Saturday, January 26, 2008

UNVEILING THE SECRETS OF THE GENOME, ONE VOLUNTEER AT A TIME

BBC News Online is reporting that one thousand people have volunteered to have their genomes mapped in a major effort to understand how genes influence disease and heredity. Thus far, only a handful of humans have had their genomes mapped (distinguished scientists Craig Venter and DNA co-discoverer James Watson are notable examples).

Teams here, in the UK, and in China say the project will create the most extensive and potentially useful catalog ever of genetic variation. Since any two humans are genetically more than 99 percent identical, the slight variations may be the key to understanding why some people get certain diseases while others don’t.

Current limited catalogs of human genetic variation have provided scientists and doctors with knowledge of more than 100 regions of the genome (sum total of genetic material within a particular living thing). Increased knowledge of these regions of the genome may help researchers explain susceptibilities to diseases such as diabetes, breast cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, and possibly provide vaccines / gene therapies that prevent or cure these ailments.

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