Why do scientists study the genes of other organisms?
All living things evolved from a common ancestor. Therefore, humans, animals, and other organisms share many of the same genes, and the molecules made from them function in similar ways.
Scientists have found many genes that have been preserved through millions of years of evolution and are present in a range of organisms living today. They can study these preserved genes and compare the genomes of different species to uncover similarities and differences that improve their understanding of how human genes function and are controlled. This knowledge helps researchers develop new strategies to treat and prevent human disease. Scientists also study the genes of
viruses, and fungi for solutions to prevent or treat infection. Increasingly, these studies are offering insight into how microbes on and in the body affect our health, sometimes in beneficial ways.
What types of genetics research are NIGMS-funded scientists exploring?
Increasingly sophisticated tools and techniques are allowing NIGMS-funded scientists to ask more precise questions about the genetic basis of biology. For example, they’re studying the factors that control when genes are active, the mechanisms DNA uses to repair broken or damaged segments, and the complex ways traits are passed to future generations. Another focus of exploration involves tracing genetic variation over time to detail human evolutionary history and to pinpoint the emergence of disease-related attributes. These areas of basic research will continue to build a strong foundation for more disease-targeted studies.