Terminology

What is a genetic marker?

The human DNA consists of approximately 3 billion pairs of nucleotide bases (sequences marked with G, C, T, and A). In an entire human genome there are 10 million places where the DNA profile differs in just one nucleotide (for example, some have a C instead of a T in a specific place inside a gene).

A number of places where we differ from each other play an important role in our own body disposition, function, the body’s need for nutrients, and other processes. These locations are called genetic markers or SNP’s.

Analyzing these markers is important for determining a person’s needs, optimal nutrition, drug dosages, disease susceptibility, and other considerations.

What is DNA?

DNA is a molecule which can be found in virtually every cell of every living organism. DNA is the carrier of biological information in organisms – it determines an organism’s traits and how it will function.

DNA consists of four building blocks or bases, called nucleotides: guanine, adenine, cytosine, and thymine (G-C and A-T). These building blocks are connected to form unique sequences which hold information about the structure and functioning of all living things.

 

What is a gene?

A gene is a specific sequence of nucleotides encoded in DNA that contains the information for a specific functional unit ( a specific enzyme). The nucleotide sequence (given as a sequence of letters G, C, T, and A) determines what this enzyme will be like. For example, regarding the enzyme responsible for the metabolism of caffeine, people with a specific sequence of nucleotides will metabolize caffeine more rapidly than those with a slightly different sequence of nucleotides.

Do we all have the same genes?

In observing people, we can notice a phenomenon called genetic variability. People vary from one another in the color of their eyes and hair, height, skin pigment and other physical characteristics. There are also differences that are not visible (e.g. blood type, psychological characteristics and others). These differences arise from very small changes in certain genes.

In a certain gene, one person may have the sequence GGCCTTTCCGG, while in the same gene somebody else may have the sequence of GGCCTGTCCGG. We call these genes polymorphic (they exhibit polymorphism). People have the same genes, but they are not completely identical. These minor differences are significant for determining an individual’s appearance, disease susceptibility, talents and other characteristics.

What is a genome?

A genome is the set of all genes in an organism. The human genome consists of approximately 25,000 genes.

What is a chromosome?

A chromosome is a very long DNA molecule. Each organism has chromosomes of different sizes, and different numbers of chromosomes. Most cells in our bodies contain 23 pairs of chromosomes.

Nobody knows why people have 46 chromosomes. Different species have different numbers of chromosomes, but this is not related to their size or complexity. Dogs, for example, have 78 pairs of chromosomes, tigers 38, and some ferns 1,262.

What is SNP?

SNP (a single-nucleotide polymorphism) represents a specific location in the DNA where individuals differ by a single nucleotide pair. There are about 10 million SNPs within the 3-billion-nucleotide human genome. The combinations of these pairs determine the differences between people.

What is a mutation?

A mutation is a random change in a sequence of nucleotides. Mutations may be caused by mistakes during cell division, or they may be caused by exposure to DNA-damaging agents in the environment (ultraviolet light, ionizing radiation, chemical mutagens, viruses, and other sources). Consequences of the mutations can be positive (the organism can acquire a characteristic that is advantageous in a specific environment) or negative (the organism can lose a specific function and starts to weaken). Many mutations can be neutral (they have neither positive nor negative effects).

What is a gene variation?

A gene variation is a location in the genome, at which people differ. This term usually refers to those gene variations which occur in more than 1% of the population.

What is nutritional science?

Nutritional science or study deals with food and nourishment. It also examines the dietary habits and nutritional needs of people in order to establish an optimal way of eating and maintaining health and wellbeing.

What is a nutrient?

A nutrient is a chemical substance that an organism needs to sustain basic life processes. Nutrients are essential for growth, development, healing of damaged tissue, and balancing of bodily processes. Some of these nutrients are produced within the body; others must be acquired from our diet

What is nutrigenomics?

Nutrigenomics or nutritional genomics is the science studying the relationship between the human genome and nutrition. In this way, it tries to explain how certain types of food can affect a person. By taking a nutrigenomics approach, we can achieve optimal nutrition and satisfy the individual needs of each one of us.

What are macronutrients?

Macronutrients are nutrients needed in large amounts by the human body. This category of nutrients includes carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

What are micronutrients?

Micronutrients are nutrients that the body needs in minuscule amounts. They include all vitamins and minerals.

Interesting facts

If you started reciting the entire sequence of nucleotides A, C, T, G in your DNA tomorrow and would utter 100 words per minute, it would take 57 years before you reached the end (without pauses!).

If our strands of DNA were stretched out in a line, the 46 chromosomes making up the human genome would extend more than six feet [close to two meters].

If the total DNA from one person were laid in a straight line, it would stretch about 2.0 x 1013 meters, equivalent to nearly 70 trips from the Earth to the sun and back (the distance between the Earth and sun is about 150 million kilometers).

 

Myths and truths

Myth: »Most people do not have genetic mutations, so analyses are pointless.«

Truth: Every person has some mutations. It is important to discover where these mutations are and what they mean. This is the only way to establish personalized measures that can benefit a person’s health.

Myth: »Blood is required for genetic testing.«

Truth: Genetic analysis can be performed using DNA derived from any human cell (blood, saliva, hair…). LifeGenetics analyzes DNA derived from saliva (i.e., the mucous membrane of the mouth), since this is a user-friendly sampling method that enables a reliable analysis.

Myth: »If I eat fatty foods, I will get fat«

Truth: This is only partly true due to the fact that fatty foods have a high caloric value. Some people have a certain genetic variant which affects fat metabolism in a way that causes them to lose weight. LifeGenetics services also enable the identification of such a variant.

Myth: »An apple a day keeps the doctor away.«

Truth: Apples are one of the most heavily sprayed fruits, which is why their skin contains a large amount of pesticides. If we peel them we loose many of the vitamins and other useful substances which can be found just under the skin. Individual pesticides have different effects on humans. LifeGenetic services enable the identification of variations associated with pesticide detoxification.

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