The Human Genome Project
Aims of the H.G.P.
Begun in 1990, the Human Genome Project was a venture set forth to help scientists and bio-technicians understand revolutionary new ways to diagnose, treat, and someday prevent the thousands of disorders that affect us.
A genome is all the DNA in an organism, including its genes. These genes carry information for making proteins. These proteins determine, among other things, how the organism looks, how well its body metabolizes food or fights infection, and sometimes even how it behaves.
DNA is made up of four similar chemicals (called bases and abbreviated A, T, C, and G) that are repeated millions or billions of times throughout a genome. The human genome has 3 billion pairs of bases. The particular order of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs is extremely important. The order determines all of life's diversity, even dictating whether an organism is human or another species.
The HGP will involve the following
- Identify all the approximately 30,000 genes in human DNA.
- Determine the sequences of the 3.2 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA.
- Store this information in databases.
- Address the ethical, legal, and social issues that may arise from the project.
Once the ~30,000 genes have been identified, the 3.2 billion bases that make these genes will need to be sequenced by some 1,100 biologists, computer scientists and technicians at 16 labs in 6 countries. It is hoped that society will benefit from the vast amount of information and knowledge that will soon follow.
Advantages and Disadvantages
Some current and potential applications of genome research include:
- Molecular medicine
- Energy sources and environmental applications
- Risk assessment
- Bio-archaeology, anthropology, evolution, and human migration
- DNA forensics (identification)
- Agriculture, livestock breeding, and bio-processing
If we were to know what each and every gene in our DNA did, it would lead to revolutionary new ways to diagnose, treat, and someday prevent the thousands of disorders that affect us everyday. We would have:
- Improved diagnosis of disease
- Earlier detection of genetic diseases
- Improved Treatment for certain diseases
From the HGP, Microbial Genome Program has been created which has done research to create to energy sources, biofuels, and various other environmental applications.
Genome research can also help risk assessors assess health damage and risks caused by exposure to radiation and cancer-causing toxins. This will information can hopefully reduce the likelihood of heritable mutations.
DNA forensics now plays a vital role in many high profile court cases. DNA sequencing can help identify potential suspects whose DNA may match evidence left at crime scenes.
But decoding the DNA sequencing poses daunting moral dilemmas. With knowledge of our genetic code will come the power to re-engineer the human species. Biologists will be able to use the genome as a parts list and may well let prospective parents choose their unborn child's traits. Scientists have solid leads on genes for different temperaments, body builds, and statures.
There may also be serious side effects to manipulating the genes. It just so happens that some disease genes also confer resistance to other diseases: carrying a gene for sickle cell anaemia, for instance, brings resistance to malaria. If we change and rearrange our genes, it may have severe consequences to our future development.
Another issue raised is that of employment and health insurance eligibility. From the beginning of the HGP, it was warned that genetic knowledge could be used against people in insurance and employment. If a company found out that an applicant has a gene for kidney disease, then they are almost certainly not going to hire them. Worse yet, if they discovered that one of their long-time employees has the gene for cancer for example, then they might not choose to employ that person anymore and that person and their family would be in a serious financial situation.
There would need to be major changes in legislation if we are to live in a society with unimaginable scientific capabilities that will coincide impartially with a moral ethos.
- Suitable for: Edexcel Biology AS Level, but also other exam boards.
- Written by: snmichaels
- From this thread