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Is DNA one of the most exciting discoveries since space travel?

Scientists think so.

Completed in 2003, the Human Genome Project was a landmark research project that identified the more than 20,000 genes in human DNA and determined the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA.

Newly-armed with knowledge of what makes up all living things, today genetic scientists can travel distances heretofore unknown — from seeing how humans inherit the traits of their ancestors to predicting their medical future.

Today, geneticists can already clone cats and sheep, or genetically engineer the foods we eat. They can also play DNA detective to match the criminal to the crime scene.

One day, in the not too distant future, further discoveries may lead to the rise of "designer drugs" to help cure individual genetic disorders, or even a cure for old age.

Diagram of an animal cell showing chromosome and DNA double helix

diagram of a cell showing chromosome

Above, a diagram of a typical animal cell. Chromosomes located within the nucleus are made of base pairs, made up of two chemical bases (adenine and thymine or guanine and cytosine), which are the building blocks of the DNA double helix.

Getting to know you

Just like space exploration, genetics can be a bit intimidating. Genes are the "program" that execute all sorts of commands -- from the the color of your eyes to the diseases that you're likely to die from -- but are genes your destiny?

While the landmark 2003 human genome project seemed to form the basis for everything we needed to know, scientists now say that environmental factors are just as important. These include such variables as trauma and stress that occur during a person's lifetime. Less dramatically, even a simple change in diet may activate changes within your DNA.

Re-focusing their efforts on nature-and-nurture, today researchers have the most complete picture ever at the "final frontier" in medical diagnostics with more facts and information waiting to be discovered.

More about genetics around the Web:

Around the Web, virtually tour the history of genetic discovery, and learn more about genetic disorders, related controversies, the future of medical gene therapy, along with images, videos, timelines and tutorials taking visitors on a fascinating trip to the inner core of life on earth ...

Learn Genetics
- Start with Genetics 101 from the University of Utah featuring a helpful animated tour for beginners, a series of online educational and medical courses focusing on cloning, stem cell research, and do-it-yourself genetic research, online library of genetic disorders, podcasts, images.

Genetics Home Reference -Check out a consumer-friendly guide to genetic testing and counseling information, including an A-Z directory of genetic diseases & conditions, glossary of terms, and related resources.

Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms - How do you pronounce that? Listen and read more about the topic searchable by keyword or browseable in an A-Z list, with accompanying images & illustrations.

Genetics - Kids Science Videos, Games and Lessons - Check out a colorful & informative presentation featuring fun facts, interactive lessons, videos, and basic information on DNA, genes, heredity and inherited diseases.


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