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Genomics: Transforming healthcare & food security

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Genes help make you uniquely you. Genomics is the study of all of a person's genes, or their genome, including how those genes interact with each other and the environment.

The field is relatively new, but it is already having a major impact all over the globe.

"The world we live in is increasingly shaped by genetics, from the way it impacts our healthcare, to food security, to where our energy comes from," said HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator Neil Lamb.

About three decades ago, scientists began making major strides with the start of the Human Genome Project. By 2003, they sequenced roughly 20,000 genes creating a blueprint for our bodies.

In the years since, genomics is making it possible to predict, diagnose and treat diseases more precisely, personally and affordably than ever before.

"Today medicine is reactive, when you're sick you go see your physician," said genetic researcher Howard Jacob. "When you actually have a blueprint of you, which is your DNA, then your physician may be able to work with you before you get sick, which is a completely different approach to medicine."

From well-known cancer to rare disorders, genomics is even providing insight to mental illness.

"So, unlike cancer where you can do a biopsy, and you can look under a microscope at what it looks like, you really can't do that with mental health disorders," said HudsonAlpha Faculty Investigator Shawn Levy.

That same technology is also being applied to plants to produce more and better food.

"It has a huge impact on agriculture, on all other organisms that we care about economically, or environmentally," said HudsonAlpha President Richard Myers.

Scientists at Huntsville's HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology study and apply genomic sciences to improve the human condition around the globe. If you're interested in learning more about their work, the facility offers public tours once per quarter. The next one will take place in September.

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