Human Genome Project Human Genome Project The Human Genome Project (HGP) is an international 13 year effort that began in October of 1990. The main objective of the project is to map the entire human DNA sequence. The project was planned to last 15 years, but rapid technological advances have moved the completion date to 2003. A rough draft of the human genome was completed in June 2000. Efforts are still underway to complete the finished high quality sequence.
Many laboratories around the United States receive funding from either the Department of Energy (DOE) or the National Institutes of Health, or from both, for the HGP. Other researchers at colleges, universities, and laboratories throughout the United States also receive funding for the project. At any given time, the DOE Human Genome Project funds about 200 separate investigators. At least 18 countries have established human genome research programs. Some of the larger programs are in Australia, France, Sweden, China and the United Kingdom.
Some developing countries are participating through studies of molecular biology techniques for genome research and studies of organisms that are particularly interesting to their geographic regions. The Human Genome Project Organization helps to coordinate international efforts in the genome project. There are many benefits and goals of the Human Genome Project. Rapid progress in genome science and a glimpse into its potential applications have helped observers to predict that biology will be the the most important science of the 21 century. Aside from its medical and scientific benefits, the development of genomics research presents U.S. industry with many opportunities. The Consulting Resources Corporation Newsletter (Spring 1999) said that the sale of DNA based products and technologies in the biotechnology industry are rejected to exceed $45 billion by 2009.
One of the goals of the project is improved knowledge in the area of molecular medicine. Increasingly detailed maps have aided researchers seeking genes associated with dozens of genetic conditions, including inherited colon cancer, Alzheimers disease, and familial breast cancer. Also, molecular medicine will benefit with the improved diagnosis of disease, rational drug design, gene therapy and pharmaceutical custom drugs. Another area that will benefit is that of Microbial Genetics. Despite our reliance on the inhabitants of the microbial world, we know little of their number or their nature.: estimates are that less than 0.01% of all microbes have been identified. Also, expected benefits include developments of diverse new products, processes, and test methods that will open the door to a cleaner environment. Biomanufacturing will use nontoxic chemicals and enzymes to reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of industrial processes.
Already, microbial enzymes are being used to bleach paper pulp, stone wash denim, remove lipstick from glassware and break down starch in brewing. Risk assessment is something else that will come from the project. This involves assessing health damage and risks caused by radiation exposure,including low-dose exposures, assessing health damage and risks caused by exposure to mutagencic chemicals and cancer causing toxins, and reducing the likelihood of heritable mutations. Understanding genomics will help us understand human evolution and the common biology we share with all of life. Comparative genomics between humans and other organisms such as mice already has led to similar genes associated with diseases and traits. Further comparative studies will help determine the yet unknown function of thousands of other genes. Comparing the DNA sequences of entire genomes of different microbes will provide new insights about relationships amount the three kingdoms of life: archeabacteria, eukaryotesand prokaryotes.
DNA forensics or DNA fingerprinting is another area that will be greatly affected by the completion of the project. Any type of organism can be identified by examination of DNA sequences unique to that species. Identifying individuals can be less precise at this time, although when DNA sequencing technologies progress further, direct characterization of very long DNA segments, and possibly even whole genomes, will become possible and will allow individual identification. To identify individuals, forensic scientists scan about 10 DNA regions that vary from person to person and use the data to create a DNA profile of the individual (sometimes called a DNA fingerprint). There is an extremely small chance that another person has the same DNA profile for a particular set of regions.
There are many benefits that will come with DNA fingerprinting. Some include: identifying potential suspects whose DNA may match evidence left at crime scenes, exonerating people wrongly accused of crimes, establishing paternity and other family relationships and matching organ donors with recipients in transplant programs. Understanding plant and animal genomes will allow us to create stronger, more disease resistant plants and animals–reducing the cost of agriculture and providing consumers with more nutritious foods. Already growers are using bioengineered seeds to grow more insect and drought resistant crops that require little or no pesticide. Farmers have been able to increase outfits and reuse waste because their crops and herds are healthier. There are several legal and ethical issues and questions surrounding the Human Genome Project.
There has been legislation proposed to deal with some of the potential difficulties of the project. One of the concerns is fairness in the use of genetic information by insurers, employers, courts, schools, adoption agencies, and the military, among others. For example, who should have access to personal genetic information, and how will it be used? Many people question weather insurance companies and employers have a right to genetic information. Clinical questions have also raised. How will genetic test be evaluated and regulated of accuracy and reliability? Currently, there is little regulation at the federal level. Also, some scientists and doctors wonder if genetic testing should be performed when there is no treatment available.
If the project is indeed completed in the year 2003, we are left with only two years to sort through potential problems. However, in the eyes of many, the benefits of the Human Genome Project will far outweigh its risks. Science.