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Biology - Genetics

Genetics is the field of science which examines how traits are passed from one generation to another. Genetics affects everything about every living thing on earth. An organism’s genes control how it looks, behaves and reproduces. It is critical to understand genetics as a foundation for all sciences, including agriculture and medicine.

Genetics is divided into four major subdivisions:

Classical genetics

Describes how traits are passed along from one generation to the next.

Molecular genetics

The study of the chemical and physical structures of DNA, RNA and proteins.

Population genetics

Takes Mendelian genetics and ramps it up to look at the genetic makeup of larger groups.

Quantitive genetics

A highly mathematical field examining the statistical relationships between genes and the traits they encode.

Classical genetics...

Classical genetics is the original form of genetics, and in many ways, it is still the best. Classical genetics is the genetics of individuals and their families, it focuses mostly on studying physical traits as a stand-in for the genes that control appearance, or phenotype.

Classical genetics is sometimes referred to as:

Mendelian genetics

Transmission genetics

Classical genetics includes the study of cells and chromosomes. Cell division is the machine that runs inheritance. Classical genetics provides the framework for many subdisciplines. Genetic counselling depends on understanding patterns of inheritance to interpret people’s medical histories from a genetics perspective. The study of chromosome disorders relies on cell biology and understanding what happens during cells division. Forensics also uses Mendelian genetics to determine paternity and work out who’s who with DNA fingerprinting.

Molecular genetics...

Molecular genetics is the study of actual genes. The area of operations for molecular genetics includes all the machinery that runs cells and manufactures the structures called for by the instructions found in the genes. Molecular genetics focuses on the physical and chemical structures of the DNA, double helix. The messages in your DNA constitute the instructions for your appearance and everything else about you, from how your muscles function and how you eyes blink, to your blood type, and your susceptibility to particular diseases.

Genes are expressed through a complex system of inheritance that begins with copying the DNA into a temporary form known as RNA. RNA carries DNA through the process of translation, which is like taking a blue-print to a factory to guide the manufacturing process. Where genes are concerned, the factory makes the proteins that get folded in complex ways to make living organisms.

The study of gene expression and how the genetic code works at the levels of DNA and RNA is considered part of molecular genetics.

Population genetics...

Population genetics is the study of genetic diversity of a particular species. It is a search for patterns that help describe the genetic signature of a particular group. Population genetics helps scientists understand how the collective genetic diversity of a population influences the health of individuals within the population.

Describing the genetics of populations from a mathematical point is critical to forensics. To pinpoint the uniqueness of one fingerprint, geneticists have to sample the genetic fingerprints of many individuals and decide how common or rare a certain pattern might be.

Medicine also uses population genetics to determine how common mutations are and in an attempt to develop new medicines to treat diseases.

Quantitive genetics...

Quantitive genetics examines traits that vary in very subtle ways and relates those traits to the underlying genetics of organisms.

Quantitive genetics take a rather complex statistical approach to estimate how much variation in a certain trait is due to the environment and how much is genetic.

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