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The Human Genome Project Essay

2938 words - 12 pages

The Human Genome Project

Imagine having the recipe to make a human being. Knowing its entire genetic make-up from beginning to end. Sounds far fetched, well it isn’t with the latest scientific achievements in sequencing the Human Genome. It’s only a question of how far we will take this information to get an understanding of its full potential.

The Beginnings:

Long before there was a formal Human Genome Project (HGP), the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Institute of Health (NIH) and some of their predecessor agencies were interested in developing more sensitive methods to detect changes in our genetic make-up, induced by ionizing radiation, and to begin understanding the ...view middle of the document...

Then just two years later, on October 1, 1990 the official clock began counting down, signaling the journey and adventure to sequence the entire human genome. (New England Journal of Medicine, July 1, 1999)

It was evident that once this project was completed it would furnish a highly detailed and accurate genetic reference guide that others could use to build on, without having to repeat the sequencing process from scratch. Originally the goal of the project was to have a completely sequenced genome within15 years. Due to improved sequencing techniques and the increased competition generated by the private sector, a "highly accurate" version of the human genome is set to be completed by the year 2003. ( Coincidentally, that is the 50Th anniversary of the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA preformed by Watson and Crick. (Science, Oct.23, 1998, v.282)

According to Dr. David I. Smith, Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Cancer Genetics Program, 90% of the project should be finished by early April year 2000. ( This preliminary version will contain varying lengthed gaps in the sequence, because some sections need to be manually sequenced instead of using the automated method. Even this premature version will provide enough information for researchers to begin work on their own projects. (Chronicle of Higher Education, July 19, 1999)

Basics behind the project:

The HGP has turned into an international, private and public drag race, costing billions of dollars, with seemingly endless possibilities to what accomplishments and discoveries that will be a direct result of its completion. The completely sequenced DNA or what some have termed our "genetic blueprint", will provide us the necessary information and an adequate resource data base, to begin our understanding of some of the critical differences that makes us phenotypically and genotypically different from one another. (BioEssays 1999,v21 121-130) The DNA sequence of one person is approximately 99.9% identical to that of another person. DNA is what makes up the 23 pair of chromosomes each person has. (
Chromosomes are composed of long threads of DNA, tightly packaged in our cells, containing thousands of genes arranged like beads on a string. Genes are short pieces of DNA that provide cells with the proper information as to what protein(s) they are to produce and in what amounts. These hereditary instructions are spelled out by the use of 4 different nucleotides or bases: adenine (A), thymine (T), guanine (G), and cytosine (C). ( The DOE and NIH along with some private companies are in the process of sequencing 80,000 to 100,000 genes over the next several years. ( That would account for approximately 6 billion base pairs, 3 billion coming...

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