What would you do if you were given the power to change your geneticcode from brown hair to blond?. Man has had this ability through natural selectionfor some time without knowing it, but in the near future scientist will beable to speed the process of natural selection by changing a persons genes. Scientists have identified what constitutes human DNA located in the nucleusof a cell. The Human Genome Project was established to identify the genesthat make us who we are and is now an international organization. The massivetask of identifying the numerous gene combinations has created a problem.
In the nucleus are 22 genomes, plus two sex chromosomes which have alreadybeen identified. In the 22 genome there are approximately 3 billion basepairs 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 chromosomesin DNA. These letters represent nulcleotides called adenine, guanine, thyamine,and cytosine (or A, C, T, G). (’92 BSCS pg.
1) The Human Genome Projectidea originated in the mid 1980’s and was discussed in the scientific communityand media through the latter part of that decade. In the United States thecombined effort of the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Healthwere involved in the project planning. (The National Center For Genetic Reasearch)The Human Genome Project has several goals including identifying the genesof 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 plantthat grows rapidly. A major purpose is to determine how evolution proceedsfrom lower organisms to humans, and discover why the smaller genomes of animalshave less junk or unneeded DNA. Geneticists use two types of maps to characterizethe genes they discover–a genetic linkage map and a physical map. A geneticmap registers the distance between the fragments of DNA we know according tothe frequency with which they are inherited.
The physical map measures theactual physical distance between two markers. Scientists want to map and developtechnology for rapid genotyping, plus develop markers that are easy to useas well as generate new mapping techniques. (Instrumentation) Scientistscan map genes but it is still expensive. One of the ongoing goals of the HumanGenome Project is to get the cost of mapping a gene down to 50 cents per basepair. (’92 HSCS pg.
3) The enormous information that is and has been generatedby the project is used to link sites together around the world through theinternet and now some information can be acessed by the general public. Anotherof the project goals is to create a sequencing capacity at a collective rateof 50 Mb per year. This is supposed to result in the completion of 80 Mb bythe end of FY 1998. Many people question whether the Human Genome Projectis worth the money spent on it and will it be used negatively toward thosewho have traits that are considered undesirable by insurance companies andother corporations? The HUMAN GENOME ORGANIZATION has a council of scientistsand doctors worldwide who meet to discuss the effects of identifying an individual’sgenes. In the 1996 Genetics Confidentiality and Nondiscrimmination Act anattempt to addresss this issue as noted in Section 2, ” The DNA molecule contain’san individual’s genetic information that is uniquely private and inseparatefrom one’s identity.
Genetic information is being rapidly sequenced and understood. Genetic information carries special significance. It provides informationabout one’s family, and more importantly, provides information about one’sself and and one’s self perception. “Genetic information has been misused,harming individuals through stigmitization and discrimination.
The potentialfor misuse is tremendous as genetics transcends medicine and has the potentialto 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. Currentlegal protections for genetic information is, however, inadequate. Uniformrules for collection, storage, and use of DNA samples are needed to protectindividual privacy and prevent discrimination while permitting legitimatemedical reasearch. The report further states that the reading of a minorsDNA should be only with parental or legal guardian consent and only if theanalysis benefits the individual.
The need for legislation on reading genesmust be addressed prior to the final research breakthrough on this controversialissue 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 thenegative. While the Genome Project has major work yet to be done muchhas already been accomplished. A significant discovery is that over halfof the genes sequenced were previously unknown even though mass genetic mappinghad taken place over the last decade. The project revealed that yeast has12 million base pairs and 6,000 genes.
The yeast gene has already providedscientists with a valuable insight into medical disorders such as cancer, neurologicalproblems, and skeletal disorders. The project was completed some two yearsahead of schedule because of mass automation and the fact that over a 100 laboratoriesin the United States, Canada, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Japanparticipated in the research. The genes were sequenced 55 % by the Europeans,17 % by the Sanger Centre, 15 % by WUSL, 7 % Stanford Universioty, 4 % by MCGillUniversity in Canada, 2 % by the Institute of Physical and Chemical ReasEarchin Japan. The start of the Yeast Genome hunt began in 1950 when Robert Mortimertried to map all of the genes in the DNA of the yeast organism. Then inthe 1980’s Maynard Olson made a physical map of the genes of yeast by cloningoverlapping DNA fragments.
The project spent some 30 million dollars to finishthe study. ( Yeast Genome Sequenced)The Human Genome Project is a continuingquest and will be supported for several years until it completes the entiregene sequence for humans and compares it to the genes of the other organisms. The planned goals until 1998 include completing a sequence tagged site physicalof the human genome at a resolution of 100Kb. The organisms that are supposedto be identified are a map of the mouse at a resolution of 300Kb, EscheriaColi and Drosophilia melanogaster and bringing C. elegans to near completion.
Comparisions of mice DNA with selected portions of human DNA are areas ofhigh biological interest. The organiztion will continue to identify issuesand policies surrounding the ethical end of the genome debate, foster greateracceptance of human and genetic variation, enhance and expand public knowledgeand professional education, diversify and expand the transfer of technologyboth into and out of centers of genome reasearch. The price of reasearch isincreasing as more and more labs become involved with the project. The projectsgoals are projected to cost almost 200 million annually in comparison with170 million for the FY 1994. The knowledge and potential that the HumanGenome Project will produce are astronomical. Identification of inheriteddiseases could be found in the fetus and then changed to both save lives andprevent devasting diseases.
The Human Genome Project is, and will, be an ongoingproject for many years to come. Today we know just one-tenth of what researchwill reveal in a short few years yet we already have the knowledge to changeand alter genes. Currently, this power is limited but in the near future scientistwill have control over a factor originally associated with only natural reproduction. Undoubtly, man will continue to be progressive and aggressive in this fieldof research. And who knows–maybe the reality of Jurassic Park literallyis only a few years away.
BibliographyThe Human Genome Organization. http://hugo. gdb. org/Imapact of the Human Genoe Project www. gdb. org/Dan/Doe/prim5.
htmlInstrumentation. www. ornl. gov/TechResources/Human-genome/resource/instrumentation.
html” Microorganism’sGenetic Information Yields Scientific Suproses, Poteneial Biotech Applications”www. ornl. gov/TechResources /HumanGenome/archive/methanoc. htmlRevised 5 YearReasearech Goals of the U. S. Human Genome Project.
Human Genome News, November1993The Genetics Copnfidentially and Nondiscrimination Act- SummaryTheScience and Technology of the Human Genome Project, The American Medical Association,1992