Our genes play an important role in our general health and conditions or diseases that may be inherited. Being able to understand more about specific conditions which are caused by a single gene (using genetics) and complex conditions caused by multiple genes and environmental factors (using genomics) can lead to earlier diagnoses, interventions, and targeted treatments.
Identifying a family history: A person's health is influenced by his/her family history and shared environmental factors. This makes family history an important, personalised tool that can help identify many of the causes for specific conditions, including whether there is a genetic component. A genetic family history can also be used to identify families which have individuals affected by single-gene conditions.
The family history can serve as the basis for learning about genetic and genomic conditions in a family, and for developing individualized approaches to disease prevention, intervention, and treatment.
Understanding genetics: Genetics refers to the study of genes and the way that certain traits or conditions are passed down from one generation to another. Genetics helps individuals and families learn about inherited conditions and what screening and testing options are available. It can also, for some genetic conditions, identify what treatments are available.
Understanding genomics: Genomics is the study of all the DNA needed to build an organism, including the coding and non-coding regions. Genomics enables the identification of why some people may develop conditions, whilst others do not. For example, there are some people who eat healthily, exercise regularly, have never smoked and died of a heart attack or stroke at an early age, whereas others who smoke, eat unhealthily, and rarely if ever exercise, live well into old age. Genomics may hold the key to understanding these differences.
Gaining a better understanding of the interactions between genes and the environment by means of genomics is helping find better ways to improve health and prevent disease, such as modifying diet and exercise plans to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes in people who carry genetic predispositions to developing this disease.