Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project (HGP) was officially started in 1990 as a joint research venture between the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The primary goal of this collaboration was to develop a way to understand how human beings were built. The HGP might not have been initiated when it was if it were not for the discoveries that had been made in the 1970s; discoveries that worked to "drastically change the focus and scope of biological science" and included the development of techniques to remove specific segments of chromosomes and combine genes from different sources, techniques that would be elemental to the research conducted by the HGP.
The primary objective of the HGP was to develop a "detailed genetic and physical maps of the human genome", which it has ultimately achieved.
- The human genome is defined as the sum total of the genetic material in the chromosomes of the human body.
- The genetic and physical maps that have been developed through the HGP are now used to assist scientists in finding the genetic mutations that predispose some individuals and their families to certain diseases.
Even more, the strides that have been made in mapping the human genome have contributed to mapping the genomes of other species, which has opened up a whole new arena of research designed to address genetic problems in humans. For example, the genetic mapping of animal species has led to the development of genetic technologies that permit genetic breeding of animals not only for "higher yields for products and human consumption" but also for the development of "blood and organs that can be transplanted to human bodies".
In addition to developing detailed genetic and physical maps of the human genome, the HGP was designed to investigate possible technologies that would enable "the sequencing of very large amounts of DNA with high accuracy and low cost". Sequencing is defined as the determination of the order of nucleotides (base sequences) in a DNA or RNA molecule, which then determines the order of amino acids in the protein encoded in the DNA or RNA molecule.
Sequencing continues to be challenged by the fact that it is difficult to maintain accuracy and because it is a relatively costly process. As it stands, the HGP managed to surpass its goal for the cost of accurately sequencing very large amounts of DNA by reducing the initial cost by almost 300%.
What many people are not aware of is that the Human Genome Project has already been completed, however the research utilizing the techniques and findings that have evolved out of it continue on a regular basis. At the time of its completion in 2003, the HGP had met several goals including its primary goal of providing a way for scientists to read nature's complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.
The latest developments concerning the HGP are not as exciting as alarmists might have predicted however it might very well be exciting to scientist and researcher working in the field. For example, at the close of 2004, the National Human Genome Research Institute, which is part of the National Instituted of Health, announced as much as $38 million in grants to stimulate continued genome research, with the primary goal of sponsoring the development of technologies that would reduce the cost of DNA sequencing, a goal that has yet to be fully achieved since the inception of the HGP.
At the same time, the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium reported that the final description of the human genome sequence reveals a reduction in the estimated number of protein-coding genes in the human species from 35,000 to 25,000 or less. This is a significant finding considering the fact that, before the HGP, scientists believed that the number of protein-coding genes in the human species was much higher at approximately 100,000.
The research offers several important implications for the future research and use of the information, technologies and scientific tools that have been developed from the Human Genome Project. The research suggests that the biotechnology companies can expect to receive continued funding for research designed to make innovative technological advances in gene isolation. Even more, the biotech companies can expect to further capitalize on the HGP legacy by increasing their profits through the marketing of these advances to "doctors, employers and genetic counselors."
To be more specific, this project involves the recording of the "complete nucleotide sequence of human DNA". Although the effort has not been completed, tremendous progress has been made despite the obvious missing holes. In fact, it appears that ninety percent of the databases are complete.