While genetics is the study of genes and the inheritance of certain traits, genomics is the study of the entire genome. In particular, genomic data provides insight on how genes interact with the environment.
Genomics is particularly useful for the healthcare field, as many diseases have an environmental component in addition to a genetic one.
Most genomic data comes from human research subjects, though animal, plant, and virus genes also contribute significantly to genomic databases.
While tools like CRISPR make genetic research possible for ordinary untrained individuals, most genomic data comes from research institutions run by universities or governments.
Genomic data attributes include data on gene sequences as well as RNA, proteins, alleles, chromosomes, and so on. Often, the data contain visualizations or annotations or both. Additional detail depends on the intended purpose of the data: disease type, species, ancestry, and so on track different genetic information.
Researchers primarily use this data to test, treat, and, hopefully, eliminate diseases. Additional uses of this data include identifying family history, tracking ancient people’s migration patterns, and conducting cloning and other experiments. In many countries, however, ethics boards strictly curtail the type and manner of carrying out genetic experiments.
The best test of this data is to check that the genetic material was processed in certified and accredited laboratories. Any additional data quality tests should focus on comprehensiveness, standardization, and relevancy.
A ground-breaking report published in Nature addresses this lack [of African genomic data] with a study of 426 African individuals, representing 50 ethnolinguistic groups. In addition to using these data to describe the genomic diversity within Africa with unprecedented breadth, the authors report more than 3 million variants that had not previously been described. Analyses uncovered 62 novel signals of natural selection on genes related to viral immunity, DNA repair, and metabolism… These data also provide insight into population history, including having the resolution to update our understanding of the likely path of the Bantu expansion, a migration of vast cultural and linguistic significance. Overall, this publication and the release of the accompanying data address knowledge gaps across genomics and are certain to have a continuing impact in the field.
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