We are all familiar with yeast as a product needed in baking and brewing beer. But did you know that it is also a very important part of studying genetics and biology? Well, it’s true. Scientists have been using yeast and yeast genomes as research specimens to see how certain biological processes will work and more. These studies have been conducted for decades and have helped scientists understand and discover so many new things regarding our genetic makeup, how our bodies respond to certain medications, and how our biological processes work.
So, what makes yeast such a great thing to work with?
Yeast cells are very similar to human cells.Actually, they are very similar to animal cells in general in terms of how the cells grow and divide; how the cells metabolize food; and how the cells age. Furthermore, yeast and humans share genes and this makes it possible to study functions that the two have in common.
Yeast is easy and cheap. Yeast is easy to get a hold of and it is cheap to buy. So, no need to worry about pushing the study budget over its limit.
Yeast is fast. Human cells tend to divide approximately every 12 hours. Yeast cells do so every 1 to 2 hours. This means that scientists can conduct their studies and have results much faster than if they had to wait for human cells to do the same things.
Yeast is customizable. This is another great characteristic of yeast that makes scientists happy. If they want to study a particular gene or isolate cells, you can buy yeast with a slightly different makeup. For example, you get yeast that has a gene ‘knocked out’ to see what the effect is and then translate that to the human cells.
Yeast is safe. Many of the specimens, like bacteria, that scientists often have to work with are dangerous and can have dire consequences if used incorrectly or if exposure occurs. There is none of that danger with yeast. It is harmless and can be used safely without worrying about contamination or contracting an infection.
Clearly, yeast is a very versatile and easily available product that has changed how scientists study human genetics and biological processes. It is interesting (and a little weird) to think that something so simple and everyday can help human health so much. Studies with yeast genomes have helped to make huge advances in medical treatments, medicines, and understanding the human body. Learn more on the RESOURCES page.