What is molecular genetics?
Molecular genetics is a subdiscipline within the field of biology. Specifically, the study of molecular genetics aims to determine the structure and function of genes via various screening techniques. Researchers in this field investigate abnormal changes in identified genes, often referred to as mutations, to better understand how genetic changes can cause physical conditions in the organism of study. For example, genetic conditions, such as cystic fibrosis, are caused by changes in specific genes. Thereby, in-depth classification of genetic alterations that result in genetic disorders is paramount in the understanding, diagnoses, and ultimately treatment of diseases.
What does it take to be a molecular geneticist?
The field of molecular genetics lies at the intersection of cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, biotechnology, and even classical patterns of genetic inheritance. A molecular geneticist has an excellent understanding of gene structure, function, and regulation at the cellular level. More specifically, molecular geneticists may investigate a gene’s function through two approaches: forward and reverse genetics. Forward genetics aims to identify the genetic changes that result in a known genetic disease. In contrast, reverse genetics aims to understand the effects of altered genes. In this sense, through curiosity and abundance of background knowledge, a molecular geneticist investigates the unknowns of our gene’s functions. For this reason, most molecular geneticist positions require a minimum of a Masters or Doctoral degree.
WHERE IS THE FIELD OF GENETICS HEADING?
With the development of new technology and improved methods of screening human DNA to identify specific genetic changes, the field of molecular genetics is moving in an exciting trajectory toward “personalized medicine”. Essentially, improvements in the ability to identify unique genetic changes in each individual open new avenues for personal treatments that open new avenues for personal treatments adapted to one’s unique genetic profile. In this regard, the field of molecular genetics is en route to making therapies that are best suited to each person — much like finding a shoe that fits for every patient. In the future, perhaps genetic screening will become the norm when you walk into your doctor’s office for a regular checkup. For now, molecular genetics is constantly improving and assists patients with some of the deadliest and debilitating genetic diseases, with hopes to identify optimal treatments for patients.