What Is Genomics

Genomics – an offshoot science of molecular biology – is a science that concerns itself principally with the genomes of various species. In addition to mapping genome structure, the study of genomics also involves studying potential evolutions of species genomes and how those genomes function in nature.

A genome is a complete layout of a single organism or species’ DNA and genetic identity markers – a complete picture of the raw material of that individual or group. Understanding the human genome – or the genome of any other species – helps us not only to understand that species’ ecological niche, but how to better treat conditions and diseases that begin at the cellular and genetic levels, such as cancer.

Why It’s Important

The Human Genome Project completed its work of mapping the human genome, providing billions of terabytes of raw data to geneticists, hospitals, doctors and disease study and control centers. Biomedical centers and practitioners have utilized this data to advance studies in the management and treatment of genetically-linked diseases, such as cancer, hemophilia, sickle-cell anemia and many others.

Genomics has contributed dramatically to the development of treatments for these diseases, and even in the development of preventative measures. From new drugs to emerging gene therapies, genomics plays a vital role in the advancement of medicine.

Advancements in Medicine

Because we can now map the entirety of a single organism’s genome, genomics has significantly changed western medicine’s approach to the individual. One area in which genomics has made its biggest impact is in the reduction of infant mortality. By increasing doctors’ ability to pre-screen newborns for genetic and chronic diseases, infant mortality rates in babies up to two weeks old has undergone a more than noticeable reduction.

Another area in which genomics has deeply impacted medicine is in the treatment and prevention of cancer. By studying underlying genetic factors that may contribute to hereditary cancers – especially female reproductive cancers – doctors have been able to develop new and personalized treatments for individual cancer patients, as well as to develop vaccines for specific cancers (such as Gardasil, which prevents cervical cancer and is administered to young women).

Millions of doctors and biomedical practitioners attend lectures and conventions on genomics every year in order to apply this immense and emerging field of knowledge to their own practices, particularly those in oncology. Increasingly, medical schools are developing course curriculums and even specializations in genomics, meaning new med school graduates are heading into offices and hospitals already armed with knowledge of the field – resulting in better treatment for their patients.

Beginning with the Human Genome Project, genomics has accelerated as a field by leaps and bounds in the past decade, completely revolutionizing the way we think about health, the way we treat diseases, and informing researchers to develop better methods of improving the quality of life in millions of people. While many more years of research are necessary to continue identifying genetic contributors to numerous diseases and health conditions, the study of this vast and exciting field has enormously benefitted medicine – and as the field develops, will continue to improve prevention, recovery, and quality of life.