The Human Genome Project Concludes
For the public and the media, the great announcement had happened two years earlier in February 2001. But for biologists, the culmination occurred this month (April 2003). An avid reader would never pick up the draft of a great novelist but wait patiently for the finished work. So too is the situation for most scientists. The announcement in 2001 was for the draft of the human genome: Certain sections were missing; other parts had small errors in them.
However, on April 14, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium announced that the project that had begun in 1990 was finally finished. It was a time for champagne and caviar to celebrate one of the greatest scientific accomplishments of humankind: the enumeration of the 3.1-billion nucleotide sequence that encodes the biological processes for human life and connects all individuals to a common thread. The nucleotide sequences are freely available to anyone through public databases.
Actually, it is still not completely complete. One percent still remains uncoded because, for technically reasons, it is too hard to decipher and not currently worth the effort. There are also errors in the known parts but at an acceptable level of less than one mistake per 10,000 letters. However, all the important genes are known. Furthermore, the Consortium has identified more than 3 million single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are letters responsible for genetic variations.
While the Consortium is now disbanded, important genomic work remains:
- In Medicine and Health
- the determination of disease producing genetic defects
- the hereditary contributions to common diseases
- disease prevention
- genetically based drug therapies
- low-cost methods that can sequence the entire genome of any person
In Scientific Research
- the determination of individual genetic variation
- how the human genome compares to the genomes of other organisms
- the development of tools to improve the understanding of biological pathways and to accelerate drug discovery
- the understanding of when, where, and under what conditions are genes expressed
- the use of microbes to produce energy
- the use of microbes to clean the environment
- techniques for forensic identification
- the detection of harmful organisms
- methods to improve food production and quality
The genomics revolution is upon us.
To the Original Report on the Human Genome Project
To the Jupiter Scientific's Science Information Page
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