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The New Genetics

How do DNA microarrays work? What are histones and what effects can histone modifications have on DNA? How does DNA fingerprinting help police catch criminals? If you want to become a geneticist, what career options do you have? Why are some genes patented? How does RNAi work to silence genes? How do proteins called sirtuins have to do with aging?

What can your genome tell you about your risk of cancer or heart disease? What is the consequence of gene editing? Why genetic diseases are newborns tested for? What happens when DNA polymerase makes a mistake during DNA replication? Who were Gregor Mendel and Rosalind Franklin? With just ~20 000 genes, how can the cell produce hundreds of thousands of different proteins?

The New Genetics is a short genetics book from National Institute of General Medical Sciences. In less than 100 pages, it manages to survey vital aspects of modern genetics and genomics, including the basic structure of DNA, a brief history of genetics, protein synthesis, the RNA world, RNA interference, evolutionary conflicts among conflicts, recombinant DNA technology, evolution, haplotypes, model organisms like nematode worms and fruit flies, molecular biology tools, bioinformatics, patents and careers in genetics.

The first chapter of the book provides a brief overview of the history of genetics, from Mendel to the discovery of DNA, as well as the basic structure of DNA and a few key processes such as DNA replication and cell division. The second chapter focuses primarily on DNA and RNA and their different roles in the cell, such as riboswitches, RNA editing, microRNAs, how to silence genes with RNA and histones.

The third chapter focuses on how twin studies can provide insights to the genetic underpinnings of some diseases, the development of genome sequencing and how model organisms help us cement our understanding of human biology. The fourth chapter moves on to consider the sequencing of the human genome and how low-cost genome sequencing can help make medicine more precise and individualized. The fifth and final chapter recognizes the powerful impact of computational biology and how genetic information can be used and protected in the future.

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The book has many exciting features. For instance, at the end of each chapter is a section on the tools of genetics, which explores specific methods and techniques that are commonly used in genetics, such as DNA microarrays, recombinant DNA and cloning, how mathematics is used in medicine and bioinformatics research with databases.

At the end of the book is a useful glossary, every chapter ends with a set of questions to make sure you have understood the material, and dozens of high-quality and informative visualizations to hammer home key messages. Several sections of the book explain how genetics impact the life of the reader in a myriad of ways. This book requires little to no prerequisite knowledge of genetics or biology general, but it helps if the reader has some interest in the subject. After finishing this booklet, the reader can move on to more advanced topics and issues in genetics and biology with a new level of understanding of the fundamental knowledge base.

The book can be read online here or downloaded in PDF format here. A cached version of the online book can be found here, and a cache of the PDF version can be found here.


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