To help investors understand investing in genetics, the Investing News Network is taking a look at the different areas of genetic research.
If genes are the mile markers, then genetic research is the road. For scientists and doctors, genetic research can spell the ability to diagnose, treat, prevent and hopefully even cure many diseases.
However, in order to accomplish such feats, a lot of time and effort must be put into genetic research. That’s why investing in genetics provides investors with big opportunities to be part of the future of science. In order to help investors understand how to take advantage of those opportunities, the Investing News Network has put together a list of different areas of genetic interest.
By bringing research to a genetic level, scientists are better able to gain a complete understanding of an organism and what happens when certain genes interact with each other. Popularized by the Human Genome Project, which was completed in 2003, the growth of genomics research has “created a tremendous global impact by increasing the pace and success rates of research in the life sciences,” as per Ontario Genomics.
Genomics research is playing an integral role in progressing research in the life sciences, and in the biotechnology sector in particular.
Comparative genomics is a field of biological research in which the genomes of different species — plant, animal, human, etc. — are compared. In comparing the genes of different organisms, researchers are able to identify, at a molecular level, what distinguishes different life forms from each other. According to the National Human Genome Research Institute, this information can help researchers better understand the structure and function of human genes, and aid them in developing strategies to cope with human diseases.
A model organism is a species that has been extensively studied and can provide a basis for understanding other species. As FastBleep explains, when looking at things like disease, both development and genetics need to be studied in the body in order for researchers to fully understand how the disease works.
Overlapping with biology and chemistry, and more specifically genetics and biochemistry, molecular biology is the study of biological activity at a molecular level. A key area of study in molecular biology is how cellular systems interact in regards to DNA, RNA and protein synthesis functions.
Rooted in the field of evolutionary biology, population genetics looks at the distribution and change in frequency of genes within a population. In order to study the changes in genes over time, population genetics looks at populations over individuals. As North Dakota State University states, “[f]or a population to succeed over time, it must contain genetic variability.”
Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS)
The GWAS approach to genetics involves rapidly scanning markers across complete sets of DNA, or genomes, for many individuals to uncover genetic variations associated with a particular disease. One recent instance of a GWAS study resulted in the identification of the APOE gene, which is related to Alzheimer’s disease.
The National Cancer Institute describes proteomics as a “large-scale comprehensive study of a specific proteome” — in other words, an entire complement of proteins. Proteomes are studied in order to understand cellular processes. Proteomics can be further broken down to clinical proteomics, which involves “the application of proteomic technologies on clinical specimens such as blood.”
The intention of proteomics is to generate a “more global and integrated view of biology by studying all the proteins of a cell rather than each one individually.” In order to reach this goal, proteomics requires the involvement of several different disciplines, such as molecular biology, biochemistry and bioinformatics.
Put simply, bioinformatics involves integrating computers, software and databases in an effort to address biological questions. According to the University of San Diego, using bioinformatics in the field of genetics and genomics can help in sequencing and annotating genomes and their observed mutations. It can also help with the comparison of genetic and genomic data. Furthermore, it can help analyze and catalogue the biological pathways and networks that are critical to systems biology. Bioinformatics also plays a role in proteomics.
In an effort to cure diseases, researchers rely heavily on genetics to understand how diseases appear at a biological level. From there, pharmacological research creates a drug that is hopefully tailored to treating or curing the disease. An important area of research within this relationship betwee genetic research and pharmacology is pharmacogenetics: the study of how genes react to certain drugs.
Through this new field, researchers are able to analyze an individual’s reaction to drugs, enabling them to create effective and safe medications specifically tailored to an individual’s DNA.
Pharmacogenetics is not to be confused with pharmacogenomics, which takes a broader approach, focusing on the “differences focuses on differences among several drugs or compounds with regard to a ‘generic’ set of expressed or nonexpressed genes (most commonly using quantitative measures of expression) and their (possible) association with phenotype characteristics.”
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This is an update to an article originally published on January 18, 2016.
Securities Disclosure: I, Vivien Diniz, hold no investment interest in any of the companies mentioned in this article.