Molecular Medicine and Molecular Pathology for Haematologists: I. Gene Speak made Easy: An Overview of Genes and Gene Expression

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Abstract

Molecular Medicine and Molecular Pathology are integral parts of Haematology as we enter the new millennium. Their origins can be linked to fundamental developments in the basic sciences, particularly genetics, chemistry and biochemistry. The structure of DNA and the genetic code that it encrypts are the critical starting points to our understanding of these new disciplines. The genetic alphabet is a simple one, consisting of just 4 letters, buts its influence is crucial to human development and differentiation. The concept of a gene is not a new one but the Human Genome Project (a joint world-wide effort to characterise our entire genetic make-up) is providing an invaluable understanding of how genes function in normal cellular processes and pinpointing how disruption of these processes can lead to disease. Transcription and translation are the key events by which our genotype is converted to our phenotype (via a messenger RNA intermediate), producing the myriad proteins and enzymes which populate the cellular factory of our body. Unlike the bacterial or prokaryotic genome, the human genome contains a large amount of non coding DNA (less than 1% of our genome codes for proteins), and our genes are interrupted, with the coding regions or exons separated by non coding introns. Precise removal of the intronic material after transcription (though a process called splicing) is critical for efficient translation to occur. Incorrect splicing can lead to the generation of mutant proteins, which can have a dilaterious effect on the phenotype of the individual. Thus the 100,000-200,000 genes which are present in each cell in our body have a defined control mechanism permitting efficient and appropriate expression of proteins and enzymes and yet a single base change in just one of those genes can lead to diseases such as haemophilia or fanconis anaemia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-66
Number of pages8
JournalHematology (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Volume4
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1999

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