What is molecular genetics?

Molecular genetics analyzes the physical and chemical aspects of genes.

Molecular genetics is a subdiscipline of genetics, a field of biological sciences. Genes are units of heredity, instructions for inherited traits such as hair color, blood type, and predisposition to some diseases. Molecular genetics is concerned with the physical and chemical properties of these genes.

Organisms depend on cells to grow and function. Each cell is essentially like a machine, following the instructions of its genes to function efficiently. The molecule that makes up genes is called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which is stored inside the cells of organisms.

Genetic mutations are changes in DNA that occur on a chemical level and are also of interest in the field of molecular genetics.

DNA is a long molecule, tightly coiled into structures called chromosomes. These chromosomes require high magnification to be visualized. When viewed uncoiled, the DNA molecule resembles a twisted ladder, with two intertwined strands called a double helix. The double helix structure of DNA is a big part of molecular genetics.

The field is also concerned with the structure and function of ribonucleic acid (RNA), a molecule essential for the functioning of cells. Structurally, RNA is quite similar to DNA, but they have different functions. Information from the cell’s DNA is copied into an RNA molecule, from which a protein designed for a specific task is assembled. In the human body, for example, a protein called hemoglobin allows red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s systems. The action of a protein-producing gene is called gene expression.

Many molecular geneticists work in research laboratories.

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Genetic mutations are changes in DNA that occur on a chemical level and are also of interest in the field of molecular genetics. Cancer genetics, in particular, is an area studied by molecular geneticists, who carry out research to better understand – and perhaps even prevent or cure – the disease. Gene therapy also requires molecular geneticists. This type of therapy involves giving people new genes and is an area that is being researched for the treatment of some diseases. Genetic engineering and cloning are also under the heading of molecular genetics.

Molecular geneticists usually have an advanced degree.

Molecular geneticists usually work in a laboratory setting, although they may also take on research or teaching-based roles. Depending on the country they complete their studies in, molecular geneticists usually hold a bachelor’s degree in genetics and often an advanced degree, such as a doctorate, as well. Some are also doctors who specialize in genetics. In addition to specialists, a wide range of professionals in the fields of science, health and education may come across this field of genetics in their professional lives.

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