Domain-specific Engineering

Genomics from a Mass Customization Perspective

Is there a parallel between genomics and mass customization, with respect to the way we can characterize diversity among a population of individuals? This note proposes an answer to this question by using DsE concepts to characterize genomic processes.

Consider for the sake of argument that genetics and reproduction can be viewed as a form of mass customization. The genome for a species (corresponding to a domain in DsE terms) is the definition of a family of organisms. Each organism, being an instance of this family, is the "product" of the reproductive process (which DsE calls application engineering). Through the process of creation and evolution (domain engineering in DsE terms), the genome has been defined so that systematic variation results in the production of unique instance organisms. When a given gene can vary (making it an adaptable component in DsE terms), the various possible instances are known as alleles. Gene sequences that can vary in the genome are described as heterologous. Without these variations, every instance of the genomic family would be an exact clone.

The diversity of instances arises as a result of decisions made during the reproductive process. These decisions (the decision model in DsE terms) can be seen as choices between traits in the phenotype but actually are realized as variations in the genotype; whether a trait is monogenic or polygenic is a mere matter of implementation that derives from the architectural choices that led to the set of genes in the genotype. This results, however, not in a statically characterized organism but in a dynamically changing organism whose behavior depends both on its genotype and its past experiences (interactions) with its environment.

One of two or more variants of a particular gene.
A DNA molecule carrying a set of genes.
One of a set of identical organisms.
A region of DNA that encodes one function.
The complete genetic complement of an organism.
The study of genomes.
The genetic constitution of an organism.
Gene sequences that are not identical but show variable degrees of similarity.
Hypervariable region
A region in a genome that is composed of avariable number of repeated sequences.
A trait caused by a single gene.
The observable characteristics of an organism, determined both by its genotype and by its environment.
Polygenic trait
A trait determined by the interaction of more than one gene.

Definitions adapted from
  1. D.S.T. Nicholl, An Introduction to Genetic Engineering, Cambridge University Press, 2002.