Genetics is the study of genes, heredity, and genetic variation in living organisms. It is a field of biology but it intersects frequently with many of the life sciences and is strongly linked with the study of information systems.

All living organisms reproduce. This ensures the continuation of their species and life on the planet. Offspring inherit a full copy of all the information that is required for them to develop into functioning members of their species. This information is in the form of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) which is located in the nucleus.

DNA is organized into functional units known as genes. Genes are part of chromosomes. All the genetic material in the cell is collectively known as the genome.

Advancing knowledge in the field of genetics has an important role in daily life. For example, genetic counseling can prevent the spread of inherited diseases. Another example of the impact of genetics in improving the quality of human life is production of human insulin from genetically modified micro-organisms.

The Human Genome Project was an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up human DNA, and of identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional standpoint. It provided important information on human genetic disorders.

Topics in this Section

  • Chromosomes, genes and DNA
    • Chromosomes
    • Genes
    • DNA
    • Mutation
  • Protein synthesis
    • Messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA)
  • Cell division
    • Mitosis
    • Meiosis
  • The genetic basis of inheritance
    • Autosomal inheritance
    • Sex-linked inheritance
  • Ageing and genetics
  • Genetic basis of disease
    • Cancer
    • Inherited disease