If you make even a casual effort to keep up with the latest science news, you have probably heard the word “genotype” quite a bit lately! As the Personal Genetics Education Project (PGED) explains it, a person’s genotype is their genetic identity.
So if you want to know who you are genetically, it is your genotype that can tell you. While it used to take years to sequence a single human genome, today it can be done in days and for a relatively reasonable cost. This offers many potential applications in science, medicine and society as a whole.
In this article, learn eight interesting facts you probably didn’t know about genotyping.
1. The word “genotype” has two meanings.
The first meaning is the introduction here describes – it is your genetic identity, your personal gene-based fingerprint. But the second meaning can refer to just a single piece of genetic code or even a single gene that is known to express a particular characteristic, say blue eyes, or outcome, say diabetes type 1.
2. There are a number of ways to detail and analyze a genotype.
The word “genotyping’ makes it sound like it is an “it” – something that is done using one specific technique. There are many different possible ways to identify a specific gene or gene sequence or even detail an entire human genome.
3. We couldn’t do it without computers.
The invention of the computer was a big day for genetic science, even though the field wouldn’t know it for decades. While geneticists could (and still can) detail an individual’s genotype without a computer, it is time and thus cost-prohibitive to do it this way.
With the launch of computers, larger volumes of data could be identified, catalogued, categorized and analyzed in much faster time periods. This is slowly but surely bringing genotyping within financial reach for private individuals, families (for family planning purposes), researchers, companies and healthcare entities.
4. Each individual has two genotypes.
YourGenome explains that each person actually has two genotypes rather than one. The reason for this is simple: each child inherits a complete genotype from their birth mother and another complete genotype from their birth father. The term used to describe the child’s receipt of these two genomes is “inheritance.”
5. The expression of an individual’s genotype is called “phenotype.”
Let’s say you carry the gene mutation for red hair. You were born with red hair. This is called your “phenotype.” Your phenotype, however, includes both your genetic expression of your genotype and the influence of environment. So you may carry the genotype for asthma, but you may not ever express asthma symptoms unless you experience environmental triggers, such as exposure to toxins or allergens.
6. Identical twins will have the same genotype.
According to Transnetyx, Inc., because each child is born of a unique egg and sperm combination, no two children will receive the exact identical genotype from their parents except for identical twins, since they are fertilized in the same egg by the same sperm.
7. There is also a species-specific genotype.
With all this talk of individualized, one-of-a-kind genomes, you might wonder what guarantees a human offspring will still look human! This happens due to the presence of a species-specific genome, or gene sequence, that codes for the appearance of “homo sapiens.” For instance, the arrangement of our organs, our upright two-legged posture, where hair does and doesn’t grow on females or males – all of this and much more is encoded into the species-specific genome for each person.
8. Genetic similarity can be found throughout all species.
Every species from fruit flies to mice, parrots to people, all species share some of the genotype in common with each other. For example, people share 21 percent of their genotype with worms. But we share 99.9 percent with other people.
These are just a handful of the many interesting facts that spurs researchers to continue studying genotyping.