Genetics is the study of heredity, that is, traits that are passed on to new organisms from their “parent” organism. The genetic code is a series of nucleotides in the form of DNA and RNA. This is what holds the key to all life as we know it. How can you get involved in this exciting field? Here are five examples of careers that are based in genetics.
Due to a boom in genetic testing, there is a real need for people that can bridge the divide between medical providers and the patients receiving these often complicated results. Genetics counselors are trained to understand the science and can relay it in a way that patients understand. They act as educators, advocates and resource guides. GCs can be found working with pregnant moms, children with developmental delays, and cancer patients, among others.
Clinical Genetics Technologist
These are the people performing and analyzing genetics tests in the lab. They are knowledgeable in genetics theory, laboratory techniques, and troubleshooting. All testing is considered highly complex, requiring foundational knowledge and attention to detail. Various specialties include Cytogenetics (chromosomes), Molecular Diagnostics (nucleic acids) and Biochemical Genetics (metabolic diseases).
Cancer Genetics Research
Cancer involves unregulated cell growth. This is due to acquired mutations, meaning they are a result of environmental factors. The genetics of these specific mutations can give information on staging, prognosis, treatment options, and disease monitoring. Researchers are also finding certain genes that are more likely to lead to cancer than others.
One of the main goals for the future of genetics is being able to tailor prescription treatments based on a person’s genetic makeup. The term “designer drugs” is often used. Ultimately, medical professionals would like to “know” which medications will work best for a specific patient (with the least likelihood of side effects) before they are prescribed.
A large component of agriculture is crop genetics. Extreme climate conditions, coupled with an ever-increasing population, means scientists are trying to find more efficient ways to make food. Genetic engineering plays a role in attempting to make plants more resistant to droughts and making crops less appealing to insects. GMOs actually help to reduce the amount of pesticides needed.
Have you noticed the explosion in genetic testing over the last 5-10 years? Not only can your doctor test for just about any syndrome out there, but genetics has also made a big break commercially. Multiple companies will take your sample and give a variety of information based on your genes. The genetic sequencing techniques that “read” the base pairs in DNA and RNA have become more sophisticated and accessible than ever before. This sets up genetics as a growing field for the future.