Genetics in general

Recent years have involved much discussion and research about mapping the human genome. How much do you know about genetics? You don't have to be an expert on the subject, but it's helpful to know the basics. This is especially relevant if you or someone you love has psoriasis, as experts know that a genetic link exists with the onset of the disease.

The adult human body is made up of trillions of cells, and genetic information is contained at the centre (nucleus) of each one of these cells. This information, in the form of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), codes the production of amino acids, which in turn form proteins. These proteins provide the building blocks for everything in our bodies, from gender to internal organs to outward physical appearance.

Where do genes fit in? A gene is made up of pieces of DNA. A single gene is the code that builds one protein. Recent research has shown that the entire sequence of DNA for the human body (i.e., the human genome) consists of about 20,000 to 25,000 genes.

Genes vary between individuals. Some differences in genes (for example, those that determine eye colour) are not considered "abnormal" when they differ between people. However, it is more important for genes involved with the healthy functioning of the body (such as those for the heart or kidney) to follow the proper (or normal) structure. If these genes vary, they are called abnormal as they may contribute to the onset of disease, often referred to as genetic disorders. These "abnormal" genes may be hereditary (i.e., inherited from your parents) or they may spontaneously occur.

Oftentimes the presence of a disease is linked to the influence of more than a single gene. Therefore it is not simple for researchers to establish the exact link between genetics and the onset of disease. Nevertheless, with ongoing advances in genetic knowledge, scientists are constantly expanding their understanding of this complex relationship.

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