A genetic marker is a DNA sequence that helps us in the study of hereditary diseases. What should we know about it? In this space we detail it.
The continuous scientific advance of our time helps us to better understand the cause and characteristics of many pathologies or traits of individuals. Genetic markers have become known thanks to these advances and, therefore, we can learn more about diseases and their prevention. What is a genetic marker and what is it for? Here we tell you what you should know.
Table of Contents
What are genes?
Genes are segments of DNA that are passed down from parent to child and that contain basic information about how the cell should function. These genes are responsible for each individual being as they are, both inside their body and in their appearance.
Genes are found as part of chromosomes, which is the structure in which DNA is organized. These chromosomes, in turn, are located in the nucleus of each cell. That is, all the cells in our body have the same genetic material in their nucleus and this will give the instructions to function. The set of genes is called the genome.
Also, each person’s genetic information will be unique. It will be determined by the mix of maternal and paternal genes. Each gene can have many variations between different people and, in addition, mutations can occur in them.
What is the importance of genes?
Although their importance is vital and, as we have already said, they control all the functions of the body, we will focus on the one that interests us for this article. It has been shown that there are many diseases that are inherited.
This means that the information for a person to develop a certain disease is found in the genes, and that it will be transmitted from parents to children. The cause of the disease is usually a mutation in a gene, which leads to altered the function that it controlled.
Therefore, knowing which genes are the cause of a disease and their different mutations will allow us to know if a person is at risk of developing a certain disease. Likewise, it will let us know more about the general characteristics of said pathology.
What is a genetic marker?
As we have already mentioned, the advancement of technology and science has been decisive for the discovery of genetic markers. A genetic marker is a piece of DNA whose exact position in the genome is known.
Each marker is associated with a specific trait of a disease. Genetic markers are useful both for establishing a person’s risk of developing a disease and for studying the different versions of the gene that one wants to study in different people and populations.
There are genetic markers that are, in themselves, contributors to the development of the disease. Others, simply, tend to be inherited together with the genes that interest us for a certain disease and are located very close to them.
What is a genetic marker for?
A person’s DNA pool is believed to contain more than 30,000 genes that code for different substances and functions in the body. Although there are already techniques with which the complete genome of each individual can be sequenced, this is still an expensive, slow and often not very useful procedure.
Most of the time, in the study of these hereditary diseases, what interests is the study of certain genes and their varieties of which we already know their relationship with said disease.
Genetic markers, therefore, will allow us, by knowing their exact position in the genome, to directly study the genes that interest us without having to study the complete DNA of a person.
Genetic markers: what should be clear?
In our time, many scientific advances and discoveries occur every day, as well as the development of very sophisticated technologies. The use and knowledge of these genetic markers is one of them.
Over time, the genes associated with hereditary diseases will be known in more detail, and these markers will help us in their study in each person who requires it.