So what is a human genome and why is the government researching it? The Human genome is the sequence of roughly 20,000 genes that make up human Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), or the building blocks that tell cells what to do. The government project named Human Genome Project (HGP) started in 1990’s, and is trying to unravel the 3 billion chemical base pairs in a DNA strand (http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/medical-science/genetics-molecular-medicine/current-topics/human-genome.shtml.)
DNA is made up of phosphates, sugars and amino acids, Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine(C) and Guanine (G). Each amino acid is paired with its opposite, A is always paired with T and C with G. These pairing in a specific order make codes that cells use as instruction for making proteins that perform specific functions in cells. The purpose of the HGP is to identify all genes in human DNA, store the information in a database, while improving the tools used to sequence DNA (Toriello, pg 15-28.) The project also has to deal with the ethical issues that come from these experiments. In 2003 after 13 years a full strand of DNA was decoded. Of course each person’s DNA is unique, with the exceptions of identical twin, so much more work is yet to be done to make this technology useful in every day life.
Once a DNA strand is sequenced there are many ways to use the information found in it. One possibility is to find what genes influence the development of diseases, like cancer, deformities, or Alzheimer’s, only to mention a few. If you know you have the gene on chromosome 19 that is linked with Alzheimer’s, there may be ways to treat the disorder early, slow its progress, or even prevent it. At the very least the family can prepare for the likelihood of your developing the disease (Toriello, pg 43.) In the future many illnesses may be preventable as well; because the genes can be identified that are linked with the contraction of common illnesses. So you could prevent a disease by early detection, environmental changes, or by use of vaccines (Walker, pg 46-47.) For example there is a study trying to prevent peanut allergies, by removing the allergy gene in the peanuts. Thus there will not be anymore life threatening reactions to peanut consumption. This could mean that many people could get the protein in peanuts without adverse reactions (Fridell, pg 12.)
The DNA sequence can be used in forensics, to solve crimes. DNA is left at the crime scene, in the form of dead skin, saliva, or hair and can be analyzed to identify the suspects. In some cases the evidence can convict or even free a suspect. Since DNA is unique it can help to convict criminals, and free innocent persons. This method is called DNA fingerprinting; just like fingerprints each person has unique DNA. When a person is arrested their DNA is taken and mapped. This map is then compared to the evidence and it can, in many cases, solve the crime. For example in the book “The Making of the...