Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The human Genome Project

Sequencing of the Human Genome

Dylan Tapp

The sequencing of the human genome first started in the 1970’s when scientists began to unravel human genes at a molecular level. When in 1989 the Human Genome Organisation was founded it spawned the publicly funded Human Genome Project in 1990. In 2003 sequencing of the human genome was completed and the final ‘draft’ published in 2006. Such an undertaking had never been performed previously and produced many interesting results whilst also creating significant opportunity for future discovery.

The sequencing of the human genome resulted in surprise for many as it was estimated pre-sequencing that the human genome would contain up to 100,000 genes, however it was found that humans contain around 23,000 genes (Campbell et al , 2009). The estimation of 100,000 genes for the human genome was based around other organisms such as the tiny water crustacean the Daphnia which as 30,000 genes – which has been shown to be significantly more than found in humans. This shows than an organisms complexity does not necessarily correspond to its number of genes.

The sequencing of the human genome has further reaching importance than determining the number of genes within us, human genome sequencing allows for much more to be learnt about genetic disposition to diseases, customizing therapies to certain gene profiles and even manipulating and repairing DNA (Zimmer,2008).  Human genome sequencing has also allowed greater knowledge of DNA and other molecules within the genome (Zimmer,2008). For example, human genome sequencing has shown that epigenetic marks are proteins or other molecules which are attached to DNA which now have been shown to play a significant genetic role. These molecules can pass on traits similar to genes, and if misplaced or damaged can increase an individual’s chance of contracting cancer and other disorders (Zimmer, 2008)
The significance of the Human Genome Project is greater than purely the discoveries found from sequencing the human genome. This project has produced opportunity for further research with hugely important possible outcomes. One major project that is being undertaken as a result of the completion of the sequencing of the human genome is a project called ‘Encode’, Encode aims to determine the role of every single piece of DNA in the human genome, the results of which are sure to provide in depth insight into our genetic code (Zimmer,2008).  The Human Genome Project has also spawned further sequencing projects, such as those into various cancers and genetic disorders in an attempt to understand the genetic component of disease.

As shown the Human Genome Project which sequenced the human genome produced many interesting results and perhaps more importantly has allowed for further in depth research to be undertaken into our genetic makeup which has the propensity to return life changing results. These facts place the Human Genome Project in a group with the most significant discoveries in genetics.

Campbell, Neil, 2009. Biology. 8th ed. Australia: Pearson education.
Zimmer, Carl, 2008. Now:The rest of the Genome. 1st ed. New York: New york times.

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