What is the Human Genome Project

We are of the species “Homo Sapiens”. Our genome refers to all of the genes that our species possesses. The genome can be likened to a “blueprint” of our physical structure. The genome contains all of the genes, or the data needed, to build a human being even if it does not provide the instructions needed to build a human being.

Like a bio molecular Lewis and Clark expedition, a team of scientists formed a world wide effort to explore (or sequence) and map the entire human genome. This project was completed in 2003, when a complete map was produced. Most people think that the Human Genome Project involved one massive collaboration by scientists that went on in the 1990’s and ended in 2003.

But the actual human genome project is actually the result of over 90 individual discoveries and milestones that date back to Darwin’s “Origin Of The Species”. While the actual events were no where near as organized and calm, a review of the historical milestones appears as an elegant dance, where each new team of dancers performs a more complicated and elegant variation on the main theme.

Since Darwin’s theories about evolution, DNA has been discovered, the genetic code was “cracked”, gene sequencing became possible, the tools and equipment required to do the work were invented, and a huge database of genetic information was created and made accessible to the public and to the world. Not only has the entire Human genome been mapped, but the entire genomes of other species and even yeast and bacteria have been mapped. living animals have not been “built”, but they have been cloned. There is an endless world of work to be done.

Circa 1865, Gregor Mendel discovered and described a process where characteristics are inherited in tiny little packets, like peas, not in one giant blob, coining the term “Mendel’s Peas”. Friedrich Meischer discovered DNA in 1869.

In the early 1900’s scientists began to examine and identify the details and components of DNA. In 1909, Wilhelm Johannsen named the Mendelian units of heredity “Genes”.

In 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson identified the “double helix” that represents our DNA structure. Marshall Nirenberg, Har Khorana and Severo Ochoa and their colleagues cracked the genetic code in 1966. Words like genetic alphabet, RNA, nucleotides, entered the language.

In 1982, The Genetic Databank was created. “Genbank” is a repository where scientist from around the world could enter data as they sequenced DNA from all living organisms. Genbank is at Los Alamos Labs.

Since then, whole genomes for mice, bats, and other living organisms have been sequenced and the data stored.

So, we can see that the “Human Genome Project” is actually the culmination of scientific work and discovery that began with Darwin’s theory of evolution. The “collaboration” began in the 1800’s and is still going on.


The Human Genome Website