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Genetics is a branch of biology that involves studying genes, which are the basic units of heredity. Genes are found in every living organism and are inherited from the parents. They enable the continuation of a species as well as the formation of a new species through evolution. The genes contain information on the characteristics and functions of living organisms. They determine the appearance of the organism and its abilities. The diversity that is observed within living organisms is caused by the expression of these genes. Genetics has led to advances in medicine, biotechnology, molecular biology and recombinant DNA technology.
Genes and DNA
Genes are made of a biomolecule known as deoxyribonucleic acid, (DNA) which is found in the chromosomes. DNA is the chemical that codes the genetic information that is found in all living things. It is the hereditary material that is passed on to other cells through genes. During cell division, copies of the DNA are made and the chromosome number in the cell doubles. The new cell is then formed with the exact number of chromosomes as the parent. DNA is made of four bases, which occur in a sequence to form a DNA strand. The bases pair, adenine with thymine and guanine with cytosine, to form two strands of DNA. The two strands then coil to form a DNA double helix.
Heredity and Genetics
Heredity is the passing on of biological information or traits from the parents to the offspring cells or organisms. The heredity of genes is enabled by the ability of DNA to replicate itself and produce exact copies. This occurs during cell division, whereby the DNA double helix opens up to give two strands. Each strand is a template that is used to produce other similar copies of DNA. New cells have exact copies of DNA as the parent cells. This is how genes are inherited by the offspring, enabling them to have traits that are similar to those of the parents. Variations tend to occur during inheritance causing mutations which are the basis for evolution.
The History of genetics
The study of genes and their heredity began with the theories of evolution and natural selection. The ancient theories developed by philosophers, such as Aristotle and Hippocrates, on inheritance, created a basis for genetics. Further research carried out by Charles Darwin and Wallace in later years enabled scientists to understand the origin of species and their variations. The role of genes in this phenomenon was then explained by Gregor Mendel, who is the pioneer of modern-day genetics. Mendel carried out breeding experiments on different types of peas in 1863. He found patterns in the inheritance of traits that could be explained through statistical analysis.
Mendel discovered genes and described them as factors that did not change and were passed on from the parents to the offspring. He explained heredity through the laws of segregation and independent assortment. His work was largely unknown until the early 20th century when his theories were established through further research. Mendel’s work was continued by other scientists leading to the discovery of the DNA as the genetic material that codes traits. Modern research in genetics has been focused on developing new research tools and the application of genetics in diagnosis and therapy. Many advances have been made leading to a deeper knowledge of genes.
The gene theory is the basis of genetics, which explains that genes are the basic units of heredity. The theory is based on the work of Gregor Mendel who first introduced genes. Mendel found that genes were constant factors that were passed on from the parents to the offspring. He also speculated that when producing offspring, each parent provided a set of traits that were combined to form another unique individual. This speculation was found to be true and it forms a part of the gene theory. In sexual reproduction, each of the parents’ gametes has a half set of chromosomes. They combine to form a full set of chromosomes and develop a new and unique individual. Due to this combination of traits, no two organism are exactly alike.
Mendel discovered that a gene could occur in two different forms. These different forms of a gene are known as alleles, and they determine the characteristics of an organism. For example, the gene for height occurs as both tall and short. Organisms, therefore, have two sets of chromosomes that contain the different forms of a trait. The chromosomes pair when forming a new individual and the traits coded are expressed. When blending different traits, there are dominant traits that are always expressed and recessive traits that are suppressed. When an organism has two similar alleles for a trait it is said to be homozygous, and when it has both the dominant and recessive alleles, it is said to be heterozygous.
The scientists who study genetics are known as geneticists. They identify the specific genes in an organism and their heredity. Geneticists also study how these genes interact to enable the organism to function. They analyze the variations that exist among organisms and determine their genetic causes. Geneticists mostly work in laboratories where they use scientific methods and equipment to study genes. Currently, geneticists are mainly researching on the applications of genetics in medicine. The normal routine of a geneticist involves activities such as isolating and analysing biomolecules, carrying out research projects, reviewing the work of other researchers, and writing scientific reports to share their findings.
One requires at least a bachelor’s degree in genetics or a related field to become a geneticist. Further studies are beneficial in enabling a geneticist to specialize in one area of study. The levels of experience and education influence the position and pay that a geneticist gets at the workplace. Geneticists should have strong analytical skills for use in carrying out scientific experiments. They should be keen on detail and have a high level of accuracy and precision when carrying out research. The knowledge of biology is necessary for genetics because genes are found in living organisms. In case you encounter difficulty in this study, college biology help from experts is always available.