular attention to hereditary disorders. Referrals are made to genetics clinics for a variety of reasons, including birth defects, developmental delay, autism, epilepsy, short stature, and many others. Examples of genetic syndromes that are commonly seen in the genetics clinic include chromosomal rearrangements, Down syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome), Fragile X syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Neurofibromatosis, Turner syndrome, and Williams syndrome.

In the United States, physicians who practice clinical genetics are accredited by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG).[1] In order to become a board-certified practitioner of Clinical Genetics, a physician must complete a minimum of 24 months of training in a program accredited by the ABMGG. Individuals seeking acceptance into clinical genetics training programs must hold an M.D. or D.O. degree (or their equivalent) and have completed a minimum of 24 months of training in an ACGME-accredited residency program in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, or other medical specialty.[2]

Metabolic (or biochemical) genetics involves the diagnosis and management of inborn errors of metabolism in which patients have enzymatic deficiencies that perturb biochemical pathways involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and lipids. Examples of metabolic disorders include galactosemia, glycogen storage disease, lysosomal storage disorders, metabolic acidosis, peroxisomal disorders, phenylketonuria, and urea cycle disorders.

Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes and chromosome abnormalities. While cytogenetics historically relied on microscopy to analyze chromosomes, new molecular technologies such as array comparative genomic hybridization are now becoming widely used. Examples of chromosome abnormalities include aneuploidy, chromosomal rearrangements, and genomic deletion/duplication disorders.

Molecular genetics involves the discovery of and laboratory testing for DNA mutations that underlie many single gene disorders. Examples of single gene disorders include achondroplasia, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1/2), Huntington disease, Marfan syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and Rett syndrome. Molecular tests are also used in the diagnosis of syndromes involving epigenetic abnormalities, such as Angelman syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Prader-willi syndrome, and uniparental disomy.

Mitochondrial genetics concerns the diagnosis and management of mitochondrial disorders, which have a molecular basis but often result in biochemical abnormalities due to deficient energy production.

There exists some overlap between medical genetic diagnostic laboratories and molecular pathology.

Genetic counseling is the process of providing information about genetic conditions, diagnostic testing, and risks in other family members, within the framework of nondirective counseling. Genetic counselors are non-physician members of the medical genetics team who specialize in family risk assessment and counseling of patients regarding genetic disorders. The precise role of the genetic counselor varies somewhat depending on the disorder.

Although genetics has its roots back in the 19th century with the work of the Bohemian monk Gregor Mendel and other pioneering scientists, human genetics emerged later. It started to develop, albeit slowly, during the first half of the 20th century. Mendelian (single-gene) inheritance was studied in a number of important disorders such as albinism, brachydactyly (short fingers and toes), and hemophilia. Mathematical approaches were also devised and applied to human genetics. Population genetics was created.

Medical genetics was a late developer, emerging largely after the close of World War II (1945) when the eugenics movement had fallen into disrepute. The Nazi misuse of eugenics sounded its death knell. Shorn of eugenics, a scientific approach could be used and was applied to human and medical genetics. Medical genetics saw an increasingly rapid rise in the second half of the 20th century and continues in the 21st century.

The clinical setting in which patients are evaluated determines the scope of practice, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions. For the purposes of general discussion, the typical encounters between patients and genetic practitioners may involve:

Each patient will undergo a diagnostic evaluation tailored to their own particular presenting signs and symptoms. The geneticist will establish a differential diagnosis and recommend appropriate testing. These tests might evaluate for chromosomal disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, or single gene disorders.

Chromosome studies are used in the general genetics clinic to determine a cause for developmental delay/mental retardation, birth defects, dysmorphic features, and/or autism. Chromosome analysis is also performed in the prenatal setting to determine whether a fetus is affected with aneuploidy or other chromosome rearrangements. Finally, chromosome abnormalities are often detected in cancer samples. A large number of different methods have been developed for chromosome analysis:

Biochemical studies are performed to screen for imbalances of metabolites in the bodily fluid, usually the blood (plasma/serum) or urine, but also in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Specific tests of enzyme function (either in leukocytes, skin fibroblasts, liver, or muscle) are also employed under certain circumstances. In the US, the newborn screen incorporates biochemical tests to screen for treatable conditions such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria (PKU). Patients suspected to have a metabolic condition might undergo the following tests:

Each cell of the body contains the hereditary information (DNA) wrapped up in structures called chromosomes. Since genetic syndromes are typically the result of alterations of the chromosomes or genes, there is no treatment currently available that can correct the genetic alterations in every cell of the body. Therefore, there is currently no “cure” for genetic disorders. However, for many genetic syndromes there is treatment available to manage the symptoms. In some cases, particularly inborn errors of metabolism, the mechanism of disease is well understood and offers the potential for dietary and medical management to prevent or reduce the long-term complications. In other cases, infusion therapy is used to replace the missing enzyme. Current research is actively seeking to use gene therapy or other new medications to treat specific genetic disorders.

In general, metabolic disorders arise from enzyme deficiencies that disrupt normal metabolic pathways. For instance, in the hypothetical example:

Compound “A” is metabolized to “B” by enzyme “X”, compound “B” is metabolized to “C” by enzyme “Y”, and compound “C” is metabolized to “D” by enzyme “Z”.If enzyme “Z” is missing, compound “D” will be missing, while compounds “A”, “B”, and “C” will build up. The pathogenesis of this particular condition could result from lack of compound “D”, if it is critical for some cellular function, or from toxicity due to excess “A”, “B”, and/or “C”, or from toxicity due to the excess of “E” which is normally only present in small amounts and only accumulates when “C” is in excess. Treatment of the metabolic disorder could be achieved through dietary supplementation of compound “D” and dietary restriction of compounds “A”, “B”, and/or “C” or by treatment with a medication that promoted disposal of excess “A”, “B”, “C” or “E”. Another approach that can be taken is enzyme replacement therapy, in which a patient is given an infusion of the missing enzyme “Z” or cofactor therapy to increase the efficacy of any residual “Z” activity.

Dietary restriction and supplementation are key measures taken in several well-known metabolic disorders, including galactosemia, phenylketonuria (PKU), maple syrup urine disease, organic acidurias and urea cycle disorders. Such restrictive diets can be difficult for the patient and family to maintain, and require close consultation with a nutritionist who has special experience in metabolic disorders. The composition of the diet will change depending on the caloric needs of the growing child and special attention is needed during a pregnancy if a woman is affected with one of these disorders.

Medical approaches include enhancement of residual enzyme activity (in cases where the enzyme is made but is not functioning properly), inhibition of other enzymes in the biochemical pathway to prevent buildup of a toxic compound, or diversion of a toxic compound to another form that can be excreted. Examples include the use of high doses of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) in some patients with homocystinuria to boost the activity of the residual cystathione synthase enzyme, administration of biotin to restore activity of several enzymes affected by deficiency of biotinidase, treatment with NTBC in Tyrosinemia to inhibit the production of succinylacetone which causes liver toxicity, and the use of sodium benzoate to decrease ammonia build-up in urea cycle disorders.

Certain lysosomal storage diseases are treated with infusions of a recombinant enzyme (produced in a laboratory), which can reduce the accumulation of the compounds in various tissues. Examples include Gaucher disease, Fabry disease, Mucopolysaccharidoses and Glycogen storage disease type II. Such treatments are limited by the ability of the enzyme to reach the affected areas (the blood brain barrier prevents enzyme from reaching the brain, for example), and can sometimes be associated with allergic reactions. The long-term clinical effectiveness of enzyme replacement therapies vary widely among different disorders.

There are a variety of career paths within the field of medical genetics, and naturally the training required for each area differs considerably. The information included in this section applies to the typical pathways in the United States and there may be differences in other countries. US practitioners in clinical, counseling, or diagnostic subspecialties generally obtain board certification through the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Genetic information provides a unique type of knowledge about an individual and his/her family, fundamentally different from a typically laboratory test that provides a “snapshot” of an individual’s health status. The unique status of genetic information and inherited disease has a number of ramifications with regard to ethical, legal, and societal concerns.

On 19 March 2015, scientists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[3][4][5][6] In April 2015 and April 2016, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[7][8][9] In February 2016, British scientists were given permission by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR and related techniques on condition that the embryos were destroyed within seven days.[10] In June 2016 the Dutch government was reported to be planning to follow suit with similar regulations which would specify a 14-day limit.[11]

The more empirical approach to human and medical genetics was formalized by the founding in 1948 of the American Society of Human Genetics. The Society first began annual meetings that year (1948) and its international counterpart, the International Congress of Human Genetics, has met every 5 years since its inception in 1956. The Society publishes the American Journal of Human Genetics on a monthly basis.

Medical genetics is now recognized as a distinct medical specialty in the U.S. with its own approved board (the American Board of Medical Genetics) and clinical specialty college (the American College of Medical Genetics). The College holds an annual scientific meeting, publishes a monthly journal, Genetics in Medicine, and issues position papers and clinical practice guidelines on a variety of topics relevant to human genetics.

The broad range of research in medical genetics reflects the overall scope of this field, including basic research on genetic inheritance and the human genome, mechanisms of genetic and metabolic disorders, translational research on new treatment modalities, and the impact of genetic testing

Basic research geneticists usually undertake research in universities, biotechnology firms and research institutes.

Sometimes the link between a disease and an unusual gene variant is more subtle. The genetic architecture of common diseases is an important factor in determining the extent to which patterns of genetic variation influence group differences in health outcomes.[12][13][14] According to the common disease/common variant hypothesis, common variants present in the ancestral population before the dispersal of modern humans from Africa play an important role in human diseases.[15] Genetic variants associated with Alzheimer disease, deep venous thrombosis, Crohn disease, and type 2 diabetes appear to adhere to this model.[16] However, the generality of the model has not yet been established and, in some cases, is in doubt.[13][17][18] Some diseases, such as many common cancers, appear not to be well described by the common disease/common variant model.[19]

Another possibility is that common diseases arise in part through the action of combinations of variants that are individually rare.[20][21] Most of the disease-associated alleles discovered to date have been rare, and rare variants are more likely than common variants to be differentially distributed among groups distinguished by ancestry.[19][22] However, groups could harbor different, though perhaps overlapping, sets of rare variants, which would reduce contrasts between groups in the incidence of the disease.

The number of variants contributing to a disease and the interactions among those variants also could influence the distribution of diseases among groups. The difficulty that has been encountered in finding contributory alleles for complex diseases and in replicating positive associations suggests that many complex diseases involve numerous variants rather than a moderate number of alleles, and the influence of any given variant may depend in critical ways on the genetic and environmental background.[17][23][24][25] If many alleles are required to increase susceptibility to a disease, the odds are low that the necessary combination of alleles would become concentrated in a particular group purely through drift.[26]

One area in which population categories can be important considerations in genetics research is in controlling for confounding between population substructure, environmental exposures, and health outcomes. Association studies can produce spurious results if cases and controls have differing allele frequencies for genes that are not related to the disease being studied,[27] although the magnitude of this problem in genetic association studies is subject to debate.[28][29] Various methods have been developed to detect and account for population substructure,[30][31] but these methods can be difficult to apply in practice.[32]

Population substructure also can be used to advantage in genetic association studies. For example, populations that represent recent mixtures of geographically separated ancestral groups can exhibit longer-range linkage disequilibrium between susceptibility alleles and genetic markers than is the case for other populations.[33][34][35][36] Genetic studies can use this admixture linkage disequilibrium to search for disease alleles with fewer markers than would be needed otherwise. Association studies also can take advantage of the contrasting experiences of racial or ethnic groups, including migrant groups, to search for interactions between particular alleles and environmental factors that might influence health.[37][38]

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Medical genetics – Wikipedia

About the Fred A. Litwin Family Centre in Genetic Medicine

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About the Fred A. Litwin Family Centre in Genetic Medicine

Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Medical genetics is the branch of medicine that involves the diagnosis and management of hereditary disorders. Medical genetics differs from human genetics in that human genetics is a field of scientific research that may or may not apply to medicine, while medical genetics refers to the application of genetics to medical care. For example, research on the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders would be considered within both human genetics and medical genetics, while the diagnosis, management, and counselling people with genetic disorders would be considered part of medical genetics.

In contrast, the study of typically non-medical phenotypes such as the genetics of eye color would be considered part of human genetics, but not necessarily relevant to medical genetics (except in situations such as albinism). Genetic medicine is a newer term for medical genetics and incorporates areas such as gene therapy, personalized medicine, and the rapidly emerging new medical specialty, predictive medicine.

Medical genetics encompasses many different areas, including clinical practice of physicians, genetic counselors, and nutritionists, clinical diagnostic laboratory activities, and research into the causes and inheritance of genetic disorders. Examples of conditions that fall within the scope of medical genetics include birth defects and dysmorphology, mental retardation, autism, mitochondrial disorders, skeletal dysplasia, connective tissue disorders, cancer genetics, teratogens, and prenatal diagnosis. Medical genetics is increasingly becoming relevant to many common diseases. Overlaps with other medical specialties are beginning to emerge, as recent advances in genetics are revealing etiologies for neurologic, endocrine, cardiovascular, pulmonary, ophthalmologic, renal, psychiatric, and dermatologic conditions.

In some ways, many of the individual fields within medical genetics are hybrids between clinical care and research. This is due in part to recent advances in science and technology (for example, see the Human genome project) that have enabled an unprecedented understanding of genetic disorders.

Clinical genetics is the practice of clinical medicine with particular attention to hereditary disorders. Referrals are made to genetics clinics for a variety of reasons, including birth defects, developmental delay, autism, epilepsy, short stature, and many others. Examples of genetic syndromes that are commonly seen in the genetics clinic include chromosomal rearrangements, Down syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome (22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome), Fragile X syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Neurofibromatosis, Turner syndrome, and Williams syndrome.

In the United States, physicians who practice clinical genetics are accredited by the American Board of Medical Genetics and Genomics (ABMGG).[1] In order to become a board-certified practitioner of Clinical Genetics, a physician must complete a minimum of 24 months of training in a program accredited by the ABMGG. Individuals seeking acceptance into clinical genetics training programs must hold an M.D. or D.O. degree (or their equivalent) and have completed a minimum of 24 months of training in an ACGME-accredited residency program in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, or other medical specialty.[2]

Metabolic (or biochemical) genetics involves the diagnosis and management of inborn errors of metabolism in which patients have enzymatic deficiencies that perturb biochemical pathways involved in metabolism of carbohydrates, amino acids, and lipids. Examples of metabolic disorders include galactosemia, glycogen storage disease, lysosomal storage disorders, metabolic acidosis, peroxisomal disorders, phenylketonuria, and urea cycle disorders.

Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes and chromosome abnormalities. While cytogenetics historically relied on microscopy to analyze chromosomes, new molecular technologies such as array comparative genomic hybridization are now becoming widely used. Examples of chromosome abnormalities include aneuploidy, chromosomal rearrangements, and genomic deletion/duplication disorders.

Molecular genetics involves the discovery of and laboratory testing for DNA mutations that underlie many single gene disorders. Examples of single gene disorders include achondroplasia, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, hereditary breast cancer (BRCA1/2), Huntington disease, Marfan syndrome, Noonan syndrome, and Rett syndrome. Molecular tests are also used in the diagnosis of syndromes involving epigenetic abnormalities, such as Angelman syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, Prader-willi syndrome, and uniparental disomy.

Mitochondrial genetics concerns the diagnosis and management of mitochondrial disorders, which have a molecular basis but often result in biochemical abnormalities due to deficient energy production.

There exists some overlap between medical genetic diagnostic laboratories and molecular pathology.

Genetic counseling is the process of providing information about genetic conditions, diagnostic testing, and risks in other family members, within the framework of nondirective counseling. Genetic counselors are non-physician members of the medical genetics team who specialize in family risk assessment and counseling of patients regarding genetic disorders. The precise role of the genetic counselor varies somewhat depending on the disorder.

Although genetics has its roots back in the 19th century with the work of the Bohemian monk Gregor Mendel and other pioneering scientists, human genetics emerged later. It started to develop, albeit slowly, during the first half of the 20th century. Mendelian (single-gene) inheritance was studied in a number of important disorders such as albinism, brachydactyly (short fingers and toes), and hemophilia. Mathematical approaches were also devised and applied to human genetics. Population genetics was created.

Medical genetics was a late developer, emerging largely after the close of World War II (1945) when the eugenics movement had fallen into disrepute. The Nazi misuse of eugenics sounded its death knell. Shorn of eugenics, a scientific approach could be used and was applied to human and medical genetics. Medical genetics saw an increasingly rapid rise in the second half of the 20th century and continues in the 21st century.

The clinical setting in which patients are evaluated determines the scope of practice, diagnostic, and therapeutic interventions. For the purposes of general discussion, the typical encounters between patients and genetic practitioners may involve:

Each patient will undergo a diagnostic evaluation tailored to their own particular presenting signs and symptoms. The geneticist will establish a differential diagnosis and recommend appropriate testing. These tests might evaluate for chromosomal disorders, inborn errors of metabolism, or single gene disorders.

Chromosome studies are used in the general genetics clinic to determine a cause for developmental delay/mental retardation, birth defects, dysmorphic features, and/or autism. Chromosome analysis is also performed in the prenatal setting to determine whether a fetus is affected with aneuploidy or other chromosome rearrangements. Finally, chromosome abnormalities are often detected in cancer samples. A large number of different methods have been developed for chromosome analysis:

Biochemical studies are performed to screen for imbalances of metabolites in the bodily fluid, usually the blood (plasma/serum) or urine, but also in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). Specific tests of enzyme function (either in leukocytes, skin fibroblasts, liver, or muscle) are also employed under certain circumstances. In the US, the newborn screen incorporates biochemical tests to screen for treatable conditions such as galactosemia and phenylketonuria (PKU). Patients suspected to have a metabolic condition might undergo the following tests:

Each cell of the body contains the hereditary information (DNA) wrapped up in structures called chromosomes. Since genetic syndromes are typically the result of alterations of the chromosomes or genes, there is no treatment currently available that can correct the genetic alterations in every cell of the body. Therefore, there is currently no “cure” for genetic disorders. However, for many genetic syndromes there is treatment available to manage the symptoms. In some cases, particularly inborn errors of metabolism, the mechanism of disease is well understood and offers the potential for dietary and medical management to prevent or reduce the long-term complications. In other cases, infusion therapy is used to replace the missing enzyme. Current research is actively seeking to use gene therapy or other new medications to treat specific genetic disorders.

In general, metabolic disorders arise from enzyme deficiencies that disrupt normal metabolic pathways. For instance, in the hypothetical example:

Compound “A” is metabolized to “B” by enzyme “X”, compound “B” is metabolized to “C” by enzyme “Y”, and compound “C” is metabolized to “D” by enzyme “Z”.If enzyme “Z” is missing, compound “D” will be missing, while compounds “A”, “B”, and “C” will build up. The pathogenesis of this particular condition could result from lack of compound “D”, if it is critical for some cellular function, or from toxicity due to excess “A”, “B”, and/or “C”, or from toxicity due to the excess of “E” which is normally only present in small amounts and only accumulates when “C” is in excess. Treatment of the metabolic disorder could be achieved through dietary supplementation of compound “D” and dietary restriction of compounds “A”, “B”, and/or “C” or by treatment with a medication that promoted disposal of excess “A”, “B”, “C” or “E”. Another approach that can be taken is enzyme replacement therapy, in which a patient is given an infusion of the missing enzyme “Z” or cofactor therapy to increase the efficacy of any residual “Z” activity.

Dietary restriction and supplementation are key measures taken in several well-known metabolic disorders, including galactosemia, phenylketonuria (PKU), maple syrup urine disease, organic acidurias and urea cycle disorders. Such restrictive diets can be difficult for the patient and family to maintain, and require close consultation with a nutritionist who has special experience in metabolic disorders. The composition of the diet will change depending on the caloric needs of the growing child and special attention is needed during a pregnancy if a woman is affected with one of these disorders.

Medical approaches include enhancement of residual enzyme activity (in cases where the enzyme is made but is not functioning properly), inhibition of other enzymes in the biochemical pathway to prevent buildup of a toxic compound, or diversion of a toxic compound to another form that can be excreted. Examples include the use of high doses of pyridoxine (vitamin B6) in some patients with homocystinuria to boost the activity of the residual cystathione synthase enzyme, administration of biotin to restore activity of several enzymes affected by deficiency of biotinidase, treatment with NTBC in Tyrosinemia to inhibit the production of succinylacetone which causes liver toxicity, and the use of sodium benzoate to decrease ammonia build-up in urea cycle disorders.

Certain lysosomal storage diseases are treated with infusions of a recombinant enzyme (produced in a laboratory), which can reduce the accumulation of the compounds in various tissues. Examples include Gaucher disease, Fabry disease, Mucopolysaccharidoses and Glycogen storage disease type II. Such treatments are limited by the ability of the enzyme to reach the affected areas (the blood brain barrier prevents enzyme from reaching the brain, for example), and can sometimes be associated with allergic reactions. The long-term clinical effectiveness of enzyme replacement therapies vary widely among different disorders.

There are a variety of career paths within the field of medical genetics, and naturally the training required for each area differs considerably. The information included in this section applies to the typical pathways in the United States and there may be differences in other countries. US practitioners in clinical, counseling, or diagnostic subspecialties generally obtain board certification through the American Board of Medical Genetics.

Genetic information provides a unique type of knowledge about an individual and his/her family, fundamentally different from a typically laboratory test that provides a “snapshot” of an individual’s health status. The unique status of genetic information and inherited disease has a number of ramifications with regard to ethical, legal, and societal concerns.

On 19 March 2015, scientists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[3][4][5][6] In April 2015 and April 2016, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[7][8][9] In February 2016, British scientists were given permission by regulators to genetically modify human embryos by using CRISPR and related techniques on condition that the embryos were destroyed within seven days.[10] In June 2016 the Dutch government was reported to be planning to follow suit with similar regulations which would specify a 14-day limit.[11]

The more empirical approach to human and medical genetics was formalized by the founding in 1948 of the American Society of Human Genetics. The Society first began annual meetings that year (1948) and its international counterpart, the International Congress of Human Genetics, has met every 5 years since its inception in 1956. The Society publishes the American Journal of Human Genetics on a monthly basis.

Medical genetics is now recognized as a distinct medical specialty in the U.S. with its own approved board (the American Board of Medical Genetics) and clinical specialty college (the American College of Medical Genetics). The College holds an annual scientific meeting, publishes a monthly journal, Genetics in Medicine, and issues position papers and clinical practice guidelines on a variety of topics relevant to human genetics.

The broad range of research in medical genetics reflects the overall scope of this field, including basic research on genetic inheritance and the human genome, mechanisms of genetic and metabolic disorders, translational research on new treatment modalities, and the impact of genetic testing

Basic research geneticists usually undertake research in universities, biotechnology firms and research institutes.

Sometimes the link between a disease and an unusual gene variant is more subtle. The genetic architecture of common diseases is an important factor in determining the extent to which patterns of genetic variation influence group differences in health outcomes.[12][13][14] According to the common disease/common variant hypothesis, common variants present in the ancestral population before the dispersal of modern humans from Africa play an important role in human diseases.[15] Genetic variants associated with Alzheimer disease, deep venous thrombosis, Crohn disease, and type 2 diabetes appear to adhere to this model.[16] However, the generality of the model has not yet been established and, in some cases, is in doubt.[13][17][18] Some diseases, such as many common cancers, appear not to be well described by the common disease/common variant model.[19]

Another possibility is that common diseases arise in part through the action of combinations of variants that are individually rare.[20][21] Most of the disease-associated alleles discovered to date have been rare, and rare variants are more likely than common variants to be differentially distributed among groups distinguished by ancestry.[19][22] However, groups could harbor different, though perhaps overlapping, sets of rare variants, which would reduce contrasts between groups in the incidence of the disease.

The number of variants contributing to a disease and the interactions among those variants also could influence the distribution of diseases among groups. The difficulty that has been encountered in finding contributory alleles for complex diseases and in replicating positive associations suggests that many complex diseases involve numerous variants rather than a moderate number of alleles, and the influence of any given variant may depend in critical ways on the genetic and environmental background.[17][23][24][25] If many alleles are required to increase susceptibility to a disease, the odds are low that the necessary combination of alleles would become concentrated in a particular group purely through drift.[26]

One area in which population categories can be important considerations in genetics research is in controlling for confounding between population substructure, environmental exposures, and health outcomes. Association studies can produce spurious results if cases and controls have differing allele frequencies for genes that are not related to the disease being studied,[27] although the magnitude of this problem in genetic association studies is subject to debate.[28][29] Various methods have been developed to detect and account for population substructure,[30][31] but these methods can be difficult to apply in practice.[32]

Population substructure also can be used to advantage in genetic association studies. For example, populations that represent recent mixtures of geographically separated ancestral groups can exhibit longer-range linkage disequilibrium between susceptibility alleles and genetic markers than is the case for other populations.[33][34][35][36] Genetic studies can use this admixture linkage disequilibrium to search for disease alleles with fewer markers than would be needed otherwise. Association studies also can take advantage of the contrasting experiences of racial or ethnic groups, including migrant groups, to search for interactions between particular alleles and environmental factors that might influence health.[37][38]

Originally posted here:

Medical genetics – Wikipedia

Genetics – Wikipedia

This article is about the general scientific term. For the scientific journal, see Genetics (journal).

Science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms

Genetics is a branch of biology concerned with the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in living organisms.[1][2][3]

The discoverer of genetics is Gregor Mendel, a late 19th-century scientist and Augustinian friar. Mendel studied “trait inheritance”, patterns in the way traits are handed down from parents to offspring. He observed that organisms (pea plants) inherit traits by way of discrete “units of inheritance”. This term, still used today, is a somewhat ambiguous definition of what is referred to as a gene.

Trait inheritance and molecular inheritance mechanisms of genes are still primary principles of genetics in the 21st century, but modern genetics has expanded beyond inheritance to studying the function and behavior of genes. Gene structure and function, variation, and distribution are studied within the context of the cell, the organism (e.g. dominance), and within the context of a population. Genetics has given rise to a number of subfields, including epigenetics and population genetics. Organisms studied within the broad field span the domains of life (archaea, bacteria, and eukarya).

Genetic processes work in combination with an organism’s environment and experiences to influence development and behavior, often referred to as nature versus nurture. The intracellular or extracellular environment of a cell or organism may switch gene transcription on or off. A classic example is two seeds of genetically identical corn, one placed in a temperate climate and one in an arid climate. While the average height of the two corn stalks may be genetically determined to be equal, the one in the arid climate only grows to half the height of the one in the temperate climate due to lack of water and nutrients in its environment.

The word genetics stems from the ancient Greek genetikos meaning “genitive”/”generative”, which in turn derives from genesis meaning “origin”.[4][5][6]

The observation that living things inherit traits from their parents has been used since prehistoric times to improve crop plants and animals through selective breeding.[7] The modern science of genetics, seeking to understand this process, began with the work of the Augustinian friar Gregor Mendel in the mid-19th century.[8]

Prior to Mendel, Imre Festetics, a Hungarian noble, who lived in Kszeg before Mendel, was the first who used the word “genetics.” He described several rules of genetic inheritance in his work The genetic law of the Nature (Die genetische Gestze der Natur, 1819). His second law is the same as what Mendel published. In his third law, he developed the basic principles of mutation (he can be considered a forerunner of Hugo de Vries).[9]

Other theories of inheritance preceded Mendel’s work. A popular theory during the 19th century, and implied by Charles Darwin’s 1859 On the Origin of Species, was blending inheritance: the idea that individuals inherit a smooth blend of traits from their parents.[10] Mendel’s work provided examples where traits were definitely not blended after hybridization, showing that traits are produced by combinations of distinct genes rather than a continuous blend. Blending of traits in the progeny is now explained by the action of multiple genes with quantitative effects. Another theory that had some support at that time was the inheritance of acquired characteristics: the belief that individuals inherit traits strengthened by their parents. This theory (commonly associated with Jean-Baptiste Lamarck) is now known to be wrongthe experiences of individuals do not affect the genes they pass to their children,[11] although evidence in the field of epigenetics has revived some aspects of Lamarck’s theory.[12] Other theories included the pangenesis of Charles Darwin (which had both acquired and inherited aspects) and Francis Galton’s reformulation of pangenesis as both particulate and inherited.[13]

Modern genetics started with Mendel’s studies of the nature of inheritance in plants. In his paper “Versuche ber Pflanzenhybriden” (“Experiments on Plant Hybridization”), presented in 1865 to the Naturforschender Verein (Society for Research in Nature) in Brnn, Mendel traced the inheritance patterns of certain traits in pea plants and described them mathematically.[14] Although this pattern of inheritance could only be observed for a few traits, Mendel’s work suggested that heredity was particulate, not acquired, and that the inheritance patterns of many traits could be explained through simple rules and ratios.

The importance of Mendel’s work did not gain wide understanding until 1900, after his death, when Hugo de Vries and other scientists rediscovered his research. William Bateson, a proponent of Mendel’s work, coined the word genetics in 1905[15][16] (the adjective genetic, derived from the Greek word genesis, “origin”, predates the noun and was first used in a biological sense in 1860[17]). Bateson both acted as a mentor and was aided significantly by the work of female scientists from Newnham College at Cambridge, specifically the work of Becky Saunders, Nora Darwin Barlow, and Muriel Wheldale Onslow.[18] Bateson popularized the usage of the word genetics to describe the study of inheritance in his inaugural address to the Third International Conference on Plant Hybridization in London in 1906.[19]

After the rediscovery of Mendel’s work, scientists tried to determine which molecules in the cell were responsible for inheritance. In 1911, Thomas Hunt Morgan argued that genes are on chromosomes, based on observations of a sex-linked white eye mutation in fruit flies.[20] In 1913, his student Alfred Sturtevant used the phenomenon of genetic linkage to show that genes are arranged linearly on the chromosome.[21]

Although genes were known to exist on chromosomes, chromosomes are composed of both protein and DNA, and scientists did not know which of the two is responsible for inheritance. In 1928, Frederick Griffith discovered the phenomenon of transformation (see Griffith’s experiment): dead bacteria could transfer genetic material to “transform” other still-living bacteria. Sixteen years later, in 1944, the AveryMacLeodMcCarty experiment identified DNA as the molecule responsible for transformation.[22] The role of the nucleus as the repository of genetic information in eukaryotes had been established by Hmmerling in 1943 in his work on the single celled alga Acetabularia.[23] The HersheyChase experiment in 1952 confirmed that DNA (rather than protein) is the genetic material of the viruses that infect bacteria, providing further evidence that DNA is the molecule responsible for inheritance.[24]

James Watson and Francis Crick determined the structure of DNA in 1953, using the X-ray crystallography work of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins that indicated DNA has a helical structure (i.e., shaped like a corkscrew).[25][26] Their double-helix model had two strands of DNA with the nucleotides pointing inward, each matching a complementary nucleotide on the other strand to form what look like rungs on a twisted ladder.[27] This structure showed that genetic information exists in the sequence of nucleotides on each strand of DNA. The structure also suggested a simple method for replication: if the strands are separated, new partner strands can be reconstructed for each based on the sequence of the old strand. This property is what gives DNA its semi-conservative nature where one strand of new DNA is from an original parent strand.[28]

Although the structure of DNA showed how inheritance works, it was still not known how DNA influences the behavior of cells. In the following years, scientists tried to understand how DNA controls the process of protein production.[29] It was discovered that the cell uses DNA as a template to create matching messenger RNA, molecules with nucleotides very similar to DNA. The nucleotide sequence of a messenger RNA is used to create an amino acid sequence in protein; this translation between nucleotide sequences and amino acid sequences is known as the genetic code.[30]

With the newfound molecular understanding of inheritance came an explosion of research.[31] A notable theory arose from Tomoko Ohta in 1973 with her amendment to the neutral theory of molecular evolution through publishing the nearly neutral theory of molecular evolution. In this theory, Ohta stressed the importance of natural selection and the environment to the rate at which genetic evolution occurs.[32] One important development was chain-termination DNA sequencing in 1977 by Frederick Sanger. This technology allows scientists to read the nucleotide sequence of a DNA molecule.[33] In 1983, Kary Banks Mullis developed the polymerase chain reaction, providing a quick way to isolate and amplify a specific section of DNA from a mixture.[34] The efforts of the Human Genome Project, Department of Energy, NIH, and parallel private efforts by Celera Genomics led to the sequencing of the human genome in 2003.[35][36]

At its most fundamental level, inheritance in organisms occurs by passing discrete heritable units, called genes, from parents to offspring.[37] This property was first observed by Gregor Mendel, who studied the segregation of heritable traits in pea plants.[14][38] In his experiments studying the trait for flower color, Mendel observed that the flowers of each pea plant were either purple or whitebut never an intermediate between the two colors. These different, discrete versions of the same gene are called alleles.

In the case of the pea, which is a diploid species, each individual plant has two copies of each gene, one copy inherited from each parent.[39] Many species, including humans, have this pattern of inheritance. Diploid organisms with two copies of the same allele of a given gene are called homozygous at that gene locus, while organisms with two different alleles of a given gene are called heterozygous.

The set of alleles for a given organism is called its genotype, while the observable traits of the organism are called its phenotype. When organisms are heterozygous at a gene, often one allele is called dominant as its qualities dominate the phenotype of the organism, while the other allele is called recessive as its qualities recede and are not observed. Some alleles do not have complete dominance and instead have incomplete dominance by expressing an intermediate phenotype, or codominance by expressing both alleles at once.[40]

When a pair of organisms reproduce sexually, their offspring randomly inherit one of the two alleles from each parent. These observations of discrete inheritance and the segregation of alleles are collectively known as Mendel’s first law or the Law of Segregation.

Geneticists use diagrams and symbols to describe inheritance. A gene is represented by one or a few letters. Often a “+” symbol is used to mark the usual, non-mutant allele for a gene.[41]

In fertilization and breeding experiments (and especially when discussing Mendel’s laws) the parents are referred to as the “P” generation and the offspring as the “F1” (first filial) generation. When the F1 offspring mate with each other, the offspring are called the “F2” (second filial) generation. One of the common diagrams used to predict the result of cross-breeding is the Punnett square.

When studying human genetic diseases, geneticists often use pedigree charts to represent the inheritance of traits.[42] These charts map the inheritance of a trait in a family tree.

Organisms have thousands of genes, and in sexually reproducing organisms these genes generally assort independently of each other. This means that the inheritance of an allele for yellow or green pea color is unrelated to the inheritance of alleles for white or purple flowers. This phenomenon, known as “Mendel’s second law” or the “law of independent assortment,” means that the alleles of different genes get shuffled between parents to form offspring with many different combinations. (Some genes do not assort independently, demonstrating genetic linkage, a topic discussed later in this article.)

Often different genes can interact in a way that influences the same trait. In the Blue-eyed Mary (Omphalodes verna), for example, there exists a gene with alleles that determine the color of flowers: blue or magenta. Another gene, however, controls whether the flowers have color at all or are white. When a plant has two copies of this white allele, its flowers are whiteregardless of whether the first gene has blue or magenta alleles. This interaction between genes is called epistasis, with the second gene epistatic to the first.[43]

Many traits are not discrete features (e.g. purple or white flowers) but are instead continuous features (e.g. human height and skin color). These complex traits are products of many genes.[44] The influence of these genes is mediated, to varying degrees, by the environment an organism has experienced. The degree to which an organism’s genes contribute to a complex trait is called heritability.[45] Measurement of the heritability of a trait is relativein a more variable environment, the environment has a bigger influence on the total variation of the trait. For example, human height is a trait with complex causes. It has a heritability of 89% in the United States. In Nigeria, however, where people experience a more variable access to good nutrition and health care, height has a heritability of only 62%.[46]

The molecular basis for genes is deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). DNA is composed of a chain of nucleotides, of which there are four types: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). Genetic information exists in the sequence of these nucleotides, and genes exist as stretches of sequence along the DNA chain.[47] Viruses are the only exception to this rulesometimes viruses use the very similar molecule RNA instead of DNA as their genetic material.[48] Viruses cannot reproduce without a host and are unaffected by many genetic processes, so tend not to be considered living organisms.

DNA normally exists as a double-stranded molecule, coiled into the shape of a double helix. Each nucleotide in DNA preferentially pairs with its partner nucleotide on the opposite strand: A pairs with T, and C pairs with G. Thus, in its two-stranded form, each strand effectively contains all necessary information, redundant with its partner strand. This structure of DNA is the physical basis for inheritance: DNA replication duplicates the genetic information by splitting the strands and using each strand as a template for synthesis of a new partner strand.[49]

Genes are arranged linearly along long chains of DNA base-pair sequences. In bacteria, each cell usually contains a single circular genophore, while eukaryotic organisms (such as plants and animals) have their DNA arranged in multiple linear chromosomes. These DNA strands are often extremely long; the largest human chromosome, for example, is about 247 million base pairs in length.[50] The DNA of a chromosome is associated with structural proteins that organize, compact, and control access to the DNA, forming a material called chromatin; in eukaryotes, chromatin is usually composed of nucleosomes, segments of DNA wound around cores of histone proteins.[51] The full set of hereditary material in an organism (usually the combined DNA sequences of all chromosomes) is called the genome.

While haploid organisms have only one copy of each chromosome, most animals and many plants are diploid, containing two of each chromosome and thus two copies of every gene.[39] The two alleles for a gene are located on identical loci of the two homologous chromosomes, each allele inherited from a different parent.

Many species have so-called sex chromosomes that determine the gender of each organism.[52] In humans and many other animals, the Y chromosome contains the gene that triggers the development of the specifically male characteristics. In evolution, this chromosome has lost most of its content and also most of its genes, while the X chromosome is similar to the other chromosomes and contains many genes. The X and Y chromosomes form a strongly heterogeneous pair.

When cells divide, their full genome is copied and each daughter cell inherits one copy. This process, called mitosis, is the simplest form of reproduction and is the basis for asexual reproduction. Asexual reproduction can also occur in multicellular organisms, producing offspring that inherit their genome from a single parent. Offspring that are genetically identical to their parents are called clones.

Eukaryotic organisms often use sexual reproduction to generate offspring that contain a mixture of genetic material inherited from two different parents. The process of sexual reproduction alternates between forms that contain single copies of the genome (haploid) and double copies (diploid).[39] Haploid cells fuse and combine genetic material to create a diploid cell with paired chromosomes. Diploid organisms form haploids by dividing, without replicating their DNA, to create daughter cells that randomly inherit one of each pair of chromosomes. Most animals and many plants are diploid for most of their lifespan, with the haploid form reduced to single cell gametes such as sperm or eggs.

Although they do not use the haploid/diploid method of sexual reproduction, bacteria have many methods of acquiring new genetic information. Some bacteria can undergo conjugation, transferring a small circular piece of DNA to another bacterium.[53] Bacteria can also take up raw DNA fragments found in the environment and integrate them into their genomes, a phenomenon known as transformation.[54] These processes result in horizontal gene transfer, transmitting fragments of genetic information between organisms that would be otherwise unrelated.

The diploid nature of chromosomes allows for genes on different chromosomes to assort independently or be separated from their homologous pair during sexual reproduction wherein haploid gametes are formed. In this way new combinations of genes can occur in the offspring of a mating pair. Genes on the same chromosome would theoretically never recombine. However, they do, via the cellular process of chromosomal crossover. During crossover, chromosomes exchange stretches of DNA, effectively shuffling the gene alleles between the chromosomes.[55] This process of chromosomal crossover generally occurs during meiosis, a series of cell divisions that creates haploid cells.

The first cytological demonstration of crossing over was performed by Harriet Creighton and Barbara McClintock in 1931. Their research and experiments on corn provided cytological evidence for the genetic theory that linked genes on paired chromosomes do in fact exchange places from one homolog to the other.[56]

The probability of chromosomal crossover occurring between two given points on the chromosome is related to the distance between the points. For an arbitrarily long distance, the probability of crossover is high enough that the inheritance of the genes is effectively uncorrelated.[57] For genes that are closer together, however, the lower probability of crossover means that the genes demonstrate genetic linkage; alleles for the two genes tend to be inherited together. The amounts of linkage between a series of genes can be combined to form a linear linkage map that roughly describes the arrangement of the genes along the chromosome.[58]

Genes generally express their functional effect through the production of proteins, which are complex molecules responsible for most functions in the cell. Proteins are made up of one or more polypeptide chains, each of which is composed of a sequence of amino acids, and the DNA sequence of a gene (through an RNA intermediate) is used to produce a specific amino acid sequence. This process begins with the production of an RNA molecule with a sequence matching the gene’s DNA sequence, a process called transcription.

This messenger RNA molecule is then used to produce a corresponding amino acid sequence through a process called translation. Each group of three nucleotides in the sequence, called a codon, corresponds either to one of the twenty possible amino acids in a protein or an instruction to end the amino acid sequence; this correspondence is called the genetic code.[59] The flow of information is unidirectional: information is transferred from nucleotide sequences into the amino acid sequence of proteins, but it never transfers from protein back into the sequence of DNAa phenomenon Francis Crick called the central dogma of molecular biology.[60]

The specific sequence of amino acids results in a unique three-dimensional structure for that protein, and the three-dimensional structures of proteins are related to their functions.[61][62] Some are simple structural molecules, like the fibers formed by the protein collagen. Proteins can bind to other proteins and simple molecules, sometimes acting as enzymes by facilitating chemical reactions within the bound molecules (without changing the structure of the protein itself). Protein structure is dynamic; the protein hemoglobin bends into slightly different forms as it facilitates the capture, transport, and release of oxygen molecules within mammalian blood.

A single nucleotide difference within DNA can cause a change in the amino acid sequence of a protein. Because protein structures are the result of their amino acid sequences, some changes can dramatically change the properties of a protein by destabilizing the structure or changing the surface of the protein in a way that changes its interaction with other proteins and molecules. For example, sickle-cell anemia is a human genetic disease that results from a single base difference within the coding region for the -globin section of hemoglobin, causing a single amino acid change that changes hemoglobin’s physical properties.[63] Sickle-cell versions of hemoglobin stick to themselves, stacking to form fibers that distort the shape of red blood cells carrying the protein. These sickle-shaped cells no longer flow smoothly through blood vessels, having a tendency to clog or degrade, causing the medical problems associated with this disease.

Some DNA sequences are transcribed into RNA but are not translated into protein productssuch RNA molecules are called non-coding RNA. In some cases, these products fold into structures which are involved in critical cell functions (e.g. ribosomal RNA and transfer RNA). RNA can also have regulatory effects through hybridization interactions with other RNA molecules (e.g. microRNA).

Although genes contain all the information an organism uses to function, the environment plays an important role in determining the ultimate phenotypes an organism displays. The phrase “nature and nurture” refers to this complementary relationship. The phenotype of an organism depends on the interaction of genes and the environment. An interesting example is the coat coloration of the Siamese cat. In this case, the body temperature of the cat plays the role of the environment. The cat’s genes code for dark hair, thus the hair-producing cells in the cat make cellular proteins resulting in dark hair. But these dark hair-producing proteins are sensitive to temperature (i.e. have a mutation causing temperature-sensitivity) and denature in higher-temperature environments, failing to produce dark-hair pigment in areas where the cat has a higher body temperature. In a low-temperature environment, however, the protein’s structure is stable and produces dark-hair pigment normally. The protein remains functional in areas of skin that are coldersuch as its legs, ears, tail and faceso the cat has dark-hair at its extremities.[64]

Environment plays a major role in effects of the human genetic disease phenylketonuria.[65] The mutation that causes phenylketonuria disrupts the ability of the body to break down the amino acid phenylalanine, causing a toxic build-up of an intermediate molecule that, in turn, causes severe symptoms of progressive intellectual disability and seizures. However, if someone with the phenylketonuria mutation follows a strict diet that avoids this amino acid, they remain normal and healthy.

A common method for determining how genes and environment (“nature and nurture”) contribute to a phenotype involves studying identical and fraternal twins, or other siblings of multiple births.[66] Because identical siblings come from the same zygote, they are genetically the same. Fraternal twins are as genetically different from one another as normal siblings. By comparing how often a certain disorder occurs in a pair of identical twins to how often it occurs in a pair of fraternal twins, scientists can determine whether that disorder is caused by genetic or postnatal environmental factors whether it has “nature” or “nurture” causes. One famous example involved the study of the Genain quadruplets, who were identical quadruplets all diagnosed with schizophrenia.[67]However such tests cannot separate genetic factors from environmental factors affecting fetal development.

The genome of a given organism contains thousands of genes, but not all these genes need to be active at any given moment. A gene is expressed when it is being transcribed into mRNA and there exist many cellular methods of controlling the expression of genes such that proteins are produced only when needed by the cell. Transcription factors are regulatory proteins that bind to DNA, either promoting or inhibiting the transcription of a gene.[68] Within the genome of Escherichia coli bacteria, for example, there exists a series of genes necessary for the synthesis of the amino acid tryptophan. However, when tryptophan is already available to the cell, these genes for tryptophan synthesis are no longer needed. The presence of tryptophan directly affects the activity of the genestryptophan molecules bind to the tryptophan repressor (a transcription factor), changing the repressor’s structure such that the repressor binds to the genes. The tryptophan repressor blocks the transcription and expression of the genes, thereby creating negative feedback regulation of the tryptophan synthesis process.[69]

Differences in gene expression are especially clear within multicellular organisms, where cells all contain the same genome but have very different structures and behaviors due to the expression of different sets of genes. All the cells in a multicellular organism derive from a single cell, differentiating into variant cell types in response to external and intercellular signals and gradually establishing different patterns of gene expression to create different behaviors. As no single gene is responsible for the development of structures within multicellular organisms, these patterns arise from the complex interactions between many cells.

Within eukaryotes, there exist structural features of chromatin that influence the transcription of genes, often in the form of modifications to DNA and chromatin that are stably inherited by daughter cells.[70] These features are called “epigenetic” because they exist “on top” of the DNA sequence and retain inheritance from one cell generation to the next. Because of epigenetic features, different cell types grown within the same medium can retain very different properties. Although epigenetic features are generally dynamic over the course of development, some, like the phenomenon of paramutation, have multigenerational inheritance and exist as rare exceptions to the general rule of DNA as the basis for inheritance.[71]

During the process of DNA replication, errors occasionally occur in the polymerization of the second strand. These errors, called mutations, can affect the phenotype of an organism, especially if they occur within the protein coding sequence of a gene. Error rates are usually very low1 error in every 10100million basesdue to the “proofreading” ability of DNA polymerases.[72][73] Processes that increase the rate of changes in DNA are called mutagenic: mutagenic chemicals promote errors in DNA replication, often by interfering with the structure of base-pairing, while UV radiation induces mutations by causing damage to the DNA structure.[74] Chemical damage to DNA occurs naturally as well and cells use DNA repair mechanisms to repair mismatches and breaks. The repair does not, however, always restore the original sequence.

In organisms that use chromosomal crossover to exchange DNA and recombine genes, errors in alignment during meiosis can also cause mutations.[75] Errors in crossover are especially likely when similar sequences cause partner chromosomes to adopt a mistaken alignment; this makes some regions in genomes more prone to mutating in this way. These errors create large structural changes in DNA sequence duplications, inversions, deletions of entire regions or the accidental exchange of whole parts of sequences between different chromosomes (chromosomal translocation).

Mutations alter an organism’s genotype and occasionally this causes different phenotypes to appear. Most mutations have little effect on an organism’s phenotype, health, or reproductive fitness.[76] Mutations that do have an effect are usually detrimental, but occasionally some can be beneficial.[77] Studies in the fly Drosophila melanogaster suggest that if a mutation changes a protein produced by a gene, about 70 percent of these mutations will be harmful with the remainder being either neutral or weakly beneficial.[78]

Population genetics studies the distribution of genetic differences within populations and how these distributions change over time.[79] Changes in the frequency of an allele in a population are mainly influenced by natural selection, where a given allele provides a selective or reproductive advantage to the organism,[80] as well as other factors such as mutation, genetic drift, genetic hitchhiking,[81] artificial selection and migration.[82]

Over many generations, the genomes of organisms can change significantly, resulting in evolution. In the process called adaptation, selection for beneficial mutations can cause a species to evolve into forms better able to survive in their environment.[83] New species are formed through the process of speciation, often caused by geographical separations that prevent populations from exchanging genes with each other.[84]

By comparing the homology between different species’ genomes, it is possible to calculate the evolutionary distance between them and when they may have diverged. Genetic comparisons are generally considered a more accurate method of characterizing the relatedness between species than the comparison of phenotypic characteristics. The evolutionary distances between species can be used to form evolutionary trees; these trees represent the common descent and divergence of species over time, although they do not show the transfer of genetic material between unrelated species (known as horizontal gene transfer and most common in bacteria).[85]

Although geneticists originally studied inheritance in a wide range of organisms, researchers began to specialize in studying the genetics of a particular subset of organisms. The fact that significant research already existed for a given organism would encourage new researchers to choose it for further study, and so eventually a few model organisms became the basis for most genetics research.[86] Common research topics in model organism genetics include the study of gene regulation and the involvement of genes in development and cancer.

Organisms were chosen, in part, for convenienceshort generation times and easy genetic manipulation made some organisms popular genetics research tools. Widely used model organisms include the gut bacterium Escherichia coli, the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, baker’s yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae), the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, the common fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster), and the common house mouse (Mus musculus).

Medical genetics seeks to understand how genetic variation relates to human health and disease.[87] When searching for an unknown gene that may be involved in a disease, researchers commonly use genetic linkage and genetic pedigree charts to find the location on the genome associated with the disease. At the population level, researchers take advantage of Mendelian randomization to look for locations in the genome that are associated with diseases, a method especially useful for multigenic traits not clearly defined by a single gene.[88] Once a candidate gene is found, further research is often done on the corresponding (or homologous) genes of model organisms. In addition to studying genetic diseases, the increased availability of genotyping methods has led to the field of pharmacogenetics: the study of how genotype can affect drug responses.[89]

Individuals differ in their inherited tendency to develop cancer,[90] and cancer is a genetic disease.[91] The process of cancer development in the body is a combination of events. Mutations occasionally occur within cells in the body as they divide. Although these mutations will not be inherited by any offspring, they can affect the behavior of cells, sometimes causing them to grow and divide more frequently. There are biological mechanisms that attempt to stop this process; signals are given to inappropriately dividing cells that should trigger cell death, but sometimes additional mutations occur that cause cells to ignore these messages. An internal process of natural selection occurs within the body and eventually mutations accumulate within cells to promote their own growth, creating a cancerous tumor that grows and invades various tissues of the body.

Normally, a cell divides only in response to signals called growth factors and stops growing once in contact with surrounding cells and in response to growth-inhibitory signals. It usually then divides a limited number of times and dies, staying within the epithelium where it is unable to migrate to other organs. To become a cancer cell, a cell has to accumulate mutations in a number of genes (three to seven) that allow it to bypass this regulation: it no longer needs growth factors to divide, continues growing when making contact to neighbor cells, ignores inhibitory signals, keeps growing indefinitely and is immortal, escapes from the epithelium and ultimately may be able to escape from the primary tumor, cross the endothelium of a blood vessel, be transported by the bloodstream and colonize a new organ, forming deadly metastasis. Although there are some genetic predispositions in a small fraction of cancers, the major fraction is due to a set of new genetic mutations that originally appear and accumulate in one or a small number of cells that will divide to form the tumor and are not transmitted to the progeny (somatic mutations). The most frequent mutations are a loss of function of p53 protein, a tumor suppressor, or in the p53 pathway, and gain of function mutations in the Ras proteins, or in other oncogenes.

DNA can be manipulated in the laboratory. Restriction enzymes are commonly used enzymes that cut DNA at specific sequences, producing predictable fragments of DNA.[92] DNA fragments can be visualized through use of gel electrophoresis, which separates fragments according to their length.

The use of ligation enzymes allows DNA fragments to be connected. By binding (“ligating”) fragments of DNA together from different sources, researchers can create recombinant DNA, the DNA often associated with genetically modified organisms. Recombinant DNA is commonly used in the context of plasmids: short circular DNA molecules with a few genes on them. In the process known as molecular cloning, researchers can amplify the DNA fragments by inserting plasmids into bacteria and then culturing them on plates of agar (to isolate clones of bacteria cells “cloning” can also refer to the various means of creating cloned (“clonal”) organisms).

DNA can also be amplified using a procedure called the polymerase chain reaction (PCR).[93] By using specific short sequences of DNA, PCR can isolate and exponentially amplify a targeted region of DNA. Because it can amplify from extremely small amounts of DNA, PCR is also often used to detect the presence of specific DNA sequences.

DNA sequencing, one of the most fundamental technologies developed to study genetics, allows researchers to determine the sequence of nucleotides in DNA fragments. The technique of chain-termination sequencing, developed in 1977 by a team led by Frederick Sanger, is still routinely used to sequence DNA fragments.[94] Using this technology, researchers have been able to study the molecular sequences associated with many human diseases.

As sequencing has become less expensive, researchers have sequenced the genomes of many organisms using a process called genome assembly, which utilizes computational tools to stitch together sequences from many different fragments.[95] These technologies were used to sequence the human genome in the Human Genome Project completed in 2003.[35] New high-throughput sequencing technologies are dramatically lowering the cost of DNA sequencing, with many researchers hoping to bring the cost of resequencing a human genome down to a thousand dollars.[96]

Next-generation sequencing (or high-throughput sequencing) came about due to the ever-increasing demand for low-cost sequencing. These sequencing technologies allow the production of potentially millions of sequences concurrently.[97][98] The large amount of sequence data available has created the field of genomics, research that uses computational tools to search for and analyze patterns in the full genomes of organisms. Genomics can also be considered a subfield of bioinformatics, which uses computational approaches to analyze large sets of biological data. A common problem to these fields of research is how to manage and share data that deals with human subject and personally identifiable information. See also genomics data sharing.

On 19 March 2015, a group of leading biologists urged a worldwide ban on clinical use of methods, particularly the use of CRISPR and zinc finger, to edit the human genome in a way that can be inherited.[99][100][101][102] In April 2015, Chinese researchers reported results of basic research to edit the DNA of non-viable human embryos using CRISPR.[103][104]

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Genetics – Wikipedia

Genetic Testing for Personalized Medicine and … – Genomind

The complexity of biological systems is astounding, and to us at Genomind, this means understanding and treating the whole person as something much greater than the sum of his or her parts.

Mindful DNA Professional is a genetic test that uses systems biology, patient individuality, and our Philosophy of Domains to analyze gene networks that influence health and wellness. The test is grounded in Genominds expertise in brain health and core belief in the importance of mind-body connection.

To learn more about the test, please click the For Providers or the For Patients button below.

For Providers For Patients

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About the Fred A. Litwin Family Centre in Genetic Medicine

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About the Fred A. Litwin Family Centre in Genetic Medicine

AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Nightmare Fuel

Someone programmed an AI to dream up Halloween masks, and the results are absolute nightmare fuel. Seriously, just look at some of these things.

“What’s so scary or unsettling about it is that it’s not so detailed that it shows you everything,” said Matt Reed, the creator of the masks, in an interview with New Scientist. “It leaves just enough open for your imagination to connect the dots.”

A selection of masks featured on Reed’s twitter. Credit: Matt Reed/Twitter

Creative Horror

To create the masks, Reed — whose day job is as a technologist at a creative agency called redpepper — fed an open source AI tool 5,000 pictures of Halloween masks he sourced from Google Images. He then instructed the tool to generate its own masks.

The fun and spooky project is yet another sign that AI is coming into its own as a creative tool. Just yesterday, a portrait generated by a similar system fetched more than $400,000 at a prominent British auction house.

And Reed’s masks are evocative. Here at the Byte, if we looked through the peephole and saw one of these on a trick or treater, we might not open our door.

READ MORE: AI Designed These Halloween Masks and They Are Absolutely Terrifying [New Scientist]

More on AI-generated art: Generated Art Will Go on Sale Alongside Human-Made Works This Fall

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AI Dreamed Up These Nightmare Fuel Halloween Masks

Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics

Over and Over

“The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding. The security robot is patrolling. Ding-ding. Ding-ding.”

That’s what Olympic attendees will hear ad nauseam when they step onto the platforms of Tokyo’s train stations in 2020. The source: Perseusbot, a robot security guard Japanese developers unveiled to the press on Thursday.

Observe and Report

According to reporting by Kyodo News, the purpose of the AI-powered Perseusbot is to lower the burden on the stations’ staff when visitors flood Tokyo during the 2020 Olympics.

The robot is roughly 5.5 feet tall and equipped with security cameras that allow it to note suspicious behaviors, such as signs of violence breaking out or unattended packages, as it autonomous patrols the area. It can then alert security staff to the issues by sending notifications directly to their smart phones.

Prior Prepration

Just like the athletes who will head to Tokyo in 2020, Perseusbot already has a training program in the works — it’ll patrol Tokyo’s Seibu Shinjuku Station from November 26 to 30. This dry run should give the bot’s developers a chance to work out any kinks before 2020.

If all goes as hoped, the bot will be ready to annoy attendees with its incessant chant before the Olympic torch is lit. And, you know, keep everyone safe, too.

READ MORE: Robot Station Security Guard Unveiled Ahead of 2020 Tokyo Olympics [Kyodo News]

More robot security guards: Robot Security Guards Are Just the Beginning

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Robot Security Guards Will Constantly Nag Spectators at the Tokyo Olympics


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