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3: Molecular Biology and Genetics

  • Page ID
    • Hayley Mann

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    Learning Objectives

    • Explain and identify the purpose of both DNA replication and the cell cycle.
    • Identify key differences between mitosis and meiosis.
    • Outline the process of protein synthesis, including transcription and translation.
    • Use principles of Mendelian inheritance to predict genotypes and phenotypes of future generations.
    • Explain complexities surrounding patterns of genetic inheritance and polygenic traits.
    • Discuss challenges to and bioethical concerns of genetic testing.

    I [Hayley Mann] started my Bachelor’s degree in 2003, which was the same year the Human Genome Project released its first draft sequence. I initially declared a genetics major because I thought it sounded cool. However, upon taking an actual class, I discovered that genetics was challenging. In addition to my genetics major, I signed up for biological anthropology classes and soon learned that anthropology could bring all those molecular lessons to life. For instance, we are composed of cells, proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids. Anthropologists often include these molecules in their studies to identify how humans vary; if there are meaningful differences, they propose theories to explain them. Anthropologists study biomolecules in both living and ancient individuals. Ancient biomolecules can also be found on artifacts such as stone tools and cooking vessels. Over the years, scientific techniques for studying organic molecules have improved, which has unlocked new insights into the deep human past.

    This chapter provides the basics for understanding human variation and how the evolutionary process works. A few advanced genetics topics are also presented because biotechnology is now commonplace in health and society. Understanding the science behind this remarkable field means you will be able to participate in bioethical and anthropological discussions as well as make more informed decisions regarding genetic testing.

    This chapter is a revision from “Chapter 3: Molecular Biology and Genetics” by Hayley Mann, Xazmin Lowman, and Malaina Gaddis. In Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology, first edition , edited by Beth Shook, Katie Nelson, Kelsie Aguilera, and Lara Braff, which is licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0 .

    This page titled 3: Molecular Biology and Genetics is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Hayley Mann (Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.