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Monday Article #11: It's All About The Human Genome Project!

- A short guide about the Human Genome Project! -

Figure 1: The Human Genome Project (1990-2003),Wikipedia

Our human genome is indeed very fascinating and interesting to the point that many scientists from all around the world came together to complete the 13 year long Human Genome Project (HGP)! In order for these scientists to complete this project, they have probably asked themselves some important questions ranging from what actually is the human genome to how and why do we sequence it? Let’s answer these questions before getting into the nitty-gritty aspects of the HGP.

What is the human genome?

The human genome is the entire genetic material of a human. This is a complete set of DNA with the four bases : A (adenine),T (thymine),C (cytosine) and G (guanine). It provides all the information required by the organism to function.

Our genome is 3 billion bases long but only consists of around 20,000-25,000 genes! An average gene in humans is only about 3000 bases long! The genome of all humans is 99.9% similar while only 0.1% of our genes is what makes all of us different! Mind blowing, isn’t it?

When comparing our genome to that of other animals like chimpanzees, our genes are surprisingly 98% similar! Shockingly,75% of our genome is similar to that of mice!

Why sequence the human genome?

DNA is the ‘blueprint’ for us to know everything about how we work. Sequencing the human genome helps to measure genetic variation between and within populations. This could allow for comparisons to be made with other animal genomes, improving our understanding of evolution and gene regulation. Genome sequencing also helps us to understand health and disease.

What was the Human Genome Project (HGP)?

The HGP was an enormous project that saw scientists from around the world coming together to work out the sequence of bases in the human genome. The project started in 1990 and was completed in 2003, 2 years ahead of plan. The project was coordinated by the U.S Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health.The Wellcome Trust (UK) became a major partner and there were additional contributions from Japan,China,France,Germany and others.

In addition to identifying genes and determining base pair sequences, other goals for this project were to improve tools for data analysis as well as addressing the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project itself.

Figure 2: Human Genome news publication,2003 - Human Genome Project Webpage

The HGP was a very big deal back then - so much that a private individual,Craig Ventner, sequenced his own genome through his own company, Celera Genomics ,in competition with the HGP. He used rapid random shotgun sequencing, which was deemed inaccurate at the time, but has become the industry standard. Celera Genomics published their draft of the human genome in Science, one day after the HGP was published in Nature. It was indeed a race for time!

Although the HGP has been completed, there are other genome projects in progress, such as genome projects for the giant pandas and the Drosophila insect. These are aimed at the conservation of these species. There have also been other human genome projects, most notably - the International HapMap Project and the 1000 genome project!



Main content from : Medical Genetics and Diseases Lectures by Professor Martin Collinson for the BI20M3 Molecular Biology of the Gene Course,School of Medicine,Medical Sciences and Nutrition,University of Aberdeen

Introductory Content from: Human Genome Project, Fuseschool YouTube

Figure 1 : Human Genome Project,Wikipedia page

Figure 2 : Human Genome Project WebPage


This article was prepared by Eldrian Tho Jiat Yang (E.T) (he/him)



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