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15.15: Genomics
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15.15: Genomics

Genomics is the science of genomes: it is the study of all the genetic material of an organism. In humans, the genome consists of information carried in 23 pairs of chromosomes in the nucleus, as well as mitochondrial DNA. In genomics, both coding and non-coding DNA is sequenced and analyzed. Genomics allows a better understanding of all living things, their evolution, and their diversity. It has a myriad of uses: for example, to build phylogenetic trees, to improve productivity and sustainability of crops, assisting criminal investigations, identifying genes associated with diseases, or targeting optimal treatment for cancer patients.

Over the past 30 years, significant technological developments in DNA sequencing took place, in particular, thanks to the international Human Genome Project effort. Technology now exists to sequence 60 billion DNA bases, which is 20 times the size of a human genome. With this abundance of information and big data, computer scientists and bioinformaticians work hand in hand with biologists in order to collect, store, and analyze the DNA sequencing outputs, while allowing the data to be accessed securely.

The success of genomics has opened the way for other large-scale methods to investigate biological systems in their entirety. Genomic studies can now be completed by other "omics" studies in order to gather data on living sets at all levels: species, populations, individuals, cells, proteins, RNA, DNA. Transcriptomics is the study of how the overall expression of genes varies under different experimental or pathological conditions. Proteomics is the study of all the proteins constituting an organism or system. Metabolomics is the study of all the metabolites (sugar, fats, other molecules) contained in a given biological system and their interactions. Undissociable from bioinformatics, the "omics" allow a global view of complex living sets in their environment, and as such, pave the way for personalized medicine.


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