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Genomics and Health

Frequenly Asked Questions

 

General Questions

 

Q: What is genetics? What is genomics? 

A: Genetics is the study of inheritance, or the way traits are passed down from one generation to another. Genes carry the instructions for making proteins, which in turn direct the activities of cells and functions of the body that influence traits such as hair and eye color. Genomics is a newer term that describes the study of all the genes in a person, as well as interactions of those genes with each other and with that person’s environment.     Learn more

 

Q: What does genomics have to do with my health?

A: Genomics plays a part in nine of the Ten Leading Causes of Death in the United States. All human beings are 99.9 percent identical in genetic makeup, but differences in the remaining 0.1 percent may hold important clues about the causes of disease.

We hope that the study of genomics will help us learn why some people get sick from certain infections, environmental factors, and behaviors, while others do not. Better understanding of the interactions between genes and the environment will help us find better ways to improve health and prevent diseases.



Q: What is the Human Genome Project? 

A: The Human Genome Project (HGP) identified all of the genes in human DNA. The project was completed in 2003 by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health with input from other countries around the world. More information about this project can be found at the HGP Information Web site.



Q: What is stem cell research? 

A: Stem cell research is a hot topic in science and the media. Stem cells renew themselves for long periods of time through cell division. When a stem cell divides, it can either remain a stem cell or become another type of cell with a more specialized function such as a blood cell, a muscle cell, or a brain cell. Scientists are investigating using cell- based therapies to treat diseases. To find out more about stem cell research, visit the National Institutes of Health Web site.

 

Q: What is gene therapy? 

A: Gene therapy is a technique for correcting faulty genes responsible for disease development. To learn more about gene therapy visit the Human Genome Project Web site.

 

Q: Where can I find out about cloning? 

A: The term cloning that you might have heard or read about in the news usually refers only to one type called reproductive cloning. There are actually three types of cloning technologies and they include (1) recombinant DNA technology or DNA cloning, (2) reproductive cloning, and (3) therapeutic cloning. To get more in-depth, reliable information about cloning, visit the Human Genome Project Information Web site.

 

Q: For additional FAQs about Genomics, visit the following Web sites:


Q: How can I get information about genomics in Spanish? 

A: The following Web site provides a listing of Spanish Resources.

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Current Research at CDC's Office of Public Health Genomics

 

Q: What kind of research is being done in the Office of Public Health Genomics at the CDC? 

A: CDC's Office of Public Health Genomics (OPHG) works to integrate advances in human genetics into public health research, policy and programs. CDC provides support to other agencies, conducts research, communicates and distributes information, and develops training programs for medical and public health professionals. To learn more About OPHG.

More Information on CDC/OPHG Funded Projects, or go to our home page and click on “Funding.”

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Individuals or Families Affected by a Disease or Condition

 

Q: How can I find out more about my condition? 

A: Go to our homepage and click on our “Resource” section. You will find a number of resources that may be useful to you. Support groups for a number of diseases (e.g., cancer, diabetes, Down's syndrome, heart disease, hemophilia), information on the March of Dimes, and the National Organization for Rare Disorders are just a few examples.

Also under “Links” on our homepage, look at “Federal Agencies.” You will find a link to the National Institutes of Health where many genetic studies are conducted. You will also find a link to the Office of Rare Diseases, (last accessed 01/2008) which includes the Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center. This information center delivers free and fast access to information specialists who can provide information about genetic and rare diseases to patients and their families. You can reach them by telephone, Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., Eastern time at: 1-888-205-2311 (voice) and
1-888-205-3223 (TTY).

 

Q: What are good sources to use if I want to do my own research? 

A: PubMed is a service of the National Library of Medicine where you can search millions of biomedical articles for information.

Another source to try is the Genetic Alliance, a coalition of genetic advocacy organizations, health professionals, clinics, hospitals, and companies concerned with genetic diseases and conditions. You may find the link from our homepage under “general public” then “Student Resources”.

You may also try the GeneTests Web site.  This Web site has a searchable directory of laboratories in the United States that carry out genetic testing for specific diseases.

Finally, the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) Database is a catalogue of human genes and genetic disorders.

 

Q: Will I pass my disease on to my children? What is the chance that other family members will get the disease? 

A: Having a family member with a disease suggests that other family members may have a higher chance of developing that disease than someone who doesn't have the disease in their family. Most human diseases, especially common ones such as heart disease, result from the interactions of genes with aspects of the environment (i.e., where you live or work) and behavioral risk factors (i.e., diet, exercise, smoking) that can be changed. There is more knowledge about some diseases (specifically, the genes, environments, and ways they are inherited) than others.

Some diseases, including hemophilia, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, and Huntington 's disease, are called “single gene disorders.” These conditions result because a single gene is altered or missing. In these cases, family inheritance plays a much greater role in determining whether or not the condition is passed on. Although environmental and behavioral factors do not have much of an effect on whether or not a person develops the disease, they may affect the quality of life for that person.

The best way to learn about your specific disease and how it may affect your relatives is to speak to your doctor or a genetic counselor. See the next question to learn how to contact a genetic counselor.  More Information on Family History.

 

Q: How can I contact a genetic counselor? 

The following Web sites might help you locate a genetic counselor in your geographic area http://www.nsgc.org/FindaGeneticCounselor/tabid/64/Default.aspx and http://www.kumc.edu/gec/prof/genecntr.html. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a genetic counselor.

 

Q: Are there any research trials in which someone with a disease or condition can participate? 

A: Find a Current List of Federally-Funded Research Trials, which has an e-mail feature if you have further questions. Also, you can try the Web sites for the National Institutes of Health, where many genetic studies are conducted.

Related Link:
   • More FAQs on Family History

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Couple Expecting or Considering Having a Child

 

Q: How can we find out whether or not our child will be born with a genetic disease or condition? 

A: The best source to help you find out whether or not you may have a child that is affected with a genetic disease or condition is your doctor.

If you are not yet pregnant, blood tests (genetic tests) are available for certain inherited diseases. Potential parents can be tested to tell whether or not they carry a gene that is associated with a disease that may be passed on to their children. For example, a genetic test exists for a disorder called cystic fibrosis. If you are already pregnant and you are worried about passing a disease to your child, some tests can be done before the baby is born.

Keep in mind that tests are not yet available for all of the genes or all of the potential diseases that exist. Your doctor will help you decide which tests are right for you as a couple based on several factors. These factors include ethnicity, your family's medical history, and other factors he or she feels are important to consider for both of you.

If your doctor does decide with you that genetic testing for a disease is the right thing to do, your doctor and perhaps a genetic counselor can review your test results. They can then tell you what chances you have of passing these genes on to a child. Listed below are some online sources that may be helpful to you.

Selected Online Resources:

Visit CDC's National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities .

Our Web site includes additional links that may be useful to you. Other resources are available from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), where many genetic studies are conducted. The Office of Rare Diseases at NIH has a Genetic and Rare Disease Information Center . This information center delivers free and fast access to information specialists who can provide reliable information about genetic and rare diseases to patients and their families. You can reach them by telephone, Monday through Friday, 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. , Eastern time at: 1-888-205-2311 (voice) and 1-888-205-3223 (TTY).

The following Web sites might help you locate a genetic counselor in your geographic area at http://www.nsgc.org/FindaGeneticCounselor/tabid/64/Default.aspx and http://www.kumc.edu/gec/prof/genecntr.html. Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a genetic counselor.

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Students / Educators / Health Professionals or Others Seeking Data

 

Q: What are good sources for researching genes and genetic disorders? 

A: From our Home Page, click on “Search Genomics” and a number of items from that menu may be useful to you. “HuGE Navigator” allows you to search for a particular gene, disease, and environmental or other factor in combination in a database of research articles appearing in scientific journals that date back to late 2000. You can also search using the “Phenopedia” option to search by disease, or the “Genopedia” option to search by gene.

PUBMED is a service of the National Library of Medicine where you can search millions of biomedical articles for information.

Our Resource Guide offers links to “Genetics Databases” and many other helpful links.

You may also try the GeneTests Web site. This Web site has a searchable directory of laboratories in the United States that carry out genetic testing for specific diseases.

Finally, the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) Database is a catalogue of human genes and genetic disorders.

 

Q: Where can I learn about the latest findings in genetic/ genomic research? 

A: Take a look at the Impact Update feature located in the left column our Web site. The update includes articles about important research findings each week; back issues of the Weekly Update are accessible as well.

Under “Resources” on our homepage, there are a number of items you may find useful. In particular, you will find a link to the National Institutes of Health where many genetic studies are conducted.

The Human Genome Epidemiology Network, or HuGENet™, is a global collaboration of individuals and organizations committed to assessing the impact of human genome variation on population health and how genetic information can be used to improve health and prevent disease. Go to our homepage and click on HuGENet™ in the left- handed column. You will find everything from case studies to fact sheets to in-depth reviews related to genomics.

Finally, our Public Health Perspective Series focuses on selected topics and will provide you with information relevant to public health practice.

 

Q: Where can I learn about the Human Genome Project (HGP)? 

A: Information about this project can be found at the HGP information Web site. Educational materials are also available from this Web site. For example, on the site under "Education" is “The Human Genome Project: Exploring our Molecular Selves,” a free, multimedia educational kit for high school students and the interested public. The kit includes a CD-ROM with seven varied segments. A video documentary called “The Secret of Our Lives,” and an informational brochure, “Genetics : The Future of Medicine” are also included.

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Tranining / Careers in Genomics

 

Q: Where can I find out about training opportunities in genomics? 

A: Information concerning training in genomics or career development in genomics can be found on our home page under “Training”. Resources include on-line presentations and information on upcoming meetings, courses and conferences. Information on available fellowships and other training opportunities at CDC and elsewhere are also available.

 

For additional FAQs about Genomics, visit the following Web sites:

Disclaimer:
Our office does not conduct research on individual genetic conditions, nor do we offer medical advice to individuals. If you have specific concerns about your health, we suggest that you discuss them with your doctor.

Please note that links to non-federal organizations found at this site are provided solely as a service to our users. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. The CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization web pages found at these links.

If you are unable to find the answer to your question in our FAQ section, please contact us at genetics@cdc.gov.

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Contact Us:
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    1600 Clifton Rd. Atlanta, GA 30333 USA
    800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
  • Additional information for Public Health Genomics is available on our contact page.
USA.gov: The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention   1600 Clifton Road Atlanta, GA 30329-4027, USA
800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) TTY: (888) 232-6348 - Contact CDC–INFO
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