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The genetic architecture of complex traits: lessons from Drosophila
A selection of talks on Genetics & Epigenetics
Genetic counseling: preconception, prenatal, perinatal
- Prof. Aubrey Milunsky
- Tufts University School of Medicine, USA
Recent advances in the development of gene delivery technologies
- Dr. Takis Athanasopoulos
- GSK, UK
Good day, I'm Trudy MacKay, a professor in the Department of Genetics at North Carolina State University. I'm interested in the genetic basis of variation for complex traits. In this talk I will explain what I mean by complex traits, why these traits are important, the challenges involved in dissecting the genetic underpinnings of these traits, and how studies in the model genetic organism Drosophila melanogaster have advanced our knowledge in this field. When I speak of a trait, I mean any aspect of an organism's phenotype that
can be measured or quantified such as height, weight, blood pressure or behavioral responses to an environmental or social cue. There is great diversity, or variation in phenotypes of these traits among individuals, as illustrated by these photos of different dog breeds. Understanding what causes phenotypic variation for these traits is important from the perspective of plant and animal breeding and evolution, for genetic variation in these traits is the substrate for adaptive evolution, and for a response to human selection for improved yield of domestic crop and animal species.
Understanding what causes variation for complex traits is also important from the standpoint of human health, because there's considerable variation in human populations in susceptibility to common diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes. Conversely, there is also considerable variation in health span, ranging from disabling physical and or/mental impairment in old age to retaining full functional capability even at advanced age, as illustrated by the photos of centenarians in the right panel.