AsianScientist (Jul. 21, 2016) – Within even the simplest of organisms—single-celled bacteria, for example— information from thousands of genes directs an intricate ballet of proteins and an overwhelming variety of other molecules. How can we understand what makes these organisms tick, to say nothing of more complex beings such as ourselves?
In 1920, German botany professor Hans Winkler invented the word ‘genome,’ a portmanteau of ‘gene’ and ‘chromosome,’ to describe the complete set of an organism’s genes. Nearly 70 years later, the Human Genome Project—the effort to map all 3.3 billion base pairs of human DNA—launched the field of genomics into the spotlight.
Enabled by high-throughput technologies, bioinformatics tools and powerful computing resources, other ‘omics disciplines soon followed, and more continue to emerge. These have allowed us to study not only DNA, but also other classes of molecules such as RNA, proteins and metabolites in a comprehensive, large-scale manner. Together, they hold promise for helping us understand complex phenomena such as the molecular basis of human diseases.
Asian Scientist Magazine brings you ten ‘omics approaches that are letting us do biology on an unprecedented scale.
Material studied: DNA
Methods used: Shotgun sequencing, high-throughput sequencing
The one that started it all, genomics is the study of the structure and function of an organism’s complete set of DNA—its genome. This includes protein-coding genes as well as non-coding regions that regulate gene expression.
Advances in DNA sequencing technologies have allowed us to decode the genomes of complex, multi-cellular organisms such as humans. Our genome of roughly three billion base pairs holds answers to complex diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease.
And the goal? Genomic medicine, in which better outcomes are achieved by treatments that are tailored to each patient’s genetic makeup.