Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smallest Human Chromosome Mapped It Could Offer Keys to Down Syndrome

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Smallest Human Chromosome Mapped It Could Offer Keys to Down Syndrome

Article excerpt

In an achievement that could point the way to treatments for a host of illnesses, scientists have mapped chromosome 21, the smallest human chromosome and the one associated with Down syndrome, epilepsy, Lou Gehrig's disease and Alzheimer's.

It is the second human chromosome whose DNA has been fully deciphered. Chromosome 22 was mapped last fall.

"Another volume has just been placed on the shelf. Now we really have to roll up our sleeves and assess what these genes are doing there, what role they play in causing disease," said Francis Collins, chairman of the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

The German- and Japanese-led team that mapped chromosome 21 is part of the Human Genome Project, an international effort to decipher chemically the entire human genetic blueprint.

Yesterday the project also announced that it is moving into the final phase of cataloging the human genes. Having collected about 90 percent of the estimated 3 billion letters in the DNA code, the project is moving on to a final "finishing" phase in which it will attack the difficult sections that remain and proofread what has already been acquired.

"We have made a really important transition and we're very excited about it," said Eric Lander, director of the Whitehead Institute Center for Genomic Research, one of 16 laboratories involved in the Human Genome Project.

Chromosome 21 contains relatively few genes, but they are in a complex tangle. …

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