We are going to explore the importance of genetic research in this series. Many diseases are genetically inherited or formed from faulty genes. I have a special interest in the field of genetic research as several of my diagnoses are genetically based. Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Erythromelalgia, and Hereditary Lymphedema are a few examples of some genetically based diseases that I have. You can check out all of my known diagnoses on my Diagnoses page. In this first part of the series, we will explore the history of genetic research.
Genes are formed of DNA. As it is well known, DNA is what makes you an individual. The ability to pass on traits throughout generations, otherwise known as heredity, is all allowed because of the existence of genes. So when did genetic research first start to become a part of science? Many of you may remember having to study the heredity of plants and their expression of traits around 8th grade. That is in short, how Gregor Mendel, started the field of genetics. With his study on the inheritance of certain traits on pea plants, Mendel was able to form several laws based off of prior knowledge.
Humans have always noticed the expression of certain genes and have been able to manipulate them. Look at the pedigree of animals throughout time. Theoretically, there were never as many dog breeds as there were today. However, when people saw something expressed that they liked, they knew that they could “fine tune” it. So over time, more and more distinguishable breeds of dogs were created. Taking this idea, Gregor Mendel was able to discover two very important laws that form the base of genetic research today. The first law is The Law of Segregation. This law states the existence of dominant and recessive alleles and how they express in a being.
Dominant alleles, are as what they sound, dominant, so even if paired with a recessive gene from the other parent, you will show the dominant trait. Recessive traits only show if paired with another recessive trait. So according to the example above, people can be carriers, without knowing. However, their children have a small chance of inheriting the full recessive trait, if the other person also has the same set up as above. The second law was called The Law of Independent Assortment. This basically describes the genes’ ability to inherit traits that are separate from what the parents passed down.
Why is Gregor Mendel and his two laws so important? It gave way for the field of genetics to be born and for geneticists to study what certain genes do. In my example of chronic illnesses, no one else in my immediate or secondary family had anything like I did. This points to a genetic cause. Whether I gained two recessive alleles, or my DNA decided to code randomly, it eventually showed doctors that I needed genetic testing. Gregor Mendel isn’t called the Father of Genetics for nothing.
This was the first in the series of “Why We Need Genetic Research”. Next time we will be exploring why genetic research is important today. Thank you for reading this article and I will see you all next time my Un-imaginables!
Sources: “Why Is Gregor Mendel Called the Father of Genetics?” Reference, IAC Publishing, http://www.reference.com/science/gregor-mendel-called-father-genetics-b654b37c597e766.
Winchester, A.M. “Genetics.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 22 Oct. 2018, http://www.britannica.com/science/genetics.
“What Is a Gene? – Genetics Home Reference – NIH.” U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/basics/gene.
Original picture by Darwin Laganzon on Pixabay