The Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project is a long-term project by international scientist to develop detailed genetic and physical maps of the human genome. Researchers are engaged in locating and identifying all of its genes and establishing the sequence of the genes and all other components of the genome. This monstrous task has the potential to dramatically increase our understanding of human evolution and variation, and perhaps most importantly…human disease.
The success of the Human Genome Project also poses potential societal problems. Some genetic disorders will be detectable long before there will be treatments available for them. Controversy could also arise over reproductive issues. For example, people may consider terminating pregnancies for reasons of genetic makeup, or if there is social pressure to limit reproductive rights or genetic grounds. Issues of genetic discrimination and confidentiality in the insurance industry and employment also must be addressed.
In 1988, a committee organized by the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy developed an action plan for the Human Genome Project. In 1990, a five-year joint research proposal was submitted to Congress, and in October 1990, the Human Genome Project officially began. The project has been organized and supported primarily by the DOE and the NIH, which established working groups to address genome mapping, computational analysis to handle databases, and the social, legal, and ethical implications of the human genome research. Congress funds the project through the National Center for Human Genome Research at the NIH, which in turn awards grants and contracts to U.S. investigators. Additional funding from Congress goes to the DOE, which conducts research on human genetics at three national laboratories and also funds independent or private investigators.
In 1988, the Human Genome Organization (HUGO) was established, which facilitates the international scientific effort. Canada, France, Japan, Italy, and the United Kingdom now have programs for genome research, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization facilitates and promotes the inclusion of developing countries in international genome research.
The actual overlay of the Human Genome Project is enormous. Mapping and sequencing was initially projected to take 15 years, and be completed in 2005 at an estimated cost of three billion dollars. However, recent reports state that progress has been more rapid than previously expected. After mapping and sequencing are complete, many years will be needed to completely identify all the genes and determine the format of gene expression.
The human genome consists of an estimated 100,000 genes, these are located on 23 pairs of chromosomes, one set from each parent, consisting of one sex chromosome pair, and 22 autosomal chromosome pairs. The three billion base pairs in the haploid...