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The Human Genome Project, What Essay, Research Paper

What would you do if you were given the power to change your genetic

code from brown hair to blond?. Man has had this ability through natural selection

for some time without knowing it, but in the near future scientist will be

able to speed the process of natural selection by changing a persons genes.

Scientists have identified what constitutes human DNA located in the nucleus

of a cell. The Human Genome Project was established to identify the genes

that make us who we are and is now an international organization. The massive

task of identifying the numerous gene combinations has created a problem.

In the nucleus are 22 genomes, plus two sex chromosomes which have already

been identified. In the 22 genome there are approximately 3 billion base

pairs of DNA which contain 50,000 to 100,000 genes, a basic unit of heredity.

The identification of these base pairs is the goal of the Human Genome Project,

which started in 1990 and whose job it is to identify the letters or chromosomes

in DNA. These letter

s represent nulcleotides called adenine, guanine, thyamine,

and cytosine (or A, C, T, G). (’92 BSCS pg. 1)

The Human Genome Project

idea originated in the mid 1980’s and was discussed in the scientific community

and media through the latter part of that decade. In the United States the

combined effort of the Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health

were involved in the project planning. (The National Center For Genetic Reasearch)

The Human Genome Project has several goals including identifying the genes

of a human assessing the genes and comparing human DNA to that of bacteria,

yeasts, the fruit fly, mice, and the Arabidopis thaliana, a small genome plant

that grows rapidly. A major purpose is to determine how evolution proceeds

from lower organisms to humans, and discover why the smaller genomes of animals

have less junk or unneeded DNA.

Geneticists use two types of maps to characterize

the genes they discover–a genetic linkage map and a physical map. A genetic

map registers the distance between the fragments of DNA we know according to

the frequency with which they are inherited. The physical map measures the

actual physical distance between two markers. Scientists want to map and develop

technology for rapid genotyping, plus develop markers that are easy to use

as well as generate new mapping techniques. (Instrumentation) Scientists

can map genes but it is still expensive. One of the ongoing goals of the Human

Genome Project is to get the cost of mapping a gene down to 50 cents per base

pair. (’92 HSCS pg.3)

The enormous information that is and has been generated

by the project is used to link sites together around the world through the

internet and now some information can be acessed by the general public. Another

of the project goals is to create a sequencing capacity at a collective rate

of 50 Mb per year. This is supposed to result in the completion of 80 Mb by

the end of FY 1998.

Many people question whether the Human Genome Project

is worth the money spent on it and will it be used negatively toward those

who have traits that are considered undesirable by insurance companies and

other corporations? The HUMAN GENOME ORGANIZATION has a council of scientists

and doctors worldwide who meet to discuss the effects of identifying an individual’s

genes. In the 1996 Genetics Confidentiality and Nondiscrimmination Act an

attempt to addresss this issue as noted in Section 2, " The DNA molecule contain’s

an individual’s genetic information that is uniquely private and inseparate

from one’s identity. Genetic information is being rapidly sequenced and understood.

Genetic information carries special significance. It provides information

about one’s family, and more importantly, provides information about one’s

self and and one’s self perception."

Genetic information has been misused,

harming individuals through stigmitization and discrimination. The potential

for misuse is tremendous as genetics transcends medicine and has the potential

to penetrate many aspects of life including health and life insurance, finance,

and education. Experts advocate that genetic information should not be collected,

stored, analyzed, nor disclosed without the individual’s authorization. Current

legal protections for genetic information is, however, inadequate. Uniform

rules for collection, storage, and use of DNA samples are needed to protect

individual privacy and prevent discrimination while permitting legitimate

medical reasearch. The report further states that the reading of a minors

DNA should be only with parental or legal guardian consent and only if the

analysis benefits the individual. The need for legislation on reading genes

must be addressed prior to the final research breakthrough on this controversial

issue in order to avoid discrimination against

and protection of individuals.

Nineteen states have already enacted laws that ban genetic discrimination.

The positive uses, however, for the Human Genome Project far outweigh the


While the Genome Project has major work yet to be done much

has already been accomplished. A significant discovery is that over half

of the genes sequenced were previously unknown even though mass genetic mapping

had taken place over the last decade. The project revealed that yeast has

12 million base pairs and 6,000 genes. The yeast gene has already provided

scientists with a valuable insight into medical disorders such as cancer, neurological

problems, and skeletal disorders. The project was completed some two years

ahead of schedule because of mass automation and the fact that over a 100 laboratories

in the United States, Canada, European Union, the United Kingdom, and Japan

participated in the research. The genes were sequenced 55 % by the Europeans,

17 % by the Sanger Centre, 15 % by WUSL, 7 % Stanford Universioty, 4 % by MCGill

University in Canada, 2 % by the Institute of Physical and Chemical ReasEarch

in Japan. The start of the Yeast Genome hunt began in 1950 when Robert Mortimer

tried to

map all of the genes in the DNA of the yeast organism. Then in

the 1980’s Maynard Olson made a physical map of the genes of yeast by cloning

overlapping DNA fragments. The project spent some 30 million dollars to finish

the study.( Yeast Genome Sequenced)

The Human Genome Project is a continuing

quest and will be supported for several years until it completes the entire

gene sequence for humans and compares it to the genes of the other organisms.

The planned goals until 1998 include completing a sequence tagged site physical

of the human genome at a resolution of 100Kb. The organisms that are supposed

to be identified are a map of the mouse at a resolution of 300Kb, Escheria

Coli and Drosophilia melanogaster and bringing C. elegans to near completion

. Comparisions of mice DNA with selected portions of human DNA are areas of

high biological interest. The organiztion will continue to identify issues

and policies surrounding the ethical end of the genome debate, foster greater

acceptance of human and genetic variation, enhance and expand public knowledge

and professional education, diversify and expand the transfer of technology

both into and out of centers of genome reasearch. The price of reasearch is

increasing as more and more labs become invol

ved with the project. The projects

goals are projected to cost almost 200 million annually in comparison with

170 million for the FY 1994.

The knowledge and potential that the Human

Genome Project will produce are astronomical. Identification of inherited

diseases could be found in the fetus and then changed to both save lives and

prevent devasting diseases. The Human Genome Project is, and will, be an ongoing

project for many years to come. Today we know just one-tenth of what research

will reveal in a short few years yet we already have the knowledge to change

and alter genes. Currently, this power is limited but in the near future scientist

will have control over a factor originally associated with only natural reproduction.

Undoubtly, man will continue to be progressive and aggressive in this field

of research. And who knows–maybe the reality of Jurassic Park literally

is only a few years away.


The Human Genome Organization.


Imapact of the Human Genoe Project www.gdb.org/Dan/Doe/prim5.html



" Microorganism’s

Genetic Information Yields Scientific Suproses, Poteneial Biotech Applications"

www.ornl.gov/TechResources /HumanGenome/archive/methanoc. html

Revised 5 Year

Reasearech Goals of the U.S. Human Genome Project. Human Genome News, November


The Genetics Copnfidentially and Nondiscrimination Act- Summary


Science and Technology of the Human Genome Project, The American Medical Association,


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