Basic science research

In genetics and medicine, basic science research is needed before doing research on people. Geneticists do basic research hoping that what they learn can be used to make people healthier. It is the first step toward coming up with better treatments for disease.

Geneticists use a lot of tools to help them test their ideas in the laboratory before doing human studies. Some examples of tools that geneticists use are

  • Model organisms: These are living things, often mice, rats and even fruit flies. These organisms are specially designed to have medical problems that happen in people. For example, obese mice.
  • PCR (Polymerase-Chain-Reaction): PCR is a fast, cheap way to copy a DNA sequence. It is used in all types of research and even forensics (investigating crimes).
  • DNA Microarray: A DNA microarray also is known as a gene chip. It can test a lot of DNA at once.


What Is Basic Research?

Basic science research helps us understand how the world works and learn more about the human body. In basic science research related to medicine, scientists called biologists copy basic human processes and interactions in the laboratory. For example, they do studies about how immunizations work. Basic science research can teach us about the many biological and genetic processes that happen in humans. But the research is done in the laboratory, not on people.

Why Is Basic Science Research Important?

In genetics and medicine, basic science research is the first step toward understanding a disease. It can help us find, treat, and even cure disease. Basic science research also makes innovations in genetics, medicine, and technology possible.

Discoveries from basic research can be used to find common causes of diseases that some people are born with. Scientists can then make treatments that affect those parts of the body, called targets. By focusing treatments on these targets, we can improve the health of people with diseases. We also can use these targets to find out if someone has a disease. Scientists can develop better diagnostics and better tests for diagnosing or following a disease over time. The end result may be a new drug, therapy, or diagnostic tool.

The Human Genome Project

One of the best examples of basic science research in genetics is the Human Genome Project. In 1990, scientists started trying to sequence the entire human genome: all three billion (3,000,000,000) base pairs. Scientists knew that unlocking the genetic code would lead to a better understanding of health and disease.

The goal of the project was to find all the genes in human DNA. This information would be stored in a database that scientists all over the world could search and study. The project created new tools and ways to study genetics. It also created new questions about the ethical, legal, and social issues that come up when you sequence and study DNA.

The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. It led to an entire field of science – genomics - and countless innovations in medicine.