GENES, GENETICS, AND HUMAN GENOMICS

GENES, GENETICS, AND HUMAN GENOMICS

INTRODUCTION

In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, major discoveries and scientific advances in physical and biological sciences led to the Industrial Revolution and the massive transformation of the global landscape and standards of living. Towards the end of the last millennium, tremendous growth in the sophistication of the biological sciences was harnessed in medicine, the food industry, and related industries. This was aided by major applications and translations of physical sciences, particularly in the fields of computing and information technology.

New discoveries and innovations in biological sciences during the five decades preceding the twenty-first century have centered on genetics and genomics. It took just over 50 years following the unraveling of the structure of the molecule of nucleic acids, the key unit of the biological life, for scientists to embark on sequencing of major organisms’ entire genetic constitution or genome. The word genome includes gene and ome, implying complete knowledge of all genes and related elements in any  single organism. Inevitably, this led to enthusiastic expansion of the whole science and thence to the emergence of genomics.1 The suffix –omics, derived from the ancient Greek, refers to in-depth knowledge. Not surprisingly, genomics was followed by a plethora of related –omics; for example, proteomics, metabolomics, transcriptomics, and so on.2 Currently, we have over 30 such disciplines with the –omics suffix.

The ultimate goal of any scientific discipline is its translation for the benefit of all humans, crossing all possible barriers and boundaries. Major advances in medicine and health were only possible through understanding basic  principles  and  mechanisms  underlying  disease  processes.  This  was facilitated by rapid applications of physical and chemical sciences in medicine and health; for example, X-ray diagnostics, ultrasound diagnosis, microbiology diagnosis, immune-histochemical diagnosis, and finally, molecular diagnosis. Developments and advances in genetics have led to a better understanding of the principles governing heredity and the familial transmission of physical characteristics and diseases, better understanding of the pathophysiology of diseases, the development of new methods of clinical and laboratory diagnosis, and innovative approaches to making early diagnoses (e.g., prenatal diagnoses and newborn screening) and offering reproductive choices, including pre-implantation genetic diagnoses. All these developments are now accepted within the broad fields of human genetics, medical genetics, clinical genetics, and (lately) genetic medicine. Not surprisingly, the field remains wide open, encompassing the massive field of human genomics appropriately named genomic medicine.3

This chapter leads the section titled “Principles of Genomic Medicine.” It is anticipated that the reader, probably less informed than the specialists herein (or even uninformed), might find this helpful in grasping the concepts of heredity, genes, genetics, and genomics. It is expected that the reader will proceed to further chapters in this section and the second section, “Practice of Genomic Medicine,” better equipped with the introduction to genetic/genome sciences, genetic diseases, genetics and genomics in medicine, applications in public health, and specific issues related to society, ethics, and law. The reader will find a major change in the organization and presentation of material in this book from that of the previous edition.4

THE HEREDITY

The concept of heredity dates back several hundreds and even thousands of years. It is evident in all forms of biological life and evolution. Evolutionary scientists, philosophers, and biologists have used “heredity” to put forward their views on procreation, development, adaptation, and the transmission of species-specific traits. The popular Darwinian theory of natural selection rests on the core concept of the transmission of hereditary factors.5 For several thousand years, various descriptions and explanations have been put forward to define the physical shape and functional nature of hereditary factors. From ancient times, and in almost every civilization, intense debate and  arguments have failed to arrive at a consensus. Most arguments focused on whether the hereditary factor was a creation by God, a new product fresh from the soil and water, or something in the blood and in the semen. The symbolic representation of the phallus in ancient sculptures and paintings of the Indian subcontinent is an example of the concept that the phallus, and thus semen, is a key factor in the creation and transmission of individuals’ (including families’) physical traits and behavior characteristics.

In the historical context, the concept of the gene was introduced only recently as the most acceptable answer to explain one of the hereditary factors. It is unclear when and by whom this term was first introduced. It does not matter, as the term gene (from the Greek genos, race) is now universally accepted and used in the context of understanding heredity, and is probably the single most important biological factor regulating biological life, ranging from single-cell organisms to multicellular mammals. Rapid and extraordinary scientific progress made during nineteenth and twentieth centuries has led to the development of genetics, the science of heredity. This has now been transformed into the broader field of genomics that includes all genes with all possible biologically active, heritable, regulatory and evolutionary genetic elements, whether recent or extending back through several thousand years of life on our planet.

In biological terms, genes, genetics, and genomics are keys to procreation, development, growth, function, and survival. The health of any living organism is judged by its physical and functional well-being. Thus, genes, genetics, and genomics are central to all forms of biological health, including that of humans. Human health depends not only on its own genetic or genomic constitution, but on that of other organisms whose well-being is also essential to human health—for example, food (plants, fish, and animals), shelter (homes made of wood from trees), the environment (water, trees, and plants), protection (clothes from cotton and animal skin), and transportation (animals and vehicles made of wood from trees). From a medical perspective, the science of genetics or genomics offers deep insight into and evidence for a number of human diseases, including infectious diseases resulting from either lack of protection and/or failure in controlling the spread of microbial infections or parasitic infestations. This chapter introduces the reader to some of the basic facts about genes, genetics, and genomics, and discusses how these impact human health and that of the plants, crops, and animals necessary for human health and survival. This is obviously more relevant to millions of people in the developing and less-developed countries, where limited resources and lack of infrastructure limit the optimal use of the science of genetics and genomics in applications to eradicate poverty and ensure optimal health. The reader will find cross-references to separate chapters in the book containing detailed information and further discussion of each subject.

GENES, GENETICS, AND GENOMICS

A detailed description of the basic principles of genetics and human genetic diseases is beyond the scope of this chapter. These facts are explained in subsequent chapters and various other information resources on  basic genetics and medical genetics (see “Further Reading”). However, some basic principles and relevant information are outlined in this section to assist the reader with limited understanding of basic genetics.

Living organisms are divided into two large classes—the eukaryotes and prokaryotes. The cells of the eukaryotes have a complex compartmentalized internal structure, the nucleus; these include algae, fungi, plants, and animals. Prokaryotes, on the other hand, are single-celled microorganisms without any specific part harboring the genetic material or genome; examples include bacteria and other related microorganisms. The other types of living organisms are viruses, which are intracellular obligate parasites living in both eukaryotes and prokaryotes, and composed of short dispersed nucleic acid (DNA or RNA) sequences.

Genetic information is transferred from one generation to the next by small sections of the nucleic acid, deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is tightly packaged into subcellular structures called chromosomes. Prokaryotes usually have a single circular chromosome, while most eukaryotes have more than two, and in some cases up to several hundred. In humans, there are 46 chromosomes arranged in 23 pairs, with one of each pair inherited from each parent (Figure 1.1, a & b). Twenty-two pairs are called autosomes, and one pair is called sex chromosomes, designated as X and Y; females have two X chromosomes (46, XX) and males have an X and a Y (46, XY).

Figure 1.1 Human chromosomes: a) Diploid set in a male (46, XY); b) Complete set of human chromosomes map.

A chromosome consists of a tightly coiled length of DNA and the proteins (e.g., chromatins) that help define its structure and level of activity. DNA consists of two long strands of nucleotide bases wrapped round each other along a central spine made up of phosphate and sugar (Figure 1.2). There are four bases: adenine (A), guanine (G) cytosine (C), and thymine (T).  Pairing of these bases follows strict rules: A always pairs with T, and C with G. Two strands are, therefore, complementary to each other.

Figure 1.2 The Watson-Crick model of the double helix struture of the nucleic acid molecule (Turnpenny and Ellard, 2011).

Genes are made up of specific lengths of DNA that encode the information to make a protein, or ribonucleic acid (RNA) product. RNA differs from DNA in that the base thymine (T) is replaced by uracil (U), and the sugar is ribose. It acts as a template to take the coded information across to ribosomes for final assembly of amino acids into the protein peptide chain (Figure 1.3). The bases are arranged in sets of three, referred to as codons. Each codon “codes” for a specific amino acid; hence the term genetic code. Codons are located in exons, which contain the coding sequences. A gene may consist of several such coding DNA segments. Exons are separated from each other by non-coding sequences of DNA, called introns. Although they are not yet known to be associated with any specific function, it is likely that some of these introns might be of evolutionary significance, or associated with other fundamental biological functions. During the transcription of DNA, the introns are spliced out, and the exons then attach to mitochondrial RNA (mRNA) to start the process of protein synthesis.

Figure 1.3 The synthesis of the peptide chain from the coding sequences in the exon (Turnpenny and Ellard, 2011).

Proteins are one of the major constituents of the body’s chemistry. These are remarkably variable in their structure, ranging from tough collagen that forms connective tissue and bone, through the fluid hemoglobin that transports oxygen, to thousands of enzymes, hormones, and other biological effectors and their receptors that are essential for the structures and functions of the body. Each protein is made up of one or more peptide chains consisting of series of amino acids, only of which 20 occur in living organisms. The different structures and functions of proteins depend on the order of amino acids as determined by the genetic code.

DNA has the remarkable property of self-replication. The two strands of a DNA molecule separate as chromosomes divide during cell division. There are two types of cell division; mitosis in all body cells, and meiosis, which is specifically confined to the gonads in making sperm and eggs (Figure 1.4). During mitosis, no reduction of the number of chromosomes takes place (diploid, or 2n), while meiosis results in half the number of chromosomes (haploid, or 1n). The new pairs of DNA are identical to those from which they were synthesized. However, sometimes mistakes or mutations occur. These usually result from substitution of a different base, or are due to extensive structural changes to genes. In other words, any “spelling mistake” in the letters A-T or C-G could result in either absence of coded information (nonsense mutation) or a different message (missense mutation). However, not all mutations or spelling mistakes have an adverse effect (neutral mutations). Conversely, some changes in the genes might result in  a favorable property; for example, resistance to disease or other environmental hazard. This is the basis for the gradual changes in species over millions of years of evolution. On the other hand, mutations may result in defective gene functions, leading to a disease, or susceptibility to a disease, due  to qualitative or quantitative changes in the gene product, the peptide chain. However, these changes may also result from epigenetic mechanisms, abnormal RNA molecules, and post-translational modifications (see Glossary). A brief introduction to these molecular processes is provided elsewhere in this chapter; interested readers are advised to consult dedicated texts on cell and molecular biology (see “Further Reading”).

Figure 1.4 Steps in mitosis and meiosis during a eukaryotic cell division; note (bottom) exchange of the genetic material (recombination) through homologous pairing (Turnpenny and Ellard,   2011).

Studies on human genomic variations in different population groups and the resemblance of several genome sequences to other genomes (comparative genomics) have offered wide-ranging evidence to support the followers of Charles Darwin. Apart from reproduction, genes, gene-sequence variation, genomic variation, and epigenetic factors are important in growth, development, aging, and senescence. Some of these may be evolutionarily conserved across species, but relevant to human health. Mutations and alterations in several of these genomic elements are linked to a broad range of medical conditions.

THE HUMAN GENOME PROJECT

The advent of recombinant DNA technology in the 1970s revolutionized our ability to characterize and capitalize on the molecular basis of human genetic disease. This laid the foundation of eventually mapping and deciphering the DNA sequence of all the structural and functional genes of the human genome. The Human Genome Project (HGP) was, therefore, a natural progression from all previous developments in the field of human genetics. Such a mammoth task could not have been accomplished without the international collective efforts supported by generous funding from governmental and nongovernmental sources.6

The project (HGP) has helped map and provide nucleotide sequences of around 23,000 nuclear genes, which, along with a number of other sequence variations, compose the whole human genome (see Chapter 2). Although a large number of the nuclear genes have been assigned with a structural or functional link, the precise roles of other parts of the genome are not yet fully understood. However, HGP provides the basis for “functional genomics” to explore further the genome’s functional role, and understand the complex mechanisms through which genes and their products interact to affect biological function and influence disease processes. The development of new therapeutic agents is now possible on the basis of genomic arrangement and its designated functional role. This approach also helps characterize the genomes of various pathogens and other organisms, an invaluable tool in realizing the full potential of this field to improve human health.7

HUMAN GENOME VARIATION AND HUMAN  DISEASE

MEASURING GENETIC AND GENOMIC  VARIATION

The most direct way to measure genetic differences, or genetic variation, is to estimate how often two individuals differ at a specific site in their DNA sequences—that is, whether they have a different nucleotide base pair at a specific location in their DNA. First, DNA sequences are obtained from a sample of individuals. The sequences of all possible pairs of individuals are then compared to see how often each nucleotide differs. When this is done for a sample of humans, the result is that individuals differ, on average, at only about one in 1,300 DNA base pairs. In other words, any two humans are about 99.9% identical in terms of their DNA sequences (see Chapter 2).

During the past several years, a new type of genetic variation has been studied extensively in humans: copy-number variants (CNVs) —DNA sequences of 1,000 base pairs or larger are fairly distributed across the genome.8 In some instances, CNVs could be deleted, duplicated, or inverted in some individuals with mild phenotypical effects. Several thousand CNVs have been discovered in humans, indicating that at least 4 million nucleotides of the human genome (and perhaps several times more) vary in copy-number among individuals. CNVs thus are another important class of genetic variation and contribute to at least an additional 0.1% difference, on average, between individuals. Despite significant progress, the medical and health implications of CNVs are not entirely clear.9

Comparisons of DNA sequences can be done for pairs of individuals from the same population or for pairs of individuals from different populations. Populations can be defined in various ways; one common way is to group individuals into populations according to a continent of origin. Using this definition, individuals from different populations have roughly 10% to 15% more sequence differences than do individuals from the same population (this estimate is approximately the same for both SNPs—see below—and CNVs). In other words, people from different populations are slightly more different at the DNA level than are people from the same population. The slightness of this difference supports the conclusion that all humans are genetically quite similar to one another, irrespective of their geographic ancestry.10

Because it is still fairly expensive to assess DNA sequences on a large scale, investigators often study genetic variations at specific sites that are known to vary among individuals. Suppose that a specific site in the DNA sequence harbors an A in some individuals’ DNA sequences, and a G in others. This is a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), where polymorphism refers to a genetic site that exists in multiple forms. The proportion of individuals who have an A and the proportion with a G give the frequency of each form, or allele, and this frequency can be estimated for a sample of individuals from a population. If the frequencies of A in three different populations are .10,.20, and .50, the genetic distance between the first two populations is smaller than that between the third population and the first two. On the basis of this assessment, the first two populations are genetically more similar than either is to the third. To get a more accurate picture of genetic differences, hundreds or thousands of SNP frequencies would be assessed to yield the average genetic difference among pairs of populations.11

GENOME VARIATION AND HUMAN  DISEASE

Nearly all human diseases are influenced by genes. Because individuals have different variants of genes, it follows that the risk of developing various diseases will also differ among individuals. Consider a simple example. Jim Fixx, a well-known runner and fitness enthusiast, died of a heart attack at the age of 52. Sir Winston Churchill, who was renowned for his abhorrence of exercise and his love of food, drink, and tobacco, lived to the age of 90. It is plausible that genetic differences between Fixx and Churchill were responsible, at least in part, for the paradoxical difference in their life spans. (Indeed, Jim Fixx’s father had a heart attack at the age of 35, and died of a second heart attack at the age of 43.)

Because genes are passed down from parents to offspring, diseases tend to “cluster” in families. For example, if an individual has had a heart attack, the risk that his or her close relatives, offspring, or siblings will have a heart attack is two to three times higher than that of the general population. Similar levels of increased risk among family members are seen for colon cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and many other diseases. This clustering in families is partly the result of shared non-genetic factors (e.g., families tend to be similar in terms of their dietary and exercise habits), and partly the result of shared genes. As we have seen, populations differ somewhat in their genetic backgrounds. It is thus possible that genetic differences could be partly responsible for differences in disease prevalence. For many disorders caused by genetic changes in single genes, these differences are readily apparent. Cystic fibrosis, for example, is seen in about one in 2,500 Europeans, but only in one in 90,000 Asians. Sickle-cell disease is much more common in individuals of African and Mediterranean descent than  in  others,  although  it  is  found  in  lower  frequency  in  many other populations due to migration and intermarriage.

These differences in prevalence can be attributed to the evolutionary factors that influence genetic variation in general. Mutation is the ultimate source of all genetic variation. In some cases, such as hemochromatosis in Europeans and sickle-cell disease in Africans, the responsible mutations have arisen within the last few thousand years, helping to account for a fairly restricted distribution of the disease. Natural selection also plays a role in population differences in some genetic diseases. For sickle-cell disease and related diseases known as the thalassemias, heterozygotes (those who carry a single copy of a disease-causing mutation) are relatively resistant to the malaria parasite. Cystic fibrosis heterozygotes are resistant to typhoid fever, and hemochromatosis heterozygotes absorb iron more readily, perhaps protecting them against anemia. Also, the process of genetic drift, which is accentuated in small populations, can raise the frequencies of disease-causing mutation quickly just by chance (e.g., Ellis-van Creveld disease, a reduced- stature disorder, is unusually common among the Old Order Amish of Pennsylvania).12 In contrast to the effects of natural selection and genetic drift, which tend to promote population differences in disease prevalence, gene flow (the exchange of DNA among populations) tends to decrease differences among populations. With the enhanced mobility of populations worldwide, gene flow is thought to be increasing steadily.

These same factors can affect common diseases such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease, but the picture is more complex, because these diseases are influenced by multiple genetic and non-genetic factors. Common diseases do vary in frequency among populations: hypertension occurs more frequently in African Americans than European Americans, and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) is especially common among Hispanic and Native American populations.13 Although genes clearly play a role in causing common diseases, it is less clear that genetic differences between populations play a significant role in causing differences in prevalence rates among populations. Consider another example: the Pima Native American population in the southwestern United States now has one of the highest known rates of type 2 diabetes in the world. About half of adult Pimas are affected. Yet this disease was virtually unknown in this population prior to World War II. Obviously, the Pimas’ genes have not changed much during the past 50 or so years. Their environment, however, has changed dramatically with the adoption of a “Western” high-calorie, high-fat diet, and a decrease in physical exercise. In this case, it is almost certain that the rapid increase in type 2 diabetes prevalence has much more to do with non-genetic than genetic causes.14

But why does a Western diet seem to have a greater effect on some populations than others? Perhaps differences in genetic background, interacting with dietary and other lifestyle changes, help account for this variation. As additional genes that influence susceptibility to common diseases are discovered, and as the roles of non-genetic factors are also taken into account, it is likely that this picture will become clearer.

FUNCTIONAL GENOMICS AND  PROTEOMICS

Functional genomics is a systematic effort to understand the  function of genes and gene products by high-throughput analysis of gene transcripts in a biological system (cell, tissue, or organism) with the use of automated procedures that allow scale-up of experiments classically performed with single genes.15 Functional genomics can be conceptually divided into gene- driven and phenotype-driven approaches. Gene-driven approaches rely on genomic information to identify, clone, and express genes, as well as to characterize them at the molecular level. Phenotype-driven approaches rely on phenotypes, either identified from random mutation screens or associated with naturally occurring gene variants, such as those responsible for mouse mutants or human diseases, to identify and clone the responsible genes without prior knowledge of the underlying molecular mechanisms.15 The tools of functional genomics have enabled the development of systematic approaches to obtaining basic information for most genes in a genome, including when and where a gene is expressed and what phenotype results  if it is mutated, as well as the identification of the gene product and the identity of other proteins with which it interacts.16 Functional genomics aspires to answer such questions systematically for all genes in a genome, in contrast to conventional approaches that address one gene at a time.

Analysis and applications of the rapid accumulation of highly sophisticated genome and proteome data necessitated development of powerful computational programs and relevant hardware tools. Storage, retrieval, and assimilation of enormous amounts of data require fast and accurate computational skills. Bioinformatics deals with these requirements within the broad biomedical and biotechnology sectors. There are several literature and online resources with detailed descriptions of the role and scope of bioinformatics.17

A number of biomedical and biotechnology disciplines have emerged during the last two decades, all ending with the suffix –omics. -Omics is derived from ome (Greek, omoyous), which refers to  complete knowledge. The ancient language Sanskrit has a similar word, ohm, with similar meaning and expression. A number of these “omics” have direct or indirect links to the fundamentals of genome science and technology. A number of biological models have been developed and tested using genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolomic approaches (Figure 1.5). Systems biology refers to developing and testing biological models based on –omic sciences.18 The central dogma is the computational analysis of complex and enormous data at all biological levels—gene, molecule, cell, tissue, organ, and whole body.

Figure 1.5 The “OMICS” paradigm, showing four major  branches.

TRANSLATIONAL GENOME RESEARCH AND GENOMIC MEDICINE

The potential of applications of genome science and technology in medicine and health has led to the emergence of genomic medicine, a natural outcome of the tremendous progress made in medical genetics and genomics.19 However, final endpoints in genomic medicine will largely depend upon judicious and efficacious application and utilization of the diagnostic and therapeutic potential of genome-based technologies; for example, clinical applications of microarray technology. This process requires multifaceted systematic and analytical research efforts to translate the basic scientific information into practical and pragmatic applications following the principles of good medical practice. There is no disagreement that this translational genome research is vital for the successful and efficient delivery of promises made by researchers and physicians behind the genomic medicine movement. The process for translational genome research includes the participation of several researchers drawn from different disciplines. The multidisciplinary model for translational genome research is widely accepted, and includes several key elements. Informatics and computational networks remain the central dogma for translational genomics research and systems biology (Figure 1.6).20  A  framework  for  the   continuum  of multidisciplinary translation research is recommended to utilize previous research outcomes in genomics and related areas of health and prevention.21 The whole process includes four phases and revolves around the development of evidence-based guidelines. Phase 1 translation (T1) research seeks to move a basic genome- based discovery into a candidate health application, such as a genetic test or intervention. Phase 2 translation (T2) research assesses the value of genomic applications for health practice, leading to the development of evidence-based guidelines. Phase 3 translation (T3) research attempts to move evidence- based guidelines into health practice through delivery, dissemination, and diffusion research. Phase 4 translation (T4) research seeks to evaluate the “real world” health outcomes of a genomic application in practice. It is important to appreciate that the whole process of translation research leading to evidence-based guidelines is a dynamic one, with considerable overlap between the different stages. The process should be able to accommodate new knowledge that will inevitably arrive during translation research.

Figure 1.6 Informatics as the central dogma for systems biology and genome sciences.

The role of translational genome research, including that of clinical trials, is crucial in developing evidence-based good-practice guidelines.22 The aim should be to obtain vital genetic and genomic information, including laboratory material for research, from the patient, family, and community, and then use this scientific data and information for clarification and ratification. The outcomes of translational gene research should be valid and deliverable in the clinic for diagnostic and therapeutic applications.

HUMAN GENOMICS FOR SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

During the last decade, rapid progress has been made in harnessing the   huge potential of genome science and technology for its economic and health benefits globally, in particular in less- and least-developed nations.23 Apart from the World Health Organization (WHO), other international and national institutions engaged in this endeavor include the Human Genome Organization (HUGO), Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the McLaughlin-Rotman Center for Global Health (The University of Toronto, Canada), the Mexican Health Foundation, the Beijing Genomics Institute, the Department of Science and Technology (Government of India), and many more. All these institutions are focused on supporting and exploiting the huge potential of genomic technologies and related bioinformatics developments on the global economy and on health.24 The impact of genome sciences and technologies will manifest in the following wide-ranging areas:

•   Personalized medicine and health approaches that will help people and societies shift the focus from “sick-care” to “well-care and prevention.”

•   Biotechnology methods to produce environmentally clean and efficient fuel and chemicals to accelerate transition from petroleum-based economies

•   Genome-driven plant- and crop-growing methods for producing affordable food for less- and least-developed economies

•   Promoting genomic science and technology in animal breeding and livestock improvement

•   Supporting genome research for new drug discovery and drug development for enhancing pharmaceutical efficacy

•   Applications of genomic biotechnologies in the study and monitoring of environmental health

CONCLUSIONS

Developments in genetics and the subsequent sequencing of the human and other genomes have provided us with an opportunity to review the role of genes and genomes in all aspects of health and disease. Human health, including causation  of  disease,  is  not exclusively  dependent on  the human genes and genome. Evolutionary links with other genomes and ecologically relevant and beneficial parts of other genomes play crucial roles in the maintenance of human health and, to some extent, in morbidity and mortality. Understanding genomes of microbes, parasites, animals, plants, and crops is an acknowledged priority of current biomedical and biotechnology research.

Conventionally, the causation of human disease includes malformations, trauma, infection, immune dysfunction, metabolic abnormality, malignancy, and degenerative conditions associated with aging. Genetic factors have long been recognized in all of these disease groups. The traditional genetic categories of diseases include chromosomal disorders, single-gene or Mendelian diseases, and several forms of multifactorial/polygenic conditions. In addition, somatic genetic changes and mutations of the mitochondrial genome probably account for a small, albeit important, number of diseases. These groups of disorders are well recognized and have an established place in the classification of human disease. Recent developments in genome research have provided vast data indicating different genomic mechanisms to explain complex pathogenesis in some disorders. The spectrum of these disorders is wide and includes both acute and chronic medical and surgical diseases. Perhaps it is reasonable to identify these disorders on the basis of underlying molecular pathology, including genomic imprinting, genomic rearrangements, and gene–environment interactions involving multiple genes and genomic polymorphisms.

This chapter has reviewed the genetic and genomic approaches to human health and disease. The genomic approaches to understanding and managing human disease are rapidly being incorporated in the practice of clinical medicine. In addition, applications of genome science and technology are also reforming biotechnologies in a number of industries, including pharmaceutical, agricultural, and ecological bioengineering. The enormous impact of genome sciences and technologies on the economy of the developing world will be judged on applications in a number of areas, including bio-fuels, accelerated breeding of crops and livestock, personalized health products, pharmaceutical efficacy, and genomic monitoring of environmental health.

FURTHER READING

Readers who wish to enhance their knowledge or seek more information are advised to consult the following books.

Turnpenny and Ellard, Emery’s Elements of Medical Genetics, Churchill Livingstone, 2011. 25

Genomics and World Health: Report of the Advisory Committee on Health

Research 2002, World Health Organization. 26

Harper, A Short History of Medical Genetics, Oxford University Press, New York, 2008. 27

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KNOWLEDGE BASE , ,
About Genomic Medicine UK

Genomic Medicine UK is the home of comprehensive genomic testing in London. Our consultant medical doctors work tirelessly to provide the highest standards of medical laboratory testing for personalised medical treatments, genomic risk assessments for common diseases and genomic risk assessment for cancers at an affordable cost for everybody. We use state-of-the-art modern technologies of next-generation sequencing and DNA chip microarray to provide all of our patients and partner doctors with a reliable, evidence-based, thorough and valuable medical service.

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