Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes, which carry genetic information (genes). Cytogenetics is a branch of genetics that is concerned with the study of the structure and function of the cell, especially the chromosomes. It includes routine analysis of G-Banded chromosomes, other cytogenetic banding techniques, as well as molecular cytogenetics such as fluorescent in situ hybridization (FISH) and comparative genomic hybridization (CGH). Cytogenetics is the study of chromosomes. This is done by breaking the different pairs of chromosomes apart so the scientists, known as cytogeneticists, can study the individual chromosomes.
A solid foundation in science, laboratory experience, and graduation from an accredited cytotechnology educational program are usually the chief requirements for a student keen to become a cytogenetic technologist. Cytogenetic technologists mostly work as laboratory specialists, preparing, examining, and analyzing the chromosomes present in biological specimens to diagnose and treat genetic diseases, such as congenital birth defects and infertility. It can be a demanding career, requiring a deep sense of responsibility and meticulous work.
Usually, a bachelor’s degree is essential to enroll in a cytotechnology program. A student wanting to become a cytogenetic technologist typically opts to major in biology or biochemistry, and takes courses in genetics. Some amount of independent research during the academic year or volunteer experience in local hospital laboratories may help a student gain additional credit.
Cytogenetic technologists work with cell structures called chromosomes. Chromosomes are coiled bodies of DNA that reside within the cells of organisms. Chromosomes contain genetic material, and the correct number and structure are essential to a healthy human life. Abnormalities in chromosomes can therefore lead to serious issues in health and development. Cytogenetic technologists identify such abnormalities in a laboratory setting.
Human beings usually have 46 chromosomes, located in the nuclei of most cells. Down Syndrome, also called trisomy 21, is an example of a chromosomal disorder whereby extra genetic material results in cognitive impairment, and a higher risk to other health problems such as heart defects. A cytogenetic technologist may study samples taken from a fetus or after a child is born. In the cases of Down Syndrome, the technologist would find an additional partial or complete copy of chromosome 21.