Links to topics in genetics

This page is mainly intended for readers who have reached this site, who do not have a background in genetics, but who are looking for general information. There is a wealth of information on the internet, but this is frequently on specialised genetics topics. If you know exactly what you are looking for, you may do best by heading for a search engine with the appropriate keywords.

If you are specifically interested in human genes, the definitive source is Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM), part of the extremely informative National Center for Biotechnology Information site. This site also leads to the databases of DNA sequences and the Medline publication list. If you are interested in a smaller list of human disease conditions, you might try Gene clinics, put together by the University of Washington.

Acquiring general knowledge is much harder. Most of the internet sites are set up for professional use, and are not user friendly if you are not in the know. However some sites do provide elementary information. For example, DNA from the beginning is produced by the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, and covers molecular and classical genetics. A broader and slightly higher level introduction is provided by Kimball's Biology Pages, a free version of a subscription site. Two useful listings of definitions are Genetics glossary and Glossary of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

We have not attempted anything like an exhaustive set of links, partly because these already exist. We recommend Gene CRC links, that lists several hundred sites related to genetics, and the LTSN UK Centre for Bioscience. If there are sites amongst these or others that you feel deserve emphasising, please let us know.

Books vs. computer sites

Although we (Hands On Genetics) are in the business of producing computer programs, we must emphasise the importance of books. Two advantages of web sites over text books are that they can be more easily brought up to date, and they have the ability to insert hyperlinks for moving between topics. In practice it is not clear that either of these compensates for the ease of use of a book. We know of no teaching sites which duplicate the volume of material and the pictorial content of the best text books.

We have chosen not to recommend any particular Genetics text book, although we do admire one or two. We should also state that modern books with the title 'Biology...' rather than 'Genetics...' frequently contain enough information on genetics to satisfy most readers. This applies also to titles such as 'Molecular Biology' or 'Cellular Biology'. It is increasingly difficult to pigeonhole the different areas of genetics and biology.

Finally, in case this discussion appears to be arguing against the use of our own computer programs, we wish to emphasise the difference between interactive programs and simple presentation of information. We believe that the best way of understanding the concepts of genetics is through first learning the terminology, either in class or from textbooks, followed by problem solving using interactive programs.