The Human Genome Project was started on 26th June 2000. The
multi billion dollar project had the aim of mapping the DNA sequence of a human
being. Sort of a blue print of a human being. The double helix structure of the
DNA still hid secrets and it was the task of the Human Genome Project
scientists to unmask these.
It turned out to be a race between two groups of scientists
as they tried to get the sequencing done first. One was a private biotechnology
company led by Craig Venter and the other was a public consortium led by
There was the promise
of a leap in medical diagnosis and treatments after the genes were sequenced.
Unfortunately the potential of the Human Genome is yet to
come into its own. The effect on clinical medicine has been hardly anything. It
has become easier to say what diseases a person may be prone to when you see
the gene variations in his genome but there is not yet the technology
medication available for many diseases.
The Human Genome Sequencing is now not as expensive as it
was a decade ago. The improvements in technology have resulted in a human gene
sequencing costing just about $5000 now. Unfortunately the data that you get is
huge and to make sense of it does take a long time.
criticized the project and said that the expense was perhaps not worth it.
However both Collins, and Venter along with other scientists involved in
genetic research have defended the relatively modest success that has been seen
by the Human Genome in revolutionizing modern medicine.
"Some powerful new drugs have been developed for some
cancers; genetic tests can predict whether people with breast cancer
chemotherapy; the major risk factors of macular degeneration [an eye disease]
have been identified; and drug response can be predicted for more than a dozen drugs.
But it is fair to say that the Human Genome Project has not yet directly
affected the health care of most individuals." said Collins.
"The Human Genome Project (HGP) was funded with three
billion dollars, or roughly a dollar for every base pair, or rung in the
genetic ladder, and took 10 years to produce the rough draft, which was
followed by a "polished" version in 2003." said Venter.
How long do we need to wait before the Human Genome is no
longer an experimental device but a great tool which can diagnose and cure you
of diseases? It may not be very long as there have already been a number of
advances based on the human genome.
Cancers of various kinds are being studied worldwide in
terms of genetic variations. It is now possible to predict who has a mutant
gene which may cause cancer in the future. There is also the possibility of
choosing the right drug for chemotherapy which will not have an adverse
reaction to the patient based on the genetic map.
Obesity is being linked to the risk of Alzheimer's disease
in Americans of European origin thanks to the FTO gene. Genetic tests based on
a blood test may soon replace the frequent and invasive biopsies that a person
who under goes an organ transplantation must go through to check if the organ
is being rejected by the body.
Yes there is a lot that the human genome has already given
us and the data needs to be analyzed to reveal more secrets of health as time
goes by. Diligence and patience will see the Human Genome become the blueprint
to better health care techniques worldwide.