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Ethics, Business, And The Human Genome Project

1828 words - 7 pages

Ethics, Business, and the Human Genome Project The Human Genome Project began in 1990, as part of a collaborative movement by the scientific community to better understand our own genetic makeup. The U.S Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health coordinate this original 15-year plan, which are parts of the National Human Genome Research Institute. The major goals cited by these institutes is as follows: Identify all the estimated 100,000 genes in the human genome. Map the three billion chemical bases that make up human DNA. Store this mapped information in databases worldwide. Develop even better tools for sequencing and analysis. Address the many ethical, legal and social issues that come with this project. The debate over the importance of a Human Genome Project can be cleared up by looking at what the human genome actually is, and why knowing its DNA sequence can be beneficial to the scientific and the human community. The human genome is made up of about three billion base pairs, which contain about 100,000 genes. The 100,000 genes in the 46 human chromosomes only account for a small total of the DNA in our genome. Approximately 10 percent of our DNA make up these genes in our genome, these genes are what is actually encoded for and used by our body to make vital proteins needed for everyday life. The remaining 90 percent of our three billion base pairs are repeated sequences between genes that do not encode for any particular product. These repeated sequences account for the reason why 99 percent of any humans DNA is identical to another human's (1). With this knowledge many people believe it is not worth the time or money to sequence the entire human genome when only a small percent is used to encode for proteins. However, by sequencing the whole genome researchers will no longer have to do a needle in the haystack type of search for small genes, like the one found on chromosome four that is responsible for Huntington's disease (4). Also, knowing the complete human DNA sequence will allow scientists to determine the role and importance of the repeated DNA, non-protein encoding, sequences in our body. The Human Genome Project has brought to light the importance of single nucleotide polymorphism's (SNPs), which occur every 100 to 300 bases (1). A single nucleotide variation in the DNA sequence can have a major impact on how humans react to bacteria, viruses and drug therapy. Mapping of these SNPs will allow scientists to associate multiple genes with diseases like cancer and diabetes. Current methods of linking multiple genes to a certain disease is very time consuming and difficult. Scientists hope that mapping SNPs will allow them to explain why certain diseases are linked to certain genes. The Human Genome Project not only affects the scientific world but also the business world. The desire of companies to sequence parts of the human genome ahead of the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health has...

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