The Human Genome Project was a project undertaken in 1990 by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health. This project was expected to take fifteen years to complete, but because of rapid advances in technology, was completed a few years ahead of time. The purposes of this study were many.
One of the purposes was to identify all of the genes in human DNA, all 20-25,000 of them. The study also wished to be able to find the sequences of the three billion base pairs that make up human DNA. Once this was completed, scientists then wanted to store this information in computer databases, and improve data analysis tools. Finally, the researchers wanted to be able to use related technologies and address the legal, social and ethical implications of the project and what they learned from it. In addition to studying the human organism for this project, scientists studied the common fruit fly, mice and E.coli, a common organism which lives in the human intestinal tract.
What is a genome? A Genome is all the DNA which makes up a particular organism. The DNA, in turn codes for proteins which affect everything about you, from your hair color to your ability to fight disease. By studying the human genome and learning the about the very core of human existence, scientists believe that they can come up with cutting-edge technology to diagnose and treat disease. By studying non-human organisms, scientists believe that they can use what they learn to help treat humans.
Because of the Human Genome Project the science of Biology has become an extremely important science for the 21st century. In the field of Molecular Biology, due to the work of the Human Genome Project, there have been greater advances in clinical medicine. Researchers have been able to identify genes related to many types of diseases and disorders, such as hereditary colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, hereditary breast cancer and more.
The Department of Energy’s role in this study was in hopes of finding new ways of producing energy. They hoped by studying different bacteria that they could not only find a way to reduce our dependence on oil for energy, but also to find a way to use these bacteria to lessen our toxic waste production and help with the environment. Of course, learning about the way these bacteria work also helps us to fight the diseases they cause in humans.
Other benefits of knowing about the human genome include the ability to determine the affects of radiation, the evolution of genetic mutations, the benefit of genetically engineered crops, and the always popular forensics identification. All of these different avenues of research come together as benefits of the human genome project. While I am sure there are many negatives also, I will leave that for another day.