Science & Technology

GENE

Gene is the basic unit of heredity found in the cells of all living organisms, from bacteria to humans. Genes determine the physical characteristics that an organism inherits, such as the shape of a tree’s leaf, the markings on a cat’s fur, and the color of a human hair .Genes are composed of segments of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a molecule that forms the long, threadlike structures called chromosomes. The information encoded within the DNA structure of a gene directs the manufacture of proteins, molecular workhorses that carry out all life-supporting activities within a cell .Chromosomes within a cell occur in matched pairs. Each chromosome contains many genes, and each gene is located at a particular site on the chromosome, known as the locus. Like chromosomes, genes typically occur in pairs. A gene found on one chromosome in a pair usually has the same locus as another gene in the other chromosome of the pair, and these two genes are called alleles. Alleles are alternate forms of the same gene. For example, a pea plant has one gene that determines height, but that gene appears in more than one form—the gene that produces a short plant is an allele of the gene that produces a tall plant. The behavior of alleles and how they influence inherited traits follow predictable patterns. Austrian monk Gregor Mendel first identified these patterns in the 1860s .In organisms that use sexual reproduction, offspring inherit one-half of their genes from each parent and then mix the two sets of genes together. This produces new combinations of genes, so that each individual is unique but still possesses the same genes as its parents. As a result, sexual reproduction ensures that the basic characteristics of a particular species remain largely the same for generations. However, mutations, or alterations in DNA, occur constantly. They create variations in the genes that are inherited. Some mutations may be neutral, or silent, and do not affect the function of a protein. Occasionally a mutation may benefit or harm an organism and over the course of evolutionary time, these mutations serve the crucial role of providing organisms with previously nonexistent proteins. In this way, mutations are a driving force behind genetic diversity and the rise of new or more competitive species that are better able to adapt to changes, such as climate


Geneticists are scientists who study the function and behavior of genes. Since the 1970s geneticists have devised techniques, cumulatively known as genetic engineering, to alter or manipulate the DNA structure within genes. These techniques enable scientists to introduce one or more genes from one organism into a second organism. The second organism incorporates the new DNA into its own genetic material, thereby altering its own genetic characteristics by changing the types of proteins it can produce. In humans these techniques form the basis of gene therapy, a group of experimental procedures in which scientists try to substitute one or more healthy genes for defective ones in order to eliminate symptoms of disease.

Genetic engineering techniques have also enabled scientists to determine the chromosomal location and DNA structure of all the genes found within a variety of organisms. Scientists hope to use this genetic information to develop life-saving drugs for a variety of diseases, to improve agricultural crop yields.
GENE GENE Reviewed by Ram on 1:35:00 PM Rating: 5

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