The Future of the Human Genome Project
Can you imagine knowing your own genetic code? Going into the doctor for a routine physical and leaving with the knowledge of your genetic downfalls so that you may prevent disease and cancers. This may seem unbelievable but it is likely to be implemented in the near future. Since the start of the human genome project, the medical community has been anxiously awaiting its completion because the applications it has to this field are obviously enormous. However, we still have much to learn about genetic variability and the information we gain can be used to prevent, repair, and eradicate illness.
About fifteen years ago at a conference near Salt ...view middle of the document...
The physical map will be used in conjunction with the genetic map to localize a gene and to isolate the exact DNA fragment from it. Once the project is complete, focus can be changed from finding genes to understanding them. In what ways will the Human Genome Project revolutionize the world of medicine? What great gains will it bring humans and what implications will it bring with it?
An important point to make is that the human DNA sequence and map generated from this project is not made up of one individuals DNA, but is a compilation of several randomly chosen individuals. Humans differ in genetic makeup by only 0.1% of our DNA. That very narrow margin of difference accounts for all the variety we see in the world today.
Before continuing, a little background about the techniques is necessary. Some of the basic tools used include restriction enzymes that cleave double stranded DNA in specific areas, and gel electrophoresis, which separates DNA fragments according to size and charge. Cloning vectors are vital tools in the genome project as well. They have fragments of "foreign" DNA, which are replicated as the host cell reproduces.
Vast improvements are being made in the area of DNA sequencing with the goals of faster and cheaper in mind. Accomplishments, which are improving sequencing, include new types of genetic markers called microsatellites used in PCR and improved vector systems for cloning large fragments of DNA. Hybridization is also being used in the human genome project although it is already an important component of genetic screening. It consists of short chains of nucleotides called oligomers used to correspond with DNA. Matches in the sequence are detected by fluorescence and statistical analysis reassembles the sequence (Fickett, 1994).
In conjunction with sequencing the entire human genome, several model species have been chosen such as E. coli, C. elegans, and M. musculus to name a few. The latter, also known as the lab mouse is especially valid because the genetic sequences and gene functions are very similar to humans. Due to this homology between mice and humans, a gene located on a chromosome can lead to a predication of where the gene will be found in the mouse, and vice versa. An example of this is a form of muscular dystrophy called Duchenne. The genes in both species produce similar proteins and both of them function in muscle development. When the gene does not function, muscular dystrophy develops in both species but is more severe in humans (10/10/98).
Implications of the project
The genome project is going to change the way we look at ourselves. It will drastically change medicine, agriculture, and many other areas of our everyday lives. Along with gaining vast amounts of knowledge about ourselves, many ethical questions arise that need to be answered.
When you think about it superficially it sounds too good to be true. Who could possibly object to detecting and possibly...