Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

A Resource Guide for Learning about Genetics

Academic journal article Online Journal of Issues in Nursing

A Resource Guide for Learning about Genetics

Article excerpt

Abstract

The Human Genome Project is one of the most significant, health-related advances of modern times. Genetic research has already provided significant interventions for patients diagnosed with cancer and those receiving prenatal care. It has also enhanced the pharmacological interventions available today. Genetic testing is widely available and is now being marketed directly to consumers. In light of these discoveries nursing leaders have been calling for genetics to be incorporated into nursing education and practice. Yet few nurses are adequately prepared to teach other nurses how to do this. This article discusses the history of genetics in nursing and the need to integrate genetic concepts and practices into the nursing curriculum. It provides nurse educators in academic settings and healthcare agencies with the resources they need to teach genetics and shares with practicing nurses what they can do on their own to learn more about genetics and genomics in their specialty area.

Citation: Maradiegue, A., (January 31, 2008) "A Resource Guide for Learning About Genetic" OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Vol. 13 No. 1 Manuscript 6 . Available: www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/vol132008/No1Jan08/ResourceGuide.aspx

Key Words: genetics, genomics, genetic education, genetic nursing, genomic nursing, nurse education

The Human Genome Project (HGP) is one of the most significant, health-related advances of modern times. Genetic science has progressed rapidly since the inception of the HGP, which officially began in 1989. The impetus for this project was a 1987, United States (U.S.) Congressional advisory committee recommendation for a multidisciplinary, scientific, and technological endeavor to sequence the human genome. From the beginning of the HGP, scientists recognized the importance of genetic diversity and worked to have the project be an international, multidisciplinary project that included genes from an ethnically diverse population. The HGP began to receive federal funding in 1989, and by 1990 a 15-year project officially began to sequence the human genome (Lee, 1991). This project led to the rapid development of new genetic tests, raising concerns among ethical scholars and leading to a 1993 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report on genetic testing issues having the goal of establishing guidelines and requiring informed consent for all people receiving genetic testing (National Academy Press, 1993).

By 1999, as a result of the HGP, several genes had been sequenced and the Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) Consortium was established (Department of Energy, 2004). SNPs are used to identify small genetic differences in single gene disorders that could predispose people to disease or cause them to metabolize a drug differently from most other people. SNPs have been associated with diseases such as breast cancer, muscle disease, deafness, and blindness, and have allowed scientists to develop focused, genetic therapies for specific diseases.

Although the [Human Genome Project] has sequenced the human genome, this is just the beginning. Genetics is the study of a single gene, for example the cystic fibrosis gene, and its effects. Most of the diseases that have benefitted from the HGP project thus far are single gene disorders. However, the scientific and technologic discoveries of the HGP continue to advance and provide more information about complex diseases. Genomics is the study of multiple genes and their interactions with the environment, allowing the study of complex diseases (National Institutes of Health, 2007a). Table 1 presents a variety of genetic-related definitions adapted from the helpful website prepared by the U.S. government .

Although the HGP has sequenced the human genome, this is just the beginning. Science has now moved into the genomic era, where recent advances in genetic research continue to reveal how genes interact with each other and the environment in ways that predispose individuals to common health conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. …

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