Issue 11 | January 2010

Image from a rotating DNA double helix animation

Genes, Genomes and Health

***Articles reviewed and updated in December 2014*** 

Mind-boggling progress has been made in our ability to sequence a genome accurately and quickly, and in our ability to process and understand the huge amount of data that sequencing produces. What do these developments mean for each of us – our health, our identity, and the world we live in – now and in the future?

Browse through the individual articles and check out our activities and lesson ideas. This issue was first published in 2010; in 2014, all of the individual resources were reviewed and updated for accuracy and currency. Please note, however, that the PDF of the original 2010 issue has not been updated.

Genome basics

All in sequence

Why is determining an organism’s genome sequence important?

A brief history of DNA

A look at some DNA milestones

Great expectations

The draft human genome held many surprises for researchers

Bare essentials

Some necessary molecules we can only get from our diet

Genes and health

Can you resist?

Genetic variations play a part in disease resistance

Nature and nurture

Most conditions involve an interaction between genes and environment

Seeing into the future

Why finding the genes linked to a particular disease is just the beginning of finding a treatment or cure

Sequencing bacteria

Knowing the genetic sequence of an organism can help us trace how it spreads

What do we know now?

How is current research investigating the genetic basis of disease?

Single-gene and chromosome disorders

Some conditions are caused by genetic ‘abnormalities’

Getting personal

Is the future of pharmaceuticals really all me, me, me?

Future plans

Long-term population studies help researchers plan for future discoveries today

Exploring genes and genomes

Animation: DNA sequencing – the Sanger method

This animation on the most commonly used method of sequencing DNA – the dideoxy or chain termination method – was developed by Fred Sanger in 1977

Video: Sequencing my genome

Sir James Watson, one of the two co-discoverers of the structure of DNA, talks about the time his genome was sequenced

$1,000 genome

Getting your genome sequenced is rapidly becoming more affordable

More than genes

The genome is far from just a collection of genes

Understanding RNAs

Exploring the many roles of RNA

Measuring up

How does the human genome compare with the genomes of other organisms?

Whose genes?

The reference human genome combines the DNA of several people

Exploring epigenetics

Is it through epigenetics that environment affects our DNA?

Model organisms in genetics research: the zebrafish

Ben Stockton finds out how the zebrafish came to be a model organism

Model organisms in genetics research: the mouse

How did the mouse come to be a model organism?

Model organisms in genetics research: the nematode worm

Ben Stockton finds out how the nematode worm came to be a model organism

Sequencing technologies

How have gene sequencing technologies developed, and what does this mean for researchers today?

Animation: What is gene editing and how does it work?

Watch this short animation to learn about gene editing, a rapidly developing field that could have big implications for human health

Genes and you

Beyond nuclear

Mitochondria mean that there’s a bit more of mum in all of us

Understanding the links

How do researchers tease apart genetic and environmental factors?

The genomes in us

Like it or not, our bodies are teeming with billions of microorganisms

It’s all history now

How DNA studies help to trace the origins of modern humans

Getting physical

Small genetic changes can mean big physical differences

In your genes

How much of ‘me’ is determined by my genome?

Putting the Y into you

What the Y chromosome tells us about our past

Historical aspects

A brief history of DNA

A look at some DNA milestones

It’s all history now

How DNA studies help to trace the origins of modern humans

Model organisms in genetics research: the zebrafish

Ben Stockton finds out how the zebrafish came to be a model organism

Model organisms in genetics research: the mouse

How did the mouse come to be a model organism?

Ethical questions

Whose rights? Insurance and genetic information

Genetic advances have great potential for improving health, but they also raise questions about privacy and who should have access to personal information such as genetic data. Take a look at the made-up scenario below to explore issues that are far from black and white

Whose rights? Genetic testing before birth

Take a look at the made-up scenario below to explore issues around prenatal genetic testing that are far from black and white

Whose rights? Whole-genome screening

Take a look at two made-up scenarios to explore issues that are far from black and white

Video: National DNA Database

Should everyone in the UK be added to the National DNA Database?

Personal perspectives

Real Voices interview: Anaar Sajoo

Meet Anaar, as she tells Chrissie Giles about her life as a genetic counsellor

What Turner syndrome is like for me

An interview with Kylie about her life with Turner syndrome, a chromosome disorder that is thought to affect 3,000 women and girls in the UK

What primary ciliary dyskinesia is like for me

An interview with Rachael, a civil servant and part-time student, who tells us how a genetic condition called primary ciliary dyskinesia affects her life

What androgen insensitivity syndrome is like for me

An interview with a 25-year-old female about her experiences of living with an intersex condition. Born a woman, she carries XY, not XX, sex chromosomes

Real Voices interview: Matt Ellison

Meet Matt, who is living with the prospect of developing Huntington’s disease

Real Voices interview: Dr Elizabeth Murchison

Meet Elizabeth, a cancer researcher focusing on Tasmanian devils

Activities and lesson ideas

Ginger Dawn, Breeder and Heroes games

Play these free online games and explore more about genes and inheritance

Further resources and activities about genetics and genomics

The Wellcome Trust has funded many organisations that produce activities and resources to engage and educate young people about genetics and genomics

Lesson idea: National DNA Database

Should everyone in the UK be added to the National DNA Database?

Fast Facts

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