Genes influence a person’s appearance, characteristics and their susceptibility to disease. They can even help archaeologists identify long lost kings. Rapid advances in DNA sequencing are providing scientists with the ability to explore the human genome, or genetic code, in more detail. This is leading to new discoveries about the genetic causes of human disease and new ways to improve our health.
See the scientists explain the science behind their exhibit in the video above, produced by students from Imperial College: Lin Lin Ginzberg and Chantal Chevailler
How it works
This exhibit demonstrates how the combination of expertise from science, technology, engineering and maths, utilising powerful computing, can uncover the changes in DNA that lead to a variety of human diseases. For example, the Cancer Genome Project compares DNA from tumour tissues to identify the changes that trigger the development of cancer.
The UK10K project is sequencing 10,000 human genomes to identify the differences in DNA that can influence a person’s susceptibility to develop diseases such as obesity, autism, schizophrenia and heart disease.
This technology can also be used to explore the genomes of other organisms, such as viruses, bacteria and parasites. Genomics is revolutionising our knowledge of pathogens that cause human diseases and identifying new targets for medical treatments.
Genomics can now provide clinically relevant data quickly enough to assist in MRSA infection control and improve patient care in hospitals. It can also be used to map genetic variation and track the rise of drug resistant strains of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. But this ability to explores genomes faster and cheaper than ever also opens ethical questions. How should genetic information be used and who should be allowed to have access to it?
Out Both Ends Game
Play Out Both Ends, a biomedical puzzle game to identify a disease outbreak.
Follow the instructions to install Unity web player (Windows or Mac OS X) if needed. You can play in full-screen mode by right-clicking in the game.
Lead Image: Two girls in front of wall of DNA sequence