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What is Genetic Research?

By Amy Hunter
Updated May 17, 2024
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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.  

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Discussion Comments
By Ameraka — On Jan 24, 2013

@TrogJoe19: You scare me. This idea of humanity as a virus--I have heard it before. People who think this must have a deep seated inferiority complex, since why would the member of a species see itself as something malignant? We should seek ways of preserving life before we think of destroying it.

Yes, we should be prudent and think before we conceive new humans, but do we really want to go back to the days of rampant disease? Do we want to let viruses be our population control? There are more efficient, less painful ways, I think. Science is about looking forward, not backward. Seeking new solutions.

If we are becoming overpopulated, we should look to space before we think of stunting our longevity, and quashing the search for healthier humanity. With proper preparation, I wouldn't mind living on the moon. But we are so 'terracentric', especially right now, it seems.

By TrogJoe19 — On Feb 01, 2011


You scare me friend. If this were to occur, what would be the implications? I worry that the world would become overpopulated, and humanity would infect it like a virus.

By Proxy414 — On Jan 30, 2011

Research into these areas will continue to astound us as we find new ways to perfect things and prevent disease. It is likely that we will be making breakthroughs in the near future which may cause us to live quite long. Maybe death will even be prevented.

By hangugeo112 — On Jan 29, 2011

These structures are almost completely beyond our comprehension. Understanding the DNA makeup of cells and how they came to be the way they are is like trying to understand how it is possible to win the lottery fifty times in a row. It is not. And yet we have this infinitesimal coincidence right here in front of us, almost like a computer code designed to determine the makeup of life.

By arod2b42 — On Jan 28, 2011

To study genetics is to seek to grasp the basic building blocks of what makes things the way they are. It is life on the smallest level, determining the alignment of chemicals and proteins in a body and therefore has a direct impact on the design of every living organism.

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