Today, such words and expressions as DNA, genetic engineering, genetically modified foods (GMOs) have become widely known. Despite the fact that genetics as a science has existed for more than a hundred years, there is still no clear definition of who a geneticist is and what he does. Is this speci alty a profession, and if so, what field of activity does it belong to: science or medicine? The attitude of society to the results of the work of geneticists is also ambiguous. There is still debate about whether GMO foods are harmful or beneficial to humans.
Genetics - the birth of a new science
The founder of genetics is Gregor Johann Mendel. Although before him there were scientists who tried to explain how the transmission of hereditary traits from parents to children passes, but these theories were not based on facts. So, Charles Darwin's theory that the transmission of hereditary traits is carried out through the blood was refuted experimentally during the lifetime of the scientist.
Mendel is the first scientist who managed toestablish how the transmission of hereditary traits occurs. He discovered this by conducting a series of experiments with the seeds of garden peas, with which he worked for two years. The results of the research became the foundation for new discoveries and the development of genetics as a science. That is why Mendel is considered the founder of genetics. He was the first to put forward the idea that the transmission of hereditary traits is carried out at the cellular level. He was the first to discover the laws of transmission of hereditary information. He found out that there are two types of hereditary traits: recessive and dominant, between which there is a struggle.
Brief biography of the founder of genetics
The first geneticist was born on July 20, 1822 in Heinzendorf, a small village located on the Moravian-Silesian border. Johann Mendel received his first education in an ordinary rural school. After he entered the gymnasium in Troppau, where he studied for 6 years. He graduated in 1840.
In 1843 he became a monk at the Augustinian monastery of St. Thomas in Brunn, where he received the new name Gregor. From 1844 to 1848 he studied at the Brunn Theological Institute. In 1847 he received the priesthood. All the time Mendel did not stop teaching. Independently studied Greek and mathematics. Although he failed to pass his exams, he was able to engage in teaching activities.
In 1849-1851 he taught mathematics, Latin andGreek. In the period 1851-1853, thanks to the rector, he began the study of natural history at the University of Vienna. Mendel studied the natural sciences, and one of his teachers was Franz Unger, one of the world's first cytologists. While in Vienna, Mendel became interested in scientific research in the field of plant hybridization. He began to independently conduct experiments and observations with certain types of plants and animals. The most significant scientific contribution was his experiments with garden peas, as a result of which he prepared a report.
In 1865, he twice, on February 8 and March 8, made a presentation before the Society of Naturalists in Brunn. The report was called "Experiments on plant hybrids." The report was subsequently reproduced and distributed. Mendel himself made 40 copies of his work and sent it to major botanical scientists, but he never received recognition from them. His work was recognized later, but at that time knowledge about genetics and who a geneticist was did not yet exist. It was the first work in this field of knowledge.
The history of the development of genetics can be divided into two stages. The first stage includes the discovery of the law of transmission of hereditary traits by Mendel, the discovery of chromosomes, DNA, the chemical composition of genes and their structure.
The second stage - when genetic scientists discovered a way to change the structure of DNA, rearrange genes, introduce and remove its individual sections, and even create completely new organisms with desired properties. At this stage, there was a complete decoding of the DNA of humans, animals and plants (only a few).
At the first stage of the development of genetics as a science, the following discoveries occurred:
- In 1865, Gregor Mendel made a report on the topic "Experiments on plant hybrids." This work formed the basis of genetics, although it did not yet exist as a science.
- In 1869, Friedrich Miescher discovered the existence of DNA as the main component of the cell nucleus. He called it nuclein.
- In 1901, Hugo de Vries' Theory of Change (Mutation): Experiments and Observations on the Heredity of Species in the Plant Kingdom was published.
- In 1905, the term "genetics" was coined by William Batson.
- In 1909, W. Johansen introduced the concept of a hereditary unit - gene.
- 1913 Alfred Sturtevant makes the world's first genetic map.
- 1953 Jason Watson and Francis Crick first deciphered the structure of DNA.
- In 1970 it was found that the genetic code consists of triplets.
- In 1970, when studying the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae, it was possible to detect restriction enzymes, which makes it possible to cut and paste sections of DNA molecules.
The second stage in the development of the new science began when genetic scientists began to conduct experiments to change the structure of DNA by adding, removing and replacing genes. Application of discoveries in the field of genetics for practical purposes:
- 1972. Getting the first samples of genetically modified plants.
- In 1994, the firstGMO foods - tomatoes.
- 2003. Deciphering human DNA. This made it possible to diagnose genetic diseases in the fetus in the early stages of pregnancy.
- 2010 year. Creating an organism with artificial DNA in the laboratory.
- In 2015, the first genetically modified animal, the Atlantic salmon, went on sale.
Deciphering human DNA
The most important discovery in the modern history of genetics is the complete decoding of human DNA. Thanks to this, it became possible to find out not only the entire pedigree of both an individual person and all of humanity. It became possible to predict the likelihood of the appearance and development of hereditary diseases in humans, moreover, to treat serious diseases at an early stage of development or prevent the birth of a child with severe genetic abnormalities.
However, in this sense, genetics is often criticized, compared with eugenics. Unraveling the mystery of human DNA, along with the ability to control its structure and obtain people with desired properties, has led to the emergence of ethical problems. There were periods in the history of mankind when the ideas of eugenics and scientific discoveries in genetics led to the mass extermination of people on a national or racial basis.
If in relation to people any genetic experiments are prohibited, then in relation to animals and plants such experiments andresearch is not only permitted. They are encouraged by states, large agricultural and pharmaceutical companies. Despite criticism from some genetic scientists, advances in the production of genetically modified plants have been used for a long time. Today, almost all soy is genetically modified. Some GMO plants have been used in agriculture for over 40 years.
Genetically modified crops are absolutely harmless to humans, but at the same time they give a stable high yield, are resistant to bad weather conditions and parasites. Their cultivation requires less fertilizer, which means that such crops contain less nitrates and other substances harmful to humans. But time-tested varieties are few. Most of all existing GMO crops appeared less than 30 years ago, and their effects on humans are still poorly understood.
However, genetic engineering has already proved that the subject and tasks of modern genetics are not limited to laboratory research and experiments. This is a new science that will help people adapt to the new conditions of life on the planet and provide themselves with the necessary food.
Who is a geneticist? What areas can he work in?
A geneticist is a specialist who studies the structure and changes in the genetic material of humans and other living beings. He explores the mechanisms and patterns of heredity. The profession of a genetic scientist has received the greatest distribution in medicine, pharmaceuticals and agriculture. Use of scientific achievements inThe field of genetic research has allowed the development of new types of medicines for hemophilia and other diseases that are inherited from parents to children.
It became possible to prescribe drugs that will not cause an allergic reaction in the patient or will be useless for him. Treatment in the near future will be prescribed individually, based on information obtained as a result of DNA testing of a particular person. In forensics, genetics helps to find the criminal by particles of sweat, blood, skin.
Genetics in medicine
A geneticist working in the medical field must know the basics of genetics, be able to use an electron microscope, a spectrometer and work with special computer programs. As a material for analysis, the doctor uses the patient's venous blood, a smear from the oral mucosa, placental fluid, i.e. he must know how and when to take samples for analysis.
So who is a geneticist? Most often, this name means a doctor, but the profession of genetic engineer and genetic agronomist will eventually become a more common concept than it is now. The scope of scientific achievements in genetics will only expand.