Human Genome Project: Mapping of the Human DNA Sequence

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 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, Alzheimer”s 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, stonewash 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 mutagenic 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: archaebacteria, eukaryotes, and prokaryotes.

DNA forensics or DNA fingerprinting is another area that will be greatly affected by the completion of the project.

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