Sep 18, 2015

Genetics vs. Genomics

The words genetic and genomic are often used interchangeably. However, they have different and specific meanings.

Genetics is the study of heredity. It is the study of how inherited traits are passed from one generation to the next through the genes, and how new traits appear by way of genetic mutations or changes. These traits may be characteristics like eye or hair color.

Genomics is a more recent term that describes the study of all of a person's genes (the genome). Genomics is defined as the study of genes and their functions, and related techniques.

The main difference between genomics and genetics is that genetics looks at the functioning and composition of a single gene and genomics addresses all genes and their inter relationships in order to identify their combined influence on the growth and development of an organism.

Genetic information is stored in the molecule DNA
Gene refers to a specific sequence of DNA on a single chromosome that encodes a particular product. Humans have many thousands of genes, spaced across the entire set of DNA.

The word genome encompasses the entire set of genetic information across all 23 chromosome pairs, including all genes, as well as gene-modifying sequences, and everything in-between.

In the context of clinical and research settings, "genetic" testing refers to the examination of specific bits of DNA that have a known function.

Genomic testing looks for variations within large segments across the entirety of genetic material, both within and outside known functional genes. It looks at groups of genes and how active they are, such as how a cancer is likely to grow and respond to treatment.

All the genes make up the genome. Both are important because understanding more about diseases caused by a single gene using genetics and complex diseases caused by multiple genes and environmental factors using genomics can lead to earlier diagnoses, interventions, and targeted treatments.