Genomics

Genomics is a branch of biology focused on the structure, function, evolution, and mapping of genomes, the complete set of DNA in the single cell of an organism. Sequencing a genome means determining the order of its chemical sub-units. Scientists use these sequences to map and catalog human genetic variation to improve our understanding of human biology, disease susceptibility, and drug response. 

As the cost of genetic sequencing has fallen rapidly in recent years, concerns have increased about inaccurate or misunderstood results, violations of genetic privacy, and misuse of genetic databases. Though direct-to-consumer genetic testing has become a highly publicized industry, many experts express considerable skepticism about its usefulness, either for health conditions or ancestry information. Genetic sequencing is also increasingly used in police work, since DNA in even small amounts of blood, saliva, or other biological materials left at a crime scene can identify or exonerate a suspect. However, police DNA databases, which in many jurisdictions include people who have been arrested for but never convicted of a crime, raise concerns about privacy, potential civil liberties violations, and racial discrimination.


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Ancestry Testing and Forensics

FamilyTreeDNA has produced a TV ad with a remarkable sales pitch: Help the police by signing up with us. The commercial features the father of a crime victim:

“When a loved one is a victim of a violent crime, families want answers … your help can provide the missing link.”

The company is the oldest DNA ancestry testing service, but not the largest. Evidently they hope to increase their database by incorporating data generated by...

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Some of my ancestors might live just up the street. They are the people who own the black camper van with a decal brandishing the words “Irish Pride.” I pass their house on my walks, a little unsure where ethnic...

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The first drafts of the human genome, published in Nature and Science 20 years ago, flung open the doors for...

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When scientists set out to sequence the entire human genome in 1990, it was considered an undertaking on par with...

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Uyghur man

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Kazuto Kato

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Cover of The Code Breaker

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Preimplantation genetic testing

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