Genetics is the study of genes, genetic variation, and heredity in organisms. It is an important branch in biology because heredity is vital to organisms' evolution. Gregor Mendel, a Moravian Augustinian friar working in the 19th century in Brno, was the first to study genetics scientifically. Mendel studied "trait inheritance", patterns in the way traits are handed down from parents to offspring over time. He observed that organisms (pea plants) inherit traits by way of discrete "units of inheritance". This term, still used today, is a somewhat ambiguous definition of what is referred to as a gene.

Trait inheritance and molecular inheritance mechanisms of genes are still primary principles of genetics in the 21st century, but modern genetics has expanded to study the function and behavior of genes. Gene structure and function, variation, and distribution are studied within the context of the cell, the organism (e.g. dominance), and within the context of a population. Genetics has given rise to a number of subfields, including molecular genetics, epigenetics and population genetics. Organisms studied within the broad field span the domains of life (archaea, bacteria, and eukarya).

Genetic processes work in combination with an organism's environment and experiences to influence development and behavior, often referred to as nature versus nurture. The intracellular or extracellular environment of a living cell or organism may increase or decrease gene transcription. A classic example is two seeds of genetically identical corn, one placed in a temperate climate and one in an arid climate (lacking sufficient waterfall or rain). While the average height of the two corn stalks may be genetically determined to be equal, the one in the arid climate only grows to half the height of the one in the temperate climate due to lack of water and nutrients in its environment.

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How genetics determine our life choices

In the subterranean depths of a granite building on the outskirts of Iceland's capital, Reykjavík, a robot is slowly and methodically shuffling the chilled blood of tens of thousands of people from all over the world. Down in this concrete chamber, a well-honed process is taking place.

Beethoven: Tests on hair prove composer's genetic health woes

Beethoven had a likely genetic predisposition to liver disease and a hepatitis B infection months before his death, tests have revealed. They were, however, unable to establish a definitive cause of his hearing loss.

Why the human genome was never completed

Before the end of 2023, you should be able to read something remarkable. It will be the story of a single individual, who they are and where they come from – and it will offer hints about what their future holds.

China's new human gene-editing rules worry experts

New rules in China to regulate gene editing in humans don't go far enough, a leading expert has warned scientists. Dr Joy Zhang of Kent University, a global expert on the governance of gene editing in China, said authorities are susceptible to "regulatory negligence".

Gene-edited hens may end cull of billions of chicks

Israeli researchers say they have developed gene-edited hens that lay eggs from which only female chicks hatch. The breakthrough could prevent the slaughter of billions of male chickens each year, which are culled because they don't lay eggs.

The sci-fi technology tackling malarial mosquitos

Environmental campaigner Liz O'Neill doesn't mince her words about gene drives - the next generation of genetic modification (GM) technology. The way gene drives work sounds like something from a science fiction novel, but they are already being used in laboratory tests.

Gap-free human genome sequence completed for first time

Scientists say they have completed the first full and seamless catalogue of genetic instructions of humans. Until now, about 8% of the human genome code was missing from the blueprint, experts told the journal Science.

Scientists get 'gene editing' go-ahead

UK scientists have been given the go-ahead by the fertility regulator to genetically modify human embryos. It is the first time a country has considered the DNA-altering technique in embryos and approved it.

'Fidelity gene' found in voles

By altering the small animal's brain hormone chemistry, scientists have made a promiscuous meadow vole faithful - just like its prairie vole cousin. The researchers think this will lead to a greater understanding of how social behaviour is controlled in humans.

Genetic study sheds light on Jewish diaspora

Scientists have shed light on Jewish history with an in-depth genetic study. The researchers analysed genetic samples from 14 Jewish communities across the world and compared them with those from 69 non-Jewish populations.

Uganda paternity testing causes huge controversy

With reports of a sharp increase in the number of men in Uganda seeking paternity tests, fears are growing it could break up families and leave children psychologically scarred.

Coronation of King Charles III: Are you related to a King

Joy Ibsen, a retired Canadian journalist, had been an avid amateur geneaologist. Using digital census records, birth certificates and marriage documents, she painstakingly traced her family's ancestry back to the 14th Century.

More diverse gene map could lead to better treatments

Scientists have produced an updated map of all human DNA which could help to transform medical research. The original human genome, published 20 years ago, is mostly from one person, and does not represent human diversity.

Baby born from three people's DNA in UK first

Most of their DNA comes from their two parents and around 0.1% from a third, donor woman. The pioneering technique is an attempt to prevent children being born with devastating mitochondrial diseases.

Million-year-old viruses help fight cancer, say scientists

Relics of ancient viruses - that have spent millions of years hiding inside human DNA - help the body fight cancer, say scientists. The study by the Francis Crick Institute showed the dormant remnants of these old viruses are woken up when cancerous cells spiral out of control.

How extinct animals could be brought back from the dead

Millions of years ago thylacines, also known as Tasmanian tigers, were widespread across Australia. About the size of an American coyote, these dog-like creatures with stripes disappeared from the mainland around 2,000 years ago.

Base editing: Revolutionary therapy clears girl's incurable cancer

Health and science correspondentA teenage girl's incurable cancer has been cleared from her body in the first use of a revolutionary new type of medicine. All other treatments for Alyssa's leukaemia had failed.

Oldest DNA reveals two-million-year-old lost world

The most ancient DNA ever sequenced reveals what the Arctic looked like two million years ago when it was warmer. Today the area in North Greenland is a polar desert, but the genetic material, extracted from soil, has uncovered a rich array of plants and animals.

Missing daughter reunited with family after 51 years

To play this video you need to enable JavaScript in your browser.BBC News, WashingtonA DNA test has reunited a Texas woman with her long-lost family and ended a mystery that lasted over 50 years.

'Leap forward' in tailored cancer medicine

People with untreatable cancers have had their immune system redesigned to attack their own tumours. The experimental study involved only 16 patients, but has been called a "leap forward" and a "powerful" demonstration of the potential of such technology.

Tasmanian tiger: Scientists hope to revive marsupial from extinction

Researchers in Australia and the US are embarking on a multi-million dollar project to bring the Tasmanian tiger back from extinction. The last known one, officially called a thylacine, died in the 1930s.

Cancer: Huge DNA analysis uncovers new clues

UK scientists have undertaken a huge "archaeological dig" of cancer in the UK, analysing the complete genetic make-up - or whole genome sequence - of tumours from about 12,000 patients.

World's oldest family tree created using DNA

Scientists have compiled the world's oldest family tree from human bones interred at a 5,700-year-old tomb in the Cotswolds, UK. Analysis of DNA from the tomb's occupants revealed the people buried there were from five continuous generations of one extended family.

Scientists claim big advance in using DNA to store data

Scientists say they have made a dramatic step forward in efforts to store information as molecules of DNA. The magnetic hard drives we currently use to store computer data can take up lots of space and also have to be replaced as they age.

Vaccine rumours debunked: Microchips, 'altered DNA' and more

We've looked into some of the most widely shared false vaccine claims - everything from alleged plots to put microchips into people to the supposed re-engineering of our genetic code. The fear that a vaccine will somehow change your DNA is one we've seen aired regularly on social media.

Evidence found of epic prehistoric Pacific voyages

New evidence has been found for epic prehistoric voyages between the Americas and eastern Polynesia. DNA analysis suggests there was mixing between Native Americans and Polynesians around AD 1200.

Adoptees use DNA to find surname

Male adoptees are using consumer DNA tests to predict the surnames carried by their biological fathers, the BBC has learned. They are using the fact that men who share a surname sometimes have genetic likenesses too.

DNA legacy of ancient seafarers

Scientists have used DNA to re-trace the migrations of a sea-faring civilisation which dominated the Mediterranean thousands of years ago. The Phoenicians were an enterprising maritime people from the territory of modern-day Lebanon.

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