Genetics is a relatively young science since the first inheritance laws were discovered no later than 140 years ago by mendelian genetics.
In 1865 Gregor Johann Mendel was the first to publish an article about genetics in his famous paper “Experiments on Plant Hybridization”. This Czech-German friar fascinated with botany, is considered as the founding father of genetics.
Ordained as a priest in 1847, he entered the Monastery of Saint Thomas in Brno and spent all his free time studying natural sciences to establish the principles of heredity.
Mendel was curious about how traits were transferred from one generation to the next, so created an experimental garden in the courtyard of the monastery to understand hybridization: the process of combining different varieties of organisms.
During almost ten years, Gregor Mendel worked on crossing Pisum sativum, (a pea plant), and established three laws which explain how genes pass on from one generation to another and thus set the theoretical basis of genetics and modern inheritance.
Mendel observed that sexual reproduction creates descendants that look like their parents, as well as the breed of members of a given species resemble each others and not other species.
The reason of this resemblance is due to inheritance: characteristics are transferred from parents to their descendants.
Mendel’s laws made it possible to explain for the first time why some traits observed in a generation could disappear and reappear a few generations later.
Despite this singular discovery, the founding father of genetics ended his life against a background of total indifference, as his contemporaries found his studies too abstract, if not incoherent.
He died in 1884, but it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that he was recognized as the one who discovered inheritance laws. Genetics was officially born almost fifty years after Mendel’s laws were established.
In 1900 three scientists – Dutch Hugo de Vries, German Carl Correns and Austrian Erich von Tschermark – produced results similar to Mendel’s and immediately acknowledged that the works by the friar researcher had been carried out earlier.
From the first experimentations by Gregor Mendel, the field of genetics has undergone a considerable development and is moving quickly forward.
Today scientists have a clear comprehension of the mechanisms behind the model Mendel observed.
Two researchers, James Watson and Francis Crick decoded the structure of DNA. Precisely, genes are encoded into DNA, which the body organizes into chromosomes during cell division.
And the last few decades have seen what can be defined as a “genetic revolution”. DNA sequencing technologies have allowed science to read the information present in our genes, enabling researchers and clinicians to study the role that multiple genetic factors acting together and with the environment, play in diseases.
Predictive medicine is shifting the paradigm of medicine from being reactive to proactive; a great promise for human health.
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