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This focus provides a broad picture of the importance of microbial genetics but, more than this, they show that the answers to the big questions that were provided by this field in the past might be the tip of an iceberg that looms large in the future.
The term 'weapons of mass destruction' seems destined to be one of those rare pieces of jargon that insinuates itself into common usage. The reason for this dubious honour is, of course, that the deployment of such weapons, particularly agents of bioterror, has rarely seemed as possible as it does today. For the same reason, the question of biodefence - defence against agents of bioterror - is high on the agendas of governments, the public and the research community.
Identifying a disease gene is just the first step towards understanding a disease's aetiology. The next challenge, as we discuss in several articles in this Web focus, is to elucidate the molecular basis of disease. However, not all of the challenges that face human genetics are strictly biological in nature, as reflected in the Perspectives articles collected together here, which cover a range of topics, from genetic counselling to reforming the gene patenting system.
This focus is a collection of articles on different aspects of organogenesis, including early liver specification, pancreatic stem-cell identity, heart patterning, tubulogenesis and kidney development. What emerges from each article is that, by studying individual organs, we can learn about the principles that underlie organogenesis.
Further characterization of cancer stem cells might lead to improved diagnostics and therapies by allowing us to better identify and target cancer stem cells. To cure cancer it is necessary to kill, differentiate or prevent the metastasis of cancer stem cells.
The study of sex engages scientists from different areas of biology, who investigate how and why sex evolved in the first place, why it is maintained, and how the distinct morphology of the two sexes has developed and evolved in animals and plants.
Emerging genomic technologies are enabling researchers to make increasingly sophisticated mouse models. These techniques are important because they allow researchers to surmount many of the problems that hinder the creation of better mouse models, and will probably lead to improved models of human disease, the development of new therapies, and finer and more rapid analyses of gene function.
The rise of computational biology has been driven in part by the acquisition and accumulation of data mountains, and learning how to explore these mountains is making possible entirely new types of experiment.
The challenge posed by multifactorial genetics is to understand the genetic contribution to any phenotype that results from the action of multiple genes and the environment. The phenotypes are as diverse as common human disease and crop yield, and they have become the focus of attention for scientists with a broad range of backgrounds.
Each article in this series of Timeline pieces - which have appeared in Nature Reviews Genetics from 2001 - depicts a historical figure (or figures) in genetics and how their ideas fit into a modern context. As well as revise our views of these scientists' contributions, the articles in this series also serve to acquaint our younger readers to the scientists who have shaped their field.
This is a series of articles that celebrates the art and design of genetic screens. These reviews are intended to provide an up-to-date account of genetic screening in the main genetic experimental systems.