Genetics BSC207

Genetics is Changing how we Think and Work in health science, agriculture, horticulture    ...and much more!

With modern advances in DNA analysis and gene sequencing, an understanding of genetics will be more important as we move into the future. However,  it can be a hard subject to understand if you don't have a proper grasp of the fundamentals. Understanding those fundamentals is what this course is all about!

Studying genetics can feel like studying another language – the biological language of genes and DNA.  It is expected that you will have some prior biological knowledge to undertake this course.

This is a vast subject  and knowledge of genetics is growing daily - you cannot learn everything in one course; but with this course as a foundation, you are better placed to understand what you encounter, and continue your learning over the years that follow.

Learn about cell functioning, traits, characteristics and heritability.
This is how living organisms become what they are,  and how different species vary from one another


Lesson Structure

There are 10 lessons in this course:

  1.     Introduction to Genetics
            Scope, nature and history
            Darwin and Mendel
            Mendel’s experiment
            Mendel’s law of segregation
            Mendel’s Law of Independent Assortment
            Advances since Mendel
            Important genetics terminology
            Set task
  2.     Cells, Organelles and Cell Division
            Organelles in the cell
            Cell structure and function
            Organelles in plants -Cell wall, Vacuole,Plastids
            Organelles in plants and animals - plasma membrane, cytoplasm, ribosomes etc.
            Genetic structures and materials
            Nuclear envelope
            Cell division –meiosis and mitosis
            DNA replication
            Four stages of Mitosis
            Meiosis 1
            Meiosis 2
            Gamete production in plants
            Set task
  3.     Interaction between Chromosomes
            Sex determination
            Sex chromosomes
            Sex linked inheritance
            Haemophilia example
            Colour blindness example
            Linkage and crossing over
            Linked genes
            Genetic mapping
            Set task
  4.     Interaction between Genes
            Traits and gene expression
            Polygenic inheritance
            Gene interactions
            Enhancer genes
            Suppressor gene
            Incomplete dominance
            Lethal genes
            Cytoplasmic inheritance
            Gene expression
            Set tasks
  5.     Genetic Chemistry
            Nucleic acids
            DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) Structure
            Double Stranded Helix
            Understanding the genetic code
            Role of proteins
            Transcription and translation
            Post translational modification
            Introns and exons
            Reading the code
            Set task
  6.     Mutations
            Chromosome mutations
            Gene mutations
            Point mutations (single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP)
            Point substitution mutation
            Frameshift mutations
            Categories of gene mutations
            Silent mutations
            Missense mutations
            Nonsense mutations
            How do mutations occur
            Viruses or other microorganisms
            Spontaneous mutations
            Effect of mutations
            Repair of mutations
            Set task
  7.     DNA Repair and Recombination
            Excision pathways
            Methyl directed mismatch repair
            SOS repair
            Photoreactivation (Light dependent repair)
            Crossing over
            Set task
  8.     Developmental Genetics
            Genetics are instructions for structures
            Cellular organisation and differentiation
            Model organisms used in developmental genetics
            Why study developmental genetics
            The human genome project
            Birth defects
            Genetic advances in birth defects
            Gene therapy
            Gene therapy and cancer
            Set task
  9.     Population genetics
            What is population genetics
            Genetic variation within a population
            How do we measure genetic variation
            The hardy weinberg law
            Evolutionary agents and their effect on population genetics
            Movement of individuals between populations
            Genetic drift
            Non random mating
            Natural selection
            Set tasks
  10.     Applied Genetics
            Genetics in breeding animals
            Farm animal breeding
            Breeding pets
            Genetics for breeding plants
            Cloning plants
            Cloning -somatic cell nuclear transfer
            Modifying organisms genetically
            Transgenic animals
            Agricultural applications for transgenics
            Medical applications for transgenics
            Transgenics to modify DNA in plants
            Genetics in human health science
            Disease understanding
            Diagnosis of disease
            Genetic screening
            Gene therapy
            Set task

Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.



  • To acknowledge the history of modern genetics and interpret important terminology in genetics work used, specifically relating to areas of study such as plant and animal sciences, conservation of plant and animal species, agriculture, horticulture, veterinary medicine and human health sciences.
  • To develop understanding of the structures (organelles) of cells and comprehend their basic functions specifically relating to cell division.
  • To discuss the main ways features are inherited.
  • To develop knowledge of biological interactions and understand the significance of gene expression in heritability.
  • Describe chemicals and reactions involved in genetics including protein synthesis.
  • Explain the nature and management of genetic mutations.
  • Develop understanding of how DNA repair mechanisms, and recombination to understand the significance of DNA cleaving and re-joining.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of genetics to explain how variations occur in living organisms both within and beyond species.
  • Explain both the significance and dynamics of genetic variation within populations of different living organisms.
  • Describe how genetic knowledge is applied to a variety of human endeavors.


Everything from agriculture and horticulture, to veterinary and human health science, is being impacted increasingly by our rapidly developing understanding of genetics. While the future may not be predictable, there is little doubt that a knowledge of genetics will lay a very good foundation for many business and employment opportunities over the coming decades. Consider the following:

Farm Animal Breeding

Selective breeding in farm animals is centered around identifying the most desirable characteristics and breeding from those animals that display them.  Traits essentially fit into five basic categories.

  •   Fitness traits: these are usually linked to reproduction such as litter size, conception rate, gestation length, survival rates of young
  •   Production traits: these include milk yield, growth rate, feed efficiency, number of eggs.
  •   Quality traits: these include carcass composition, level of fat, meat and milk quality.
  •   Type traits: these include physical appearance such as coat colour, udder shape, number of teats in pigs.
  •   Behavioural traits: these include herding ability in sheep dogs, temperament, mothering ability.

Pet breeding

Whereas the main objective of a farm animal breeding program is to improve performance, breeding programs for pedigree cats and dogs and other pet animals has centered on how they look i.e. the phenotype. This has led to the development of over 1700 different dog breeds throughout the world. Pedigree dog breeding is big business and can generate significant amounts of money for the breeder. In recent years it has come under heavy criticism as one of the consequences of breeding for specific traits that effect appearance is that other genes may also be selected  that are detrimental to the dogs health and welfare. In particular some breeds e.g. pugs and King Charles Spaniels were being breed with such shortened noses that they were having breathing problems

Plant Breeding

Plant breeding has been practiced for thousands of years, since near the beginning of human civilization. It is essentially the manipulation of plant species in order to create desired genotypes and phenotypes for specific purposes. These days, this manipulation involves either controlled pollination, genetic engineering, or both, followed by artificial selection of progeny. Classical plant breeding uses the planned crossing of closely or distantly related individuals to produce new crop varieties or lines with desirable properties. These may include colour, shape, disease resistance or potential yield in crop producing plants. Plants are cross bred to introduce traits/genes from one variety or line into a new genetic background.
It is now practiced worldwide by government institutions and commercial enterprises as it is believed that breeding new crops is important for ensuring food security  through the development of crops suitable for their environment such as drought conditions or warmer climates.

Genetics research has lead to an understanding of what causes disease, the diagnosis of diseases and genetic screening to identify populations that are of risk from a specific genetic disorder.

Diagnosis of disease
Genetic testing is used to diagnose many disorders such as Turner’s syndrome, Klinefleter’s syndrome and many heart and blood disorders.  The diagnosis of a genetic disorder may indicate that the relatives of the affected person should be screened for the genetic defect or whether they carry the gene.

Genetic Screening
This is the use of a test to identify people who have, are predisposed to or carriers of a certain genetic disease. It can be applied at many stages of life and used for a variety of purposes.

Where will a knowledge of genetics lead me?

You may simply wonder about how genetics affects people… For example, why do we look the way we do? What role does genetics play in disease? What can genetic testing tell us? How do we consider genetics in breeding? Studying this course will help explain genetics in every day life.

What now?

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