What makes us different

16 April 2019

It’s fascinating to think that gradually as natural and environment changes, we saw a variation in the populations’ physical characteristics and behavior. Who would have thought that even though we share the same ancestry, we would look so dissimilar?

Fair skin, medium skin or dark skin, each and every one of us living on earth is actually related. This is not a blind assumption as researchers have proven this fact to be valid and that 99.9% of our genes are identical to that of every other person in this world.

Although an insignificant number, the 0.1% of genes is what makes us all unique and different. But what exactly is that little percentage? It’s hard to tell because humans are made up of three billion pairs of genomes and that 0.1% difference can be any change in the genomes. It’s not fixed, it can be the height, the hair or inherited diseases.

Senior lecturer Dr Song Beng Kah held a workshop at INTI Penang on 16 April 2019 to demonstrate how to observe DNA variations through bioinformatics analysis.

Although not all gene variants have been discovered yet, it’s important to continue this research as sequencing DNA and identifying genetic variants are exceptionally important in learning more about human health and disease.

Other than that, we are also getting to a point where we can make better predictions about an individual through studying the interaction between environment and DNA. Meaning, by understanding the environment that the person is exposed to, we can predict the actions he may take in the future such as the things he will choose to eat, the activities that he will do and so on.

There are still many unknown parts of this study, hence, Dr Song did a similar workshop with SMK St Xavier in which he encouraged the kids to stir up an interest in genomics. The students got to know more about the subject and what the job prospects it offers. They even got a taste of how assembling genome was like through a genome assembly game.