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The Human Genome Project

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 2

The Human Genome Project (HGP) endeavors to analyze the human genes so that deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) are sequenced and catalogued for identification of their biological functions and uses in the field of medical research and therapy.

Genes are instructions that give organisms their characteristics. These instructions are stored in each cell of every living organism in a helix called DNA. DNA molecules are subdivided into finite number of chromosomes. For human the number is 46 with 23 pairs (male and female gene) and this complete genetic information is called Genome.

Human DNA helix has three billion rungs made up of base pairs called nucleotides- Adenines, thymines, cytosines, and guanines (A, T, C and G). Combination of the DNA basic pair or genes constituted coded instruction for the information and functioning of proteins. RNA is a single stranded copy of DNA that acts as an intimidate messenger molecule that allows DNA sequence to be translated to protein. This process underlies all forms of life.

So far 30 to 40 000 genes are accounted for a human body and that is only 5% of our DNA and the rest are termed junk as they might be good and studies are yet to be done on them. On this identification, now the sequencing and mapping are done. Sequencing involves determining the specific order and identity of the three billion base pairs in the genome with the end goal to identify all the genes. Mapping is the process of identifying discrete DNA segments of known positions on chromosomes, which are then used for sequencing. Mapping is crucial for proper reconstruction of the genome. Having the sequence is only a first step in finding the genes, understanding how they operate, and how particular genetic discrepancies are associated with diseases. Ascribing functional meaning to all the genes and other biological information encoded in DNA in our genome was the aim of the Human Genome Project. Then cataloguing will take place. These are important but difficult tasks the HGP is undertaking.

While this is going it brings another issue that is about legal issue of fairness. It was focused on fair share of HGP on both the national interests and the international justice. Three areas of concerns are: fairness in burden sharing, fairness in benefit sharing, and fairness in profit sharing.

First issue is to ensure how all countries especially those engaged in the research bear fair share of burden and not only US. The second issue is how the US Senate tries to make sure how US firms get back the fair share of benefits that they invested a lot of money in before foreign competition grabs them. The third question was fair share of return on the investment to taxpayers. The government funding of HGP basically come from the tax, which comes from the taxing public. How can the government make sure they too benefit from the project?

These issues have legal, ethical and economical implications. Various senate hearings and legal suits have taken place especially in US that set some basic precedence for future appropriation of cost, knowledge and benefit. But the bottom line is these issues are done on the view of property rights. It is not the only view of justice. An alternative is not the way of the fairness raised by the older in the story of the prodigal son in Lk. 15:39-30. The fair shares are determined not by looking to see who has mixed labour with the land, but by asking what serves the unity of the family.

It is a very big question for poor countries like Papua New Guinea. How will we benefit form HGP if the analogy big brother accuses his younger brother of squandering his wealth and come back for more without putting any labour in it? What would be its fair share? Nothing! If the ethics of who has mixed his labour with the land gets his fair share is applied. The only hope PNG and other smaller and third world nations have is the ethics of sharing regardless of what. Of course the poor will pay something for the labour but it must be within reasonable amount that any benefit of genetic technology can enhance livelihood of the humanity.


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Comments

Jun 8, 2010 2:24am
askformore
I agree totally with your conclusion about how the poor countries in The Third World should be involved in this extremely important issue.
Jun 8, 2010 6:51pm
Jak2010
There was an uncovered tribe in my country that were recently recovered in 1980s. Their blood samples were taken for experientation and commerical use. We never heard of the result and what has happened to the samples. Someone is getting rich with the so called eugene of the fimitive tribal people.
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