When the entire human genome was mapped out in 2003, the world seemed to be entering the era of personalized medicine. Many years have passed since then and we are still waiting for that promise to be fulfilled. For example, we may know that a person carries a gene associated with breast cancer, but not whether they develop the disease. New research by evolutionary biologist Ramu Singh of McMaster University suggests that this is due to the presence of a hidden layer that controls genetic interaction, as well as how billions of possible combinations produce certain results.
This layer mostly consists of unexplored biochemical pathways that control the expression of genes in cells through chemical reactions. Deciphering how our genes produce identifiable outcomes (brown eyes, receding hair, high cholesterol) is a challenging challenge if we look only at the genes themselves, Singh says, but understanding the pathways that regulate their activity can challenge that challenge significantly. simplification. Scientists have long known that genetic and environmental differences determine physical outcomes, but there is a third component: pathway differences.
An astonishing number of potential gene combinations include all the genes in the human genome, including previous versions encoded in each cell’s genetic history. However, at the moment, the organism does not actively use all its genetic material, cells carry backup copies of their development as storage, which can be used when conditions change.
The ability to access past modifications gives each organism a certain ability to adapt to changes in its environment. Biochemical pathways allow cells to draw on this memory when needed, helping them to survive when the environment changes. The research was published in a journal Journal of Molecular Evolution.
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