What is Genetic Research?.
Genetic research is the term used by scientists for the study of how heredity affects living beings. Genes contain all of the information that is needed to create a new being, and they are housed in DNA. Scientists study these genes to determine how diseases are inherited as well as how beneficial traits are passed along. While we often think of genetic research as solely a human pursuit, plants and animals are studied as well.
Perhaps the most widespread use of this research field in plants is the development of seeds that are resistant to herbicides. These widely available seeds are genetically modified so that after they are planted the farmer can spray them with herbicide to kill weeds without damaging the plant. Genetic research made this product readily available as well as affordable for the average farmer.
Genetic research is used when trying to determine treatments for particular diseases. Researchers study various genes that are associated with a condition. They may try to develop a way to switch the gene off, produce a medication that will shut the gene down, or change the process that a gene goes through that leads to the development of a genetic disease.
Genetic research is extremely complicated. Genes are only one factor in many cases of disease. Environmental issues are an important component as well. Some people may carry the gene for a particular genetic disease but never develop any health problems, while others may be stricken aggressively. Doctors are unable to look at different people carrying the same gene and determine who will be affected and who will not.
Determining who will develop a genetic disease is one of the more difficult aspects of genetic research. For instance, a young woman that carries the gene for an aggressive form of breast cancer may want to undergo a double mastectomy in order to reduce her risk of developing breast cancer. While this is understandable, there is no guarantee that she would develop the cancer, and the surgery is very aggressive. In cases like this, genetic research often generates as many questions as it does answers.
Couples that are older or having difficulty getting pregnant or maintaining a pregnancy are often referred to a genetic counselor. The counselor can conduct tests to determine if the potential parents are carrying genes that may increase the likelihood of a child having a genetic disease. While there are definitive tests that can be conduct on the fetus in utero, many people prefer to have this information before they pursue a pregnancy.