Nearly 50 years ago, the two researchers James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the structure of DNA as a blueprint of all living things and thus the basis for growth and reproduction. Even if they proudly announced that they had uncovered the "mystery of life", they would not have realized the true significance of their groundbreaking discovery.
Today, a whole branch of science has emerged, which only revolves around the genetic material and its targeted manipulation. Whether it is the diagnosis of abnormally altered genes, the identification of DNA patterns, the synthesis of surface structures of infectious particles for diagnostic purposes or for the production of vaccines, the transfer of genes to foreign organisms for the production of therapeutically useful preparations or the application of DNA for breeding particularly resistant Plants - the field is huge, an end to the applications not foreseeable.
As great as the euphoria of the scientists is often, so are the fears of the population, for example against abuse, the shifting of ethical boundaries or pathogenic effects on the environment. Not unfair: Laws and regulations often do not keep pace with developments, and what is feasible may not always be desirable or morally defensible. To make matters worse, that national and international standards differ, which offers loopholes and some theoretical discussion ad absurdum leads.
Nevertheless, in practice, gene diagnostics and therapy have already gained a firm status. For example, one would no longer want to expect diabetics today, instead of relying on genetically engineered insulin for preparations derived from cattle or pigs, which are highly allergenic.
Definitions of gene diagnostics
The term gene analysis or gene test (synonymous with "DNA" and "DNA" used instead of "gene") includes a number of different processes that make use of structure, biosynthesis and function of DNA for scientific and diagnostic purposes or These decode.
The latter is also called genome analysis. This can be used both for the complete global presentation of the genome, ie the complete genetic information of a species (eg humans within the Human Genome Project) or an organism (bacterium, virus, plant genome), as well as for individuals to answer certain questions respectively.
Genetic analyzes are used to research, diagnose, analyze and prevent genetic diseases. Through the comprehensive analysis of the human genome at the molecular level, scientists are trying to broaden their understanding of the functioning of the human organism and, for example, to find out which components on the DNA are responsible for diseases. Among other things, new therapy and prevention approaches are hoped for.
In addition, gene analyzes are used for prenatal diagnostics, identity identification in criminology and for the exclusion or proof of paternity. Even in paleontology, the science of animals and plants of bygone eras, DNA analysis can help to elucidate various questions - for example, it is possible to determine affinities, detect pathogens or identify historical personalities with even the smallest amounts of genetic material.
The most important method is DNA sequencing, in which the sequence of nucleotides (as the smallest building blocks of a DNA molecule) is determined with different methods and thus the genome and its composition can be virtually "read" and compared. Only then is gene research even possible. However, the composition of the human genome is so complex that, despite international efforts, mankind has decoded its structure but is still a long way from its interpretation and understanding of its function.