DNA A.M.

A Half-Day Primer On Modern Genetics

WHAT PEOPLE SAY

“Thanks! A fantastic session thoroughly enjoyed by our students. They were inspired by the material you covered and continue to talk about it.” 

 

— Mr I. Smith, St Anselm's College, Wirral

Introduction
 

These are exciting times for the field of genetics. The Human Genome Project (HGP) and subsequent research have established that the human genome comprises around 20,000 genes, accounting for around 1.5% of our DNA. However, we are now in the era of post-HGP molecular genetics in which large-scale, big-data international research consortiums such as ENCODE (Encyclopaedia of DNA Elements) are changing the landscape of genetic science. The ultimate aim of ENCODE is to assemble a library of the functional elements in the human genome, ascribing roles to components of what has been traditionally thought "junk DNA". Early findings indicated that over 80% of the genome "is involved in at least one biochemical RNA and/or chromatin associated event in at least one cell type, effectively controlling the expression levels of coding DNA. In years to come, many commentators predict that genomics and proteomics will revolutionise the practice of medicine and dramatically increase our knowledge of preventing and treating many diseases. Genomics will also impact on academic disciplines from the life sciences to economics.

 

This tutorial is thus intended to serve as a comprehensive primer of modern genetic principles applied to medicine and biomedical science, developing knowledge beyond the A-level curriculum. To be considered are important questions and issues that have arisen from recent research, acknowledging the social ramifications for genetic technologies.

 

In addition to reviewing elementary principles of  medical genetics, the tutorial introduces the student to modern theories of disease development, with a focus on cancer genetics and epigenetics. The field of cancer epigenetics is evolving rapidly as a function of advances in our understanding of chromatin structure, transcriptional activity and DNA methylation and these processes will be overviewed. To further emphasise the rapid developments being made, students will learn about new pharmacological epigenetic therapies such as DNA methyltransferase inhibitors. Future treatment and prevention of a large number of genetic diseases will depend on a deeper understanding of the relationship between genes, environment and other disease variables and this relationship will be emphasised.

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Which Students Will Benefit From The Tutorial?

 

This tutorial is designed primarily for very able A-level biology students but will also be useful to:

 

  • any AS-level students with an interest in genetics and disease, and emerging scientific and biomedical technologies.

  • those students considering a university degree and/or career in the following subjects:

    Genetics           Biological Sciences       Medicine 
    Life Sciences     Veterinary Science        Psychology

 

The material presented during this tutorial will complement and develop upon topics and issues encountered in biological study.


Aims of The Tutorial
 

There are three main aims to this tutorial:

 

  • to provide the student with an overview of elementary and advanced genetic principles, including contemporary issues and recent developments in epigenetics.

  • to examine various types of genetic and chromosomal disorders, also considering complex genetic disorders.

  • to focus on cancer biology and genetics, providing the student with an insight into gene families and their roles in cellular control processes.

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