Cracking the whip on rogue genes

Let’s kick things off with a biology lesson…about you. The moment your Mum’s ovum and your Dad’s sperm cell decided to hook up, to form one cell, your life was up and running. And everything that is you today (your looks, your personality, your disgusting habits) all come from your unique genetic code.

Simple stuff really, and unless you were flicking rubber bands at the back of class, none of this will be new to you. But what might’ve passed you by are the things about genetic diseases and abnormality. The things that happen when genetics don’t go exactly to plan.

Understanding the ins and outs of these rogue genes has kept scientists scratching heads for years now and finding ways of keeping them all in check is a big deal to them.

Want an example? Well take the team of researchers giving a rare skin disease called Harlequin Ichthyosis more than a run for its money. Not only have they tracked down the gene causing all the mischief, but they’re now using this knowledge to test new treatments. Get the full picture here:

And if that doesn’t blow your mind get this: scientists can now identify genes in us that indicate conditions such as Alzheimer’s or diabetes. Conditions that are hanging around and waiting to develop in the future. Knowing this means they could be dealt with way before they decide to raise their ugly heads.

So you could say a career in genetics can help you see into the future too.

Choose to work in this field and you could be involved as a:

• Scientific researcher mapping the genetic imprint for patients.
• Clinical cytogeneticist studying chromosomes from samples of human blood, tissue, bone marrow or other bodily fluids to diagnose genetic diseases.
• Molecular geneticist examining DNA to define genetic abnormalities.
• Genetic counsellor informing patients about what diseases they are programmed to get, according to their genes.
•  Doctor – Consultant (disease specialist) preventing potential conditions or diseases in patients whose genes indicate they will develop these in the future.
• Genetic Surgeon with the technology to manipulate (change) faulty genes, to prevent the future development of a condition or disease in a patient.