By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD
Genomics is an area within genetics that concerns the sequencing and analysis of an organism’s genome.
The genome is the entire DNA content that is present within one cell of an organism. Experts in genomics strive to determine complete DNA sequences and perform genetic mapping to help understand disease.
Genomics also involves the study of intragenomic processes such as epistasis, heterosis and pleiotropy as well as the interactions between loci and alleles within the genome. The fields of molecular biology and genetics are mainly concerned with the study of the role and function of single genes, a major topic in today’s biomedical research. By contrast, genomics does not involve single gene research unless the purpose is to understand a single gene’s effects in context of the entire genome.
As per the definition from the United States Environmental Protection Agency, genomics concerns a wider line of scientific inquiry and associated techniques than it did initially. Genomics involves the study of all genes at the DNA, mRNA, and proteome level as well as the cellular or tissue level.
Genomics is a concept that was first developed by Fred Sanger who first sequenced the complete genome of a virus and of a mitochondrion. He initiated the practice of sequencing and genome mapping as well as developing bioinformatics and data storage in the 1970s and 1980s.
The knowledge about genes that has so far been gathered has led to the emergence of functional genomics, a field concerned with trying to understand the pattern of gene expression, especially across different environmental conditions.
The term genomics was first coined in 1986 by Tom Roderick, a geneticist at the Jackson Laboratory in Maine, during a meeting about the mapping of the human genome.
Reviewed by Sally Robertson, BSc
Last Updated: Jul 20, 2014