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Skip to 0 minutes and 13 seconds There are a lot of different reasons why people might want to look at a genome and it might be helpful to think about it in three different categories. So, why a scientist might want to look at particular genomes, why healthcare professionals may want to look at different people’s genomes and why a person themselves might want to have their genome sequenced.

Skip to 0 minutes and 34 seconds I think the reason why scientists look at genomes is often because of scientific curiosity. Scientists want to know the answer to why. So they want to know why a cell develops the way it develops. They want to know why a cell divides when it divides. What is telling it to do that.

Skip to 0 minutes and 54 seconds All that information is in the genome. What a lot of people may not realise is that we share quite a lot of our genetic information with other organisms such as yeast, drosophila, which is fruit fly, and mice. And by looking at those very simple organisms we can then infer to what would happen in a human. Initially, I think a lot of the work around genomes was looking at answering those very scientific questions. From a doctor’s or healthcare professional’s point-of-view they want to see the differences between each human and what those differences might mean in terms of healthcare.

Skip to 1 minute and 31 seconds Most of our DNA is very similar to each other, so we are 99.9 the same and 0.1 variation. Sometimes that variation doesn’t mean anything, sometimes it causes natural variation, such as the differences we see in eye colour or hair colour. In some cases though it can have serious consequences. So it can mean someone might develop a genetic condition, it could mean they’re more susceptible to developing a certain disease. Some of those variants mean that we react differently to drugs. We’re only just starting to realise this information now and we are only just starting to use it in the healthcare services.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 seconds But it’s quite likely that in the future, before anyone prescribes a drug they will look at the genetic information to ensure they’re prescribing the right drug at the right time, at the right dosage to make sure they can limit the adverse drug reactions.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds An individual will want to know about their genome for various different reasons. There’s a lot of research going on about people’s motivations why they might undergo whole genome sequencing or any type of genetic testing. And in some cases it is to provide answers about any health conditions they might have or to find out whether they’re susceptible to developing a particular condition. But there seems to be another group of people who have more of an interest around why they have the particular DNA they have, looking back into their population ancestry so where they’ve inherited this information from, and that’s started to be termed recreational genomics.

Skip to 3 minutes and 4 seconds So I think the reason why people want to look at the genomes, sometimes it’s for personal reasons, sometimes out of scientific curiosity and other times it will have health reasons as well.

Why do we want to know about genomes?

In this video, Dr Michelle Bishop introduces us to a wide range of reasons why different people and professions want to know about genomes.

Michelle discusses:

  • why scientists have been driven to find out more about genomes
  • why healthcare professionals might make increasing use of information about a person’s genome in healthcare, and
  • why individuals are choosing to learn more about their genetic make-up.

In the course of the video we discover a number of interesting facts. For example:

  • There is a tremendous amount of similarity between the human genome and the genomes of other organisms - for example yeast, fruit flies and mice.
  • 99.9% of each individual human genome is similar.
  • It is in the remaining 0.1% of our genome where all variation occurs.
  • This variation is the source of our natural differences, such as our differences in eye and hair colour.
  • In many cases this variation can have no significant impact on our health and in some cases it can have serious consequences for our health. For example, it can be the reason an individual develops a particular condition or is more susceptible to a particular disease.

Before we dive in and learn what a genome is and how it functions, this video alerts us to why knowing about the genome can be really important.

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This video is from the free online course:

Whole Genome Sequencing: Decoding the Language of Life and Health

Health Education England

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