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DNA: Beyond the Genome

In the post-genomic era, scientists are decoding myriad other “omes” to fill in the blanks about how our bodies function.

By Jennifer Bails // Infographic by Flying Chilli // Fall 2009
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beyond the genome

Flying Chilli

Six years ago, when the complete sequence of 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA was finally mapped and published, a great leap forward was taken. Yet the genome alone can’t reveal how our bodies function—and malfunction. So, in the postgenomic era, scientists are decoding myriad other “-omes” to fill in the blanks. The size of the challenge is mind-boggling: Each human cell has 20,000 to 25,000 genes capable of producing as many as 1 million proteins to carry out its work, such as driving essential metabolic reactions. In turn, there are 2,000 to 20,000 by-products of metabolism. Detecting and identifying these genes, proteins and other small molecules—and figuring out how they work together to create our physiology—lie at the heart of the “-omics” revolution. Here are several crucial “-omes” and how they could prove important in understanding disease.

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