human genome project
What would you do if you were given the power to change your genetic code from brown hair to blond?. Man has had this ability through natural selection for some time without knowing it, but in the near future scientist will be able to speed the process of natural selection by changing a persons genes. Scientists have identified what constitutes human DNA located in the nucleus of a cell. The Human Genome Project was established to identify the genes that make us who we are and is now an international organization. The massive task of identifying the numerous gene combinations has created a problem. In the nucleus are 22 genomes, plus two sex chromosomes which have already been identified. In the 22 genomes there are approximately 3 billion base pairs of DNA, which contain 50,000 to 100,000 genes, a basic unit of heredity. The identification of these base pairs is the goal of the Human Genome Project, which started in 1990 and whose job it is to identify the letters or chromosomes in DNA. These letters represent nucleotides called adenine, guanine, thymine, and cytosine (or A, C, T, G). (’92 BSCS pg. 1)
The Human Genome Project idea originated in the mid 1980’s and was discussed in the scientific community and media through the latter part of that decade. In the United States the
combined effort of the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health were involved in the project planning. (The National Center For Genetic Research) The Human Genome Project has several goals including identifying the genes of a human assessing the genes and comparing human DNA to that of bacteria, yeasts, the fruit fly, mice, and the Arabidopis thaliana, a small genome plant that grows rapidly. A major purpose is to determine how evolution proceeds from lower organisms to humans, and discover why the smaller genomes of animals have less junk or unneeded DNA. Geneticists use two types of maps to characterize the genes they discover–a genetic linkage map and a physical map. A genetic map registers the distance between the fragments of DNA we know according to the frequency with which they are inherited. The physical map measures the actual physical distance between two markers. Scientists want to map and develop technology for rapid genotyping, plus develop markers that are easy to use as well as generate new mapping techniques. (Instrumentation) Scientists can map genes but it is still expensive. One of the ongoing goals of the Human Genome Project is to get the cost of mapping a gene down to 50 cents per base pair. (’92 HSCS pg.3)
The enormous information that is and has been generated by the project is used to link sites together around the world through the internet and now some information can be accessed by the general public. Another of the project goals is to create a sequencing capacity at a collective rate of 50 MB per year. This was supposed to be result in the completion of 80 MB by the end of FY 1998. Many people question whether the Human Genome Project is worth the money spent on it and will it be used negatively toward those who have traits that are considered undesirable by insurance companies and other corporations? The HUMAN GENOME ORGANIZATION has a council of scientists and doctors worldwide who meet to discuss the effects of identifying an individual’s genes. In the 1996 Genetics Confidentiality and Nondiscrimination Act an attempt to address this issue as noted in Section 2, ” The DNA molecule contains an individual’s genetic information that is uniquely private and inseparate from one’s identity. Genetic information is being rapidly sequenced and understood. Genetic information carries special significance. It provides information about one’s family, and more importantly, provides information about one’s self and and one’s self perception.” Genetic information has been misused, harming individuals through stigmatization and discrimination. The potential for misuse is tremendous as genetics transcends medicine and has the potential to penetrate many aspects of life including health and life insurance, finance, and education. Experts advocate that genetic information should not be collected, stored, analyzed, nor disclosed without the individual’s authorization. Current legal protections for genetic information are, however, inadequate. Uniform rules for collection, storage, and use of DNA samples are needed to protect individual privacy and prevent discrimination while permitting legitimate medical research. The report further states that the reading of a minors DNA should be only with parental or legal guardian consent and only if the analysis benefits the individual. The need for legislation on reading genes must be addressed prior to the final research breakthrough on this controversial issue in order to avoid discrimination against and protection of individuals. Nineteen states have already enacted laws that ban genetic discrimination.
The positive uses, however, for the Human Genome Project far outweigh the
negative. While the Genome Project has major work yet to be done much has already been accomplished. A significant discovery is that over half of the genes sequenced were previously unknown even though mass genetic mapping had taken place over the last decade. The project revealed that yeast has 12 million base pairs and 6,000 genes. The yeast gene has already provided scientists with a valuable insight into medical disorders such as cancer, neurological problems, and skeletal disorders. The project was completed some two years ahead of schedule because of mass automation and the fact that over a 100 laboratories in the United States, Canada, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Japan participated in the research. The genes were sequenced 55 % by the Europeans, 17 % by the Sanger Center, 15 % by WUSL, 7 % Stanford University, 4 % by McGill University in Canada, 2 % by the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Japan. The start of the Yeast Genome hunt began in 1950 when Robert Mortimer tried to map all of the genes in the DNA of the yeast organism. Then in the 1980’s Maynard Olson made a physical map of the genes of yeast by cloning overlapping DNA fragments. The project spent some 30 million dollars to finish the study. (Yeast Genome Sequenced) The Human Genome Project is a continuing quest and will be supported for several years until it completes the entire gene sequence for humans and compares it to the genes of the other organisms.
The planned goals for 1998 included completing a sequence tagged site physical of the human genome at a resolution of 100Kb. The organisms that are supposed to be identified are a map of the mouse at a resolution of 300Kb, Escheria Coli and Drosophilia melanogaster and bringing C. elegans to near completion. Comparisons of mice DNA with selected portions of human DNA are areas of high biological interest. The organization will continue to identify issues and policies surrounding the ethical end of the genome debate, foster greater acceptance of human and genetic variation, enhance and expand public knowledge and professional education, diversify and expand the transfer of technology both into and out of centers of genome research. The price of research is increasing as more and more labs become involved with the project. The projects goals are projected to cost almost 200 million annually in comparison with 170 million for the FY 1994.
The knowledge and potential that the Human Genome Project will produce are astronomical. Identification of inherited diseases could be found in the fetus and then changed to both save lives and prevent devastating diseases. The Human Genome Project is, and will, be an ongoing project for many years to come. Today we know just one-tenth of what research will reveal in a short few years yet we already have the knowledge to change and alter genes. Currently, this power is limited but in the near future scientist will have control over a factor originally associated with only natural reproduction. Undoubtedly, man will continue to be progressive and aggressive in this field of research. And who knows–maybe the reality of Jurassic Park literally is only a few years away.
In conclusion I think the Human Genome Project is something that can both be a disaster and an incredible scientifical accomplishment at the same time. It can be a disaster in the sense of all the discrimination that would go on even after the laws are passed banning discrimination. As portrayed in the sci-fi movie called Gattica the society in which the Human Genome Project is utilized will have great discrimination to those who were born a natural birth. In the movie a human gets a job that only someone that was genetically engineered can obtain. He obtains this job by buying blood, urine, and even tissue cells from a genetically engineered cripple. The positive results of all this will be a race of perfect people, perfect people who do not murder, steal, or have diseases. This society of perfect people will be a society of genius, and who is to tell what is to come next!
The Human Genome Organization.
Imapact of the Human Genoe Project www.gdb.org/Dan/Doe/prim5.html
” Microorganism’s Genetic Information Yields Scientific Suproses, Poteneial Biotech Applications”
www.ornl.gov/TechResources /HumanGenome/archive/methanoc. html
Revised 5 Year Reasearech Goals of the U.S. Human Genome Project. Human Genome News, November 1993
The Genetics Copnfidentially and Nondiscrimination Act- Summary
The Science and Technology of the Human Genome Project, The American Medical Association,