The Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project (HGP) is a project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). The HGP began in 1990 and was scheduled to be completed in 2005. The goals of the project are to identify all the genes in the human genome (estimated to be 80,000 - 100,000 total) and develop the complete human DNA sequence. After the sequencing is done, a database with all the sequence information can be made and data analysis tools can be developed to use the information. The HGP will then have to consider ethical, legal, and social issues.
A new 5-year goal was approved in 1998 in which the HGP could be finished two years earlier than first planned in 1990. The new goal would provide a working draft of the human genome by 2001 and the complete human sequence by the year 2003. NIH and DOE are expecting to sequence 60-70% of the human genome. The other 30-40% will be sequenced by the Sanger Center, a project funded by the Wellcome Trust, and other international partners' (1).
The task of sequencing the human genome is time consuming and very tedious. Since the start of the HGP, there has been a very large emphasis on developing new technology to speed progress and cut costs. The DOE has played a large part in the advancement of this new technology. Much of the community at first was curious as to why the DOE would be involved in such a project as the HGP. The DOE is interested in a better understanding how energy and energy-production technologies affect the health risk of people, with the most interest in the effects of radiation (2). The DOE and other private sectors have helped in the advancement of technology very rapidly; the result is lower cost and faster sequencing of the human genome.
The HGP is making all of the human sequences developed thus far available to the public in hopes that the public can benefit from the project. The private sector is also contributing to the human sequencing project. One such company is Celera Genomics. The President of Celera Genomics, J. Craig Venter, is promising to give away the human genome sequence once the company has completed the sequence. Although he is just beginning to set up a high throughput lab, he believes he can generate the human genome sequence in 18 months. Many people are skeptical about how he can develop the human genome and provide it to the public without any costly strings attached. Celera plans to patent many human genes and a large set of single nucleotide polymorphism's (3). If Celera Genomics is the first to sequence the human genome, there may be a price to pay for the sequences that revolutionize the biological community.
Another task of the HGP is to determine variations in the human genome. One approach is to map single nucleotide polymorphism's (SNPs). By mapping the SNPs, scientists can gain a better understanding of the variations and the functional aspects of these variations. "A map of...