Genomics – Main Research Areas
With the completion of the entire human DNA sequence, an important stage of genomic research has come to an end. However, the scientists still have plenty of work in genomics such as to determine the role of genomic variations on cell function and establish each gene in the context of the entire genome. In addition to human genome, other species’ genomes are being studied as well in order to better understand biology as well as to be able to use the knowledge of genomics to improve human health and to treat diseases.
The advances in genomics were followed by advances in technology which enables the scientists to conduct more complex researches but it also led to specialisation within the field of genomics. Thus the study of the genomes has been divided into several research areas with an emphasis on:
Human genomics. As already mentioned earlier, the main goal of genomics in the field of human genome – to sequence the entire human DNA has been completed in 2007 when the human genome sequencing has been declared finished by the Human Genome Project. Now, however, the scientists have to interpret the data and make the knowledge useful for practical applications such as treating and preventing diseases.
Bacteriophage genomics. This field of genomic research is focused on the study of bacteriophages or bacteria which infect the viruses. In the past, bacteriophages were also used to define gene structure and it was a bacteriophage whose genome was sequenced first.
Cyanobacteria genomics. It refers to the study of cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae which get their energy through the process of photosynthesis. This phylum of bacteria is thought to play an important role in shaping the Earth’s atmosphere and biodiversity of life on our planet by producing oxygen.
Metagenomics. It is the study of metagenomes or material that is obtained directly from the environmental samples. Genome sequencing of the cultures which were taken from the environment has shown that the traditional research on cultures which was based on cultivated clonal cultures has missed most of microbial diversity. Metagenomics has revealed many previously unknown characteristics of the microbial world. As a result, this field of genomic research has a great potential to revolutionise not only the understanding of the microbial world but the entire living world.
Functional genomics. This field of genomics is focused on interpretation of the data created by genomic research projects in order to describe functions and interaction of a gene. In contrary to genomics which is mainly focused on obtaining information from DNA sequence, functional genomics is also interested in the DNA on the levels of the genes. However, it does not use gene-by-gene approach but rather a genome-wide method.
Pharmacogenomics. It is a branch of pharmacology and genomics which researches the relationship between drug response and genetic variation in order to develop drug therapy which ensures optimal efficacy and minimum risk of side affects in respect to the patient’s genotype. This approach has been shown to be very helpful in treating conditions such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, asthma and depression.