Genetic map of all plants, animals is goal of genomics

West Lafayette, IN The state-of-the-art in life science biology, medicine, and agriculture resembles the situation geographers found themselves in centuries ago.

Early cartographers had a small bit of information and tried, with obvious errors, to produce a view of what the world looked like. The maps of that era were equally off target, with misshapen or missing continents and dire warnings about the dangers that existed in the unknown waters.

A teacher in the third century A.D., Lactantius Firmianus, said: "Can there be a place on earth where things are upside down, where the trees grow downwards, and the rain, hail, and snow fall upward? The mad idea that the earth is round is the cause of this imbecile legend."

Although early concepts of the world are comical now, those ideas of how the world worked were then quite reasonable, given the information they had.

Just as explorers such as Columbus, Magellan and Cortez brought rapid change to the understanding of the earth, a new field of biology promises to bring great and fast strides into the understanding of living organisms.

The new area of study focuses on understanding the genes of living organisms: first by mapping out the structure of all of the individual genes of the organisms, and then by figuring out what all of those thousands of genes actually do.

This new map of life is called genomics.

This new focus on genomics promises to change the way life science research is done at universities such as Purdue.

"This is not a fad. It's the best way to do biology," says Jeffrey Bennetzen, Purdue's H. Edwin Umbarger Distinguished Professor of Genetics. "When molecular cloning came on the scene there were people in biology who said, 'Its a fad.' Now everybody does molecular biology; nobody is called a molecular biologist anymore because it has become a part of every biologist's tool kit. In five years genomics will be the same way. We expect to see everyone in life science m

Contact: Steve Tally
Purdue University

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