Topic updated: January 2013

Genetic Disorders

What are genetics and genomics?

Genetics is a term that refers to the study of genes and their roles in inheritance - in other words, the way that certain traits or conditions are passed down from one generation to another. Genetics involves scientific studies of genes and their effects. Genes (units of heredity) carry the instructions for making proteins, which direct the activities of cells and functions of the body. Examples of genetic or inherited disorders include cystic fibrosis, Huntington's disease and phenylketonuria (PKU).

Genomics is a more recent term that describes the study of all of a person's genes (the genome), including interactions of those genes with each other and with the person's environment. Genomics includes the scientific study of complex diseases such as heart disease, asthma, diabetes, and cancer because these diseases are typically caused more by a combination of genetic and environmental factors than by individual genes. Genomics is offering new possibilities for therapies and treatments for some complex diseases, as well as new diagnostic methods.

To read more, see The National Human Genome Research Institute at: http://www.genome.gov/19016904

sculpture of dna pointing to the sky

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