Mutations are changes that occur within the genes of an organism. Sometimes these mutations impact a single gene, while other mutations impact the number or structure of entire chromosomes. Since many mutations change just one tiny piece of information in one single piece of DNA, they usually do not cause any problems. For example, imagine if someone sent you a long email and accidentally misspelled the word “friend” as “freind.” You would still understand the email and would probably still even catch the original meaning – this is a good analogy for what happens with a point mutation, where just one part of a gene is changed.
However, sometimes a single mistake can make a big difference. Imagine if, while composing a long email, you accidentally select and delete an entire paragraph or perhaps auto-correct changes a critical word. You can imagine (and perhaps have even experienced) how such a mistake might cause great confusion and miscommunication.
Many genetic disorders are caused by changes to a single gene in the form of a point mutation or due to a chromosomal abnormality like a chromosome disorder. Sometimes these mutations are passed from one generation to the next, just like other harmless traits like eye color and blood type. These mutations may cause specific disorders, or they may predispose a person to a common disease like cancer or heart disease.
Review the following resources to learn more about genetics and the implications of our genetic knowledge:
During the week, discuss the following with your classmates. Be sure to use the provided course materials and feel free to share additional information you find in the KU Library or through your own research.
Imagine that you have a particular genetic trait and that you have four children. Two of the four children also possess this trait. Meanwhile, the other biological parent of your children does not possess the trait.