Structural Genomics Definition
A structural genomic (or SGG) refers to any genome or set of genomes that are organized into a structure, such as chromosomes, organelles, proteins or other biological molecules. The term “genome” refers to all the DNA sequences that make up an organism’s genetic material, while the term “gene” refers to a sequence of nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA). A gene is usually associated with a specific cell type, but it may reside in many different types of cells.
The word “genome” comes from the word “gene” and the suffix -ome, which means a collection of something. The building blocks of a genome are called genes and they are the functional units of heredity.
The term “structural genomic” refers to a genome that is organized into a structure. You can think of it as a physical organization of the biological material that carries the information for inheritance.
In the most basic sense, a structural genomic is a genome that has a physical organization such as chromosomes, organelles or even non-living groups of molecules.
Chromosomes are the structures in cells that carry genes from parent to offspring during reproduction. The human genome has 23 pairs of chromosomes and one pair of gender specific chromosomes (X or Y).
Genes are the functional parts of a DNA segment. They direct the formation of proteins, which are the building blocks of living cells. The human genome has roughly 20,000 genes.
Organelles are specialized compartments inside cells that have a specific function. For example, the nucleus is an organelle in which the cell stores its DNA. Other organelles, such as mitochondria and chloroplasts, produce energy for the cell.
What is Structural Genomics?
The term “structural genomics” refers to a type of biological research. The term was first used in 2000 by David Galas, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. A structural genomic approach to DNA research attempts to determine the three-dimensional structures of large and complex molecules. A three-dimensional structure is a critical first step in determining how a particular molecule works and interacts with others.
The human genome is a large and complex molecule. It consists of three-billion “letters” of DNA, which must be “translated” into a language that researchers can understand. The human genome contains roughly 20,000 genes.
Each gene can be activated or inactivated based on surrounding genes and other factors. The process by which genes become activated is called “gene expression.” The human genome contains the instructions for creating an organism that is more complex than any human could imagine.
Since the human genome was first mapped in 2003, researchers have been working on a “roadmap” to better understand how it works. The term “structural genomics” refers to a broad approach that attempts to connect genes and their interactions with other genes and external factors. Structural genomics may help researchers determine the best way to create drugs and other medical treatments for a wide range of diseases.
This field is an important step in personalized medicine.
The Human Genome Project
The human genome consists of two strands of DNA wound into structures called chromosomes. Each chromosome contains a single molecule of DNA wound into a specific shape. The two strands are “translated” into a language of four letters: A,T,C, and G.
These are the same four letters used to create RNA and many viruses, such as the flu virus.
The human genome contains three-billion of these letters. The “translated” instructions consist of about 20,000 “words” that create the process by which human cells reproduce and function. This information is stored as a simple code of four letters.
The human genome was first deciphered and mapped in 2003 by researcher J. Craig Venter and his team. This project used a combination of “molecular scissors” to cut the DNA into small fragments and then reassemble it using computers.
The process was similar to putting together a puzzle.
The process of mapping the human genome was completed in 13 years at a cost of $2.7 billion. The Human Genome Project was the largest collaborative research project in history.
The human genome contains some genes that create the enzymes and other biological “building blocks” needed to create proteins. Proteins are the workhorses of cells. Proteins operate within a cell much like an employee at a company.
Each employee has a specific job and each protein does a specific job inside a cell. In addition to creating proteins, the human genome also contains an extensive “instruction manual” that controls how each protein works and how each cell functions.
The functional elements of DNA can be separated into different groups. These groups include:
The human genome project mapped the human genome and created a detailed reference map. The next step is to understand how the different parts of the human genome work.
“Human Genome Project-write,” or HGP-write, is a proposed project that would create a human genome using several new technologies. This project is designed to decrease the cost of engineering and testing large amounts of genes. The HGP-write proposal was submitted to the National Academy of Sciences in 2018.
It is currently in the initial stages of funding.
Several important advances in technology have made engineering large amounts of DNA much easier. This includes next-generation sequencing, DNA synthesis, and gene editing.
“Next-generation sequencing” is a process that allows a researcher to read the sequence of a large amount of DNA very quickly and inexpensively.
“DNA synthesis” is the process by which a researcher creates a double-stranded segment of DNA.
The “gene-editing” technology known as CRISPR allows a researcher to cut and paste DNA more easily than ever before.
These three technologies give researchers a powerful set of tools that makes engineering large amounts of DNA much easier.
The human genome is too complicated to understand all at once. To understand how the human genome works, researchers are focusing on a few thousand “key genes.” These genes allow the human body to function.
Without these genes, people have serious health issues and do not survive past childhood.
These genes are currently being researched in a process known as “functional mapping.” Researchers are taking these key genes and studying how they work. This process could take several decades.
Some scientists are attempting to understand how the genome works by focusing on individual cells instead of the human body as a whole. By focusing on the individual parts of the human body, it may be possible to understand the entire process much more quickly.
There are an estimated 20,000 genes in the human genome. Each of these genes comes in several different variations. A researcher at the University of Michigan created an interactive tool called the “Human Genome Browser.” This tool allows a researcher to search for specific genes and see how they are different from other genes.
The HGP-write proposal was submitted to the National Academy of Science in 2018. The project is still in the early stages of funding.
The HGP-write project has a strong emphasis on making the technology easily available to the public. Many of the tools and resources created by this project will be made available online for free.
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