When I first heard of the Human Genome Project I thought it was just some minor study of the human DNA. As I dug into it more, I learned that it is a very enormous study led by the DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) and the National Institute of Health . The study started in 1990 and it is suppose to be finished in the year 2003. Doing this task made me realize how interesting and helpful this Science project is to our population. We as humans now can tell what our body is made up of and how it really functions. We can have a better idea about our differences in the natural world between us and other living organisms.
The first thing I wanted to find out what is the study about and what are the goals that scientists want to achieve. I found out that there are many goals of this study. One of the major goals is to identify all of our approximately 30,000 genes that we carry in our human DNA, which is also known as the deoxyribonucleic acid. The DNA is located in the nucleus of a cell. The DNA is made up of 3 billion base pairs.
Those 3 billion sequences of base pairs we call a genome, which makes up the complete set of our DNA All human cells contain a complete genome except for the mature red bloodcells. Another goal of the scientists was actually to determine the 3 billion sequences that make up our DNA. DNA in the human genome is arranged into 24 distinct chromosomes. Each chromosome contains many genes. What is a gene? It’s the basic physical unit of heredity. The estimate says that there are between 30,000 to 40,000 genes in our body. Scientists aren’t able to give the exact number yet.
The main thing that I learned about and that caught my eye was the statistics of the genome and how scientists have the technology to explore such a small part of the human body. It seems that if they figure this out they’ll be able to do anything after that. It’s unbelievable how they are able to encode all those little parts of the DNA and figure out what their functions are. There are also other things that I found very interesting. One of those is how we as humans compare to other organisms. For example for as complex as the human body is we have the same amount of base pairs as a mouse and 3 times as many kinds of protein as a fly or a worm. When you think about that its kind of odd that such a small living organism which is so many times smaller and less complex than a human, has only 3 times less kinds of protein.
Of course any study is done so that individual or an entire population can benefit from it. This means that the genome project study will also provide us with information that we can benefit from. Knowledge about the effects of DNA variations among individuals can lead to revolutionary new ways to diagnose, treat, and someday prevent the thousands of disorders that affect us. Besides providing clues to understanding human biology, learning about nonhuman organisms’ DNA sequences can lead to an understanding of their natural capabilities that can be applied toward solving challenges in health care, energy sources, agriculture, and environmental cleanup.
Technology and resources generated by the Human Genome Project and other genomics research are already having a major impact on research across the health sciences. In the medical field, physicians will be able to diagnose patients not based on symptoms but by looking to the most fundamental causes of disease. Doctors will be able to run faster and more specific diagnostic tests, which will make possible earlier treatment of countless diseases. Medical researchers also will be able to come up with new ways of curing based on new classes of drugs, immunotherapy techniques, avoidance of environmental conditions that may trigger disease, and possible augmentation or even replacement of defective genes through gene therapy.
The medical field won’t be the only one which benefits from this study. The will be many more fields who will get some kind of benefit. One of the fields not related to medicine which will receive benefits from the genome projects will be agriculture. Understanding plant and animal genomes will allow us to create stronger, more disease-resistant plants and animals which will reduce the costs of agriculture and provide consumers with more nutritious and natural foods. Already growers are using bioengineered seeds to grow insect- and drought-resistant crops that require little or no pesticide. Farmers have been able to increase outputs and reduce waste because their crops and herds are healthier. Reducing waste is another enormous benefit that we will receive. It will help to keep our environment cleaner and healthier for us to live in.
Even though there are so many benefits that people talk about, there is still some harm and controversy that this research of genetics brings. People talk about the dangers of misuse and the potential threats to personal privacy that this study might bring. Another question brought up was how are the judicial, medical, educational, and public communities will be effectively educated about genetic research and its implications? To deal with some of those issues the National Institute of Health and the Department of Energy set up the ELSI (ethical, legal and social implications). One focus of this policy was to create educational programs for private citizens and also educators so that they can learn more about the project.
In my opinion this project will bring us far more benefit than harm of any kind. I think that we will be able to deal with those minor issues brought by the study in order to live a healthier and longer lives. I’m sure that most people will agree that the benefit is much greater and it will be worth to sacrifice some minor problems.