Genetics and Genomics

The majority of adult and pediatric diseases are caused by errors or mutations in our genetic make-up. Genes are made up of DNA, and carry the instructions for different traits like eye color and height. Our genes can also carry information that leads to disease or predisposition to diseases. While a single gene mutation is enough to cause certain diseases, often times a combination of genes and external influences lead to disease progression. Researchers are studying the whole genome, genomics, in order to better understand the mechanisms of disease and what causes genes to turn on or off, eventually leading to disease progression like tumor formations.

The Genetics and Genomics Group at Sanford Research focuses on understanding the cellular identity and how alterations in this identity lead to disease progression. Researchers are using next generation genome sequencing and bioinformatics to study specific stem cell genes that control the fate of cell development. These stem cell genes can signal for development of diseases such as tumor formations. If we can understand what turns genes on and off, more specific and personalized therapies can be developed. Clinical trials are already established in an effort to provide personalized treatments for cancer patients based on the genetic characteristics of tumors. This group aims to bring to reality treatments tailored for each patient’s genetic make-up instead of a single treatment for each condition.

The research efforts of Sanford Imagenetics, an initiative to provide precision medicine in primary care, are part of this group.