Introduction to Genomics

Introduction to Genomics

Introduction to Genomics

Introduction to Genomics

Synopsis

Our genome is the blueprint to our existence: it encodes all the information we need to develop from a single cell into a hugely complicated functional organism. But it is more than a static information store: our genome is a dynamic, tightly-regulated collection of genes, which switch on and off in many combinations to give the variety of cells from which our bodies are formed. But how do we identify the genes that make up our genome? How do we determine their function? And how do different genes form the regulatory networks that direct the processes of life? Introduction to Genomics is a fascinating insight into what can be revealed from the study of genomes: how organisms differ or match; how different organisms evolved; how the genome is constructed and how it operates; and what our understanding of genomics means in terms of our future health and well-being. Covering the latest techniques that enable us to study the genome in ever-increasing detail, the book explores what the genome tells us about life at the level of the molecule, the cell, and the organism. Learning features throughout make this book the ideal teaching and learning tool: extensive end of chapter exercises and problems help the student to fully grasp the concepts being presented, while end of chapter weblems (web-based problems) and lab assignments give the student the opportunity to engage with the subject in a hands-on manner. The field of genomics is enabling us to analyze life in more detail than ever before; Introduction to Genomics is the perfect guide to this enthralling subject. Online Resource Centre The Online Resource Centre to accompany Introduction to Genomics features for lecturers:• Figures from the book in electronic format For students:• Answers to end-of-chapter exercises• Guided tour of web sites in genomics• Hints to end-of-chapter problems• Rotating figures

Excerpt

Of all the claims on our curiosity, we want most to understand ourselves. What are we? What lies in our future? Many features of our lives depend on accidents of history. the time and place of our birth largely determine what language we first learn to speak and whether we are likely to be well-fed and well-educated and receive adequate medical care. Many aspects of our future depend on events outside ourselves and beyond our control.

Within ourselves, also, there are constraints on our lives that brook relatively little argument. in some respects, we are at the mercy of our genomes. Under normal circumstances, all of our basic anatomy and physiology, and eye colour, height, intelligence and basic personality traits, are ingrained in our DNA sequences. This is not to say that our genomes dictate our lives. Some of the constraints are tight – eye colour, for instance – but our genetic endowment also confers on us a remarkable robustness.

This robustness also is a product of evolution. When Shakespeare wrote of ‘the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to’, he coupled the challenges of life to heredity. Within the last century, lifestyles have changed with a rapidity hitherto unknown (except for the instants of asteroid impacts). Our talents have many opportunities to nurture themselves and develop in novel ways, and we can meet and survive brutal stresses. These are gifts of our genomic endowment: What genes control is the response of an organism to its environment.

The human genome is only one of the many complete genome sequences known. Taken together, genome sequences from organisms distributed widely among the branches of the tree of life give us a sense, only hinted at before, of the very great unity in detail of all life on Earth. This recognition has changed our perceptions, much as the first pictures of the Earth from space engendered a unified view of our planet.

Of course, superimposed on this basic unity is great variety. We ask: What is special about us? What do we share with our parents and siblings and how do we differ from them? What do we share with all other human beings and what makes us different from the other members of our species? What are the sources of our differences from our closest extant non-human relatives, the chimpanzees? What do we have in common and how do we diverge from other species of primates? of mammals? of vertebrates? of eukaryotes? of all other living things . . .

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