pgEd considers the term personal genetics to be all-inclusive, reflecting the many influences that shape a person’s health, appearance, and the many other traits that make each of us unique. Thus, in our minds, personal genetics refers to your unique code of DNA (personal genome) as well as the factors that make your genome dynamic over the course of your lifetime. These include:
- DNA from the trillions of bacteria, viruses, and yeast and other fungi that live in and on a person’s body (the microbiome);
- the occurrence of mutations that change the DNA in a single cell and its descendants (mosaicism);
- and the presence of genetically distinct cells in a person’s body that originate from another individual, for example, in people who have received bone marrow transplants or women who have carried a pregnancy (chimerism).
In addition, personal genetics reflects the influences of our environment, lifestyle, and social experiences on how our genes work (epigenetics).
As a result, our genes are only part of a much more complex story of who we are and what our future holds. The growing field of personal genetics is at the intersection of science and society; it is both an exploration into the complex interactions through which our genes and our environment influence our physical, mental and behavioral states as well as an on-going conversation on the meaning for individuals and society.