Human Genome Sequences-A Potential Treasure Trove, but How Useful?

By Gavaghan, Helen | Bulletin of the World Health Organization, June 2001 | Go to article overview

Human Genome Sequences-A Potential Treasure Trove, but How Useful?


Gavaghan, Helen, Bulletin of the World Health Organization


Imagine trying to understand a country and its culture without knowing its language. Only a comprehensive knowledge of the language would give a newcomer the tools to begin to explore and understand the country. Publication of the human genome sequence in February this year (see box) was a little like equipping scientists with the language of the human body.

Sequencing, genetics and medicine A genome comprises essentially four
main types of molecules, or bases -- adenine, thiamine,
guanine and cytosine -- arranged in pairs in a double helical
structure. There are 3 billion base pairs and their order carries the
instructions to make a human being. Of the entire human genome
sequence, only 1.1-1.4% contains genes.

Two sequences of the human genome were published simultaneously in
February (see main text). They are roughly 92-94%
complete. The published sequences suggest that there are 31 000 genes
in the human body, far fewer than originally estimated -- vs
about 26 000 genes for plants, 18 000 for worms, 13 000 for flies and
6000 for yeast. One sequence was the work of the publicly
funded International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium and was
published in Nature (15 February 2001). The consortium has
made its data freely available to the public via the Internet on a
daily basis. Its work was undertaken by about a thousand scientists in
six countries, including one developing country, China.

The other sequence and its analysis were published by the US commercial
company Celera Genomics in Science (16 February
2001). Access to Celera's sequence data is more restricted and there
has been much controversy and rivalry between the public and
private ventures. The question is complex but what is clear is that
Celera's entry into the mass sequencing game spurred the public effort
to complete its task earlier than it would have done otherwise.

"Making the data publicly available," says Dr Virander Chauhan,
director of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and
Biotechnology in New Delhi, India, "has levelled the playing field, so
that for the first time a university in New Delhi can compete directly
with a university such as Harvard in the States."

Though the Human Genome Project was conceived in 1985 and began in
earnest in 1990, since the beginning of the century
scientists have attempted to identify traits passed down through the
generations. Then, with the advent of molecular biology tools,
individual genes were isolated and sequenced. In the mid-1980s,
biologists, mainly in the USA, began to consider sequencing the whole
genome. Sequencing began in the late 1980s. About a decade later, the
project got under way in earnest, moving away from earlier
concerns about the function of genes and concentrating on the
sequencing itself.

To transform sequence data into diagnostic tests, vaccines, and
therapies, scientists have important questions to answer.
Although the location of most of the genes is now known, scientists
need to know which gene makes which protein, in which cell and at
what stage of life. Then they need to know a protein's specific tasks
and how different proteins interact with one another. Equally
importantly, researchers want to know how environmental factors
influence gene expression.

Now that the human genome sequence is known, the focus is firmly back
on gene function, only this time researchers will be
learning and exploring with an entire genetic language, not only the
few words interpreted from isolated observations.

The scientific community's reaction has been positive, but tempered by uncertainty over the time it will take for practical results to emerge. "Now," says Dr Virander Chauhan, director of the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology in New Delhi, India, "we can truly start to turn the genetic sequences into information important for medicine." But, cautions Dr Barry Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health in the USA, "there will be a long haul before the human genome is fully exploited -- even in the West. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Human Genome Sequences-A Potential Treasure Trove, but How Useful?
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.