Model Systems

Test tubes

Precision medicine is based on the availability and deep understanding of how the genome works. Much progress has been made in understanding fundamental biological mechanisms, and this pursuit has been dramatically advanced by the availability of the sequence of the human genome and the genomes of model organisms. The genome contains the blueprint for building an organism and for determining how it interacts with its environment.

A key challenge of 21st century biology is to decipher the functional elements encoded in this blueprint.  The most fruitful strategies to decipher the functional instructions encoded in the genome make use of molecular genetic approaches with genetically amenable organisms (often called model organisms). Genetic analyses that employed model organisms such as bacteria, yeasts, nematodes and fruit flies has led to the discovery of most of the basic principles regarding how the genome encodes information, and how basic biological processes operate.  This research has also provided insights into human disease mechanisms and introduced a number of extremely promising tools, such as RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas9, for molecular medicine.