Psychology & Psychiatry

Genetic study reveals metabolic origins of anorexia

A global study, led by researchers at King's College London and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, suggests that anorexia nervosa is at least partly a metabolic disorder, and not purely psychiatric as previously ...

Neuroscience

How procrastinators and doers differ genetically

Some people tend to postpone actions. In women, this trait is associated with a genetic predisposition toward a higher level of dopamine in the brain. This is what researchers from Ruhr-Universität Bochum and the Technical ...

Medical research

A moderate dose of novel form of stress promotes longevity

A newly described form of stress called chromatin architectural defect, or chromatin stress, triggers in cells a response that leads to a longer life. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and the Houston Methodist Research ...

Genetics

Does genetic testing pose psychosocial risks?

For the last quarter century, researchers have been asking whether genetic information might have negative psychosocial effects. Anxiety, depression, disrupted relationships, and heightened stigmatization have all been posited ...

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Genetics

Genetics (from Ancient Greek γενετικός genetikos, “genitive” and that from γένεσις genesis, “origin”), a discipline of biology, is the science of heredity and variation in living organisms. The fact that living things inherit traits from their parents has been used since prehistoric times to improve crop plants and animals through selective breeding. However, the modern science of genetics, which seeks to understand the process of inheritance, only began with the work of Gregor Mendel in the mid-nineteenth century. Although he did not know the physical basis for heredity, Mendel observed that organisms inherit traits via discrete units of inheritance, which are now called genes.

Genes correspond to regions within DNA, a molecule composed of a chain of four different types of nucleotides—the sequence of these nucleotides is the genetic information organisms inherit. DNA naturally occurs in a double stranded form, with nucleotides on each strand complementary to each other. Each strand can act as a template for creating a new partner strand—this is the physical method for making copies of genes that can be inherited.

The sequence of nucleotides in a gene is translated by cells to produce a chain of amino acids, creating proteins—the order of amino acids in a protein corresponds to the order of nucleotides in the gene. This relationship between nucleotide sequence and amino acid sequence is known as the genetic code. The amino acids in a protein determine how it folds into a three-dimensional shape; this structure is, in turn, responsible for the protein's function. Proteins carry out almost all the functions needed for cells to live. A change to the DNA in a gene can change a protein's amino acids, changing its shape and function: this can have a dramatic effect in the cell and on the organism as a whole. Two additional factors that can change the shape of the protein are pH and temperature.

Although genetics plays a large role in the appearance and behavior of organisms, it is the combination of genetics with what an organism experiences that determines the ultimate outcome. For example, while genes play a role in determining an organism's size, the nutrition and other conditions it experiences after inception also have a large effect.

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