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Genetics is the study of genes. A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. Genes are made from molecule called DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid). Genes carry the functional instructions for the organism, deciding its appearance, growth and behavior. Apart from carrying biological traits, genes pass genetic traits to offspring. Certain genetic traits are brought about by the presence or absence of a specific gene, whereas most of the traits are controlled by complementing dominant and recessive genes.

In majority of organisms genes are found in long strands of DNA. DNA is a double helix structure. DNA contains repeating units along the chain and there are four types of these units known as nucleotides (A,T,G and C). The DNA structure carrying one or many genes is called a chromosome. The number of chromosomes present in an organism is unique.

The development, growth and reproduction of organisms is by cell division. For all these processes the basic requirement is protein synthesis. When certain protein is to be synthesized, transcription and translation processes take place. By a process called transcription, DNA is copied on and a strand called RNA is made. In ribosomes, RNA is translated to form a sequence of amino acids which are joined to make a protein molecule.

Punnett square mendel flowers
DNA structure

When a cell divides genes are copied and distributed to each daughter cell. This process is called gene replication. In replication the two strands of the DNA are separated and each strand makes a copy of itself. Now two similar DNA are present, each with an old strand and a newly created strand. Each of them will go to a new daughter cell. When there is error in the replication of a gene, its originality may be lost and it may become non-functional or it may malfunction causing anomalies in protein synthesis. This is called mutation.

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering is direct genetic modification by manipulating the genome. Genetic modification may be done by knocked out, deleting or removing an endogenous gene, and introducing another gene of favored trait. Such organisms are called genetically modified organism (GMO). Gmo crops have been in commercial use since 1994. If the gene transfer is to another species, the resulting organism is called transgenic.

However there is great concern about the genetically modified crops getting out of hand and breeding with native and wild species, damaging the natural gene pool.

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