Site author Richard Steane
The BioTopics website gives access to interactive resource material, developed to support the learning and teaching of Biology at a variety of levels.

The Human Genome Project

The term genome refers to all the genetic material (genes, DNA) possessed by a species (or an individual).

The Human Genome Project is/was an international collaborative project, aiming to find the sequence of bases (A,T,G,C – the four "letters" of the DNA alphabet - the genetic code) in all the chromosomes in human cells. This is a fantastic amount of information and an area where Biology and Information Technology overlap in a big way.

It was originally conceived as a fairly long term project with national scientific institutions of different countries being allocated different chromosomes to attempt to sequence. Commercial companies became involved and speeded up the pace of research by adopting a less systematic approach. For a while there was concern that information discovered by some companies would be patented and not available in the public domain. There was also the possibility that any further scientific discoveries based on this information would be subject to approval by patent holders or that they would have to pay fees for any development. These drawbacks have been largely eliminated, however.

This information should be useful in understanding the background to inherited conditions, and could possibly be used to produce specific drugs/medicines targeted on individual patients' requirements.

James Watson Craig Venter

Two key people in the project were James Watson and Craig Venter.

Find out the role of each of these people in the Human Genome Project, as well as what they did before the Human Genome Project, and what they have done since.

The genomes of many other species have also been sequenced alongside this work.

Implications of this work (and other DNA research)

Some of these possible developments have both positive and negative issues associated with them. You may wish to investigate them further, or to have a debate about the opposing factors.
It is thought that The Human Genome Project may now be followed by many new medical treatments.

Gene therapy

It may be possible to replace faulty genes or at least neutralise their effects. But only body cells may be affected, so it could not be useful to the next generation.

Tailor made medicines

It may be possible to produce drugs targeted on each person's particular requirements. These may be more effective than generic medicines, but they will not be as cheap!

Information about personal susceptibility to certain diseases or conditions

Some diseases such as some types of cancer, heart disease, obesity, degenerative nervous diseases have a genetic component. Although it is not possible to give precise predictions about risks, some might say forewarned is forearmed; perhaps informed people will modify their lifestyle or diet, keep vigilant about possible developments or consider surgery to offset the possible dangers.
Others would not like to have such knowledge hanging over them.

Insurance issues

People may be unable to get life insurance if they are shown to have genes which predispose them to certain conditions, or their policies may be "loaded", i.e. extra money may be charged to cover the possibility of paying out.
On the other hand, insurance companies must base their assessments on realistic appraisal of risks. Would it be fair to withold this information from them?

Privacy or Profiteering

Knowledge about your genetic makeup is as personal and potentially helpful or threatening as any other information held about you – not just by your doctor, but your bank, supermarket, mobile phone company, internet service provider , and many others?
All of the above make money from you in some way or another.

Forensic DNA databases

Most police forces keep DNA profiles of convicted criminals, as well as those suspected of (specific?) crimes. In different countries this information cannot be stored for long periods (statute of limitation?) – but in the UK there is no time limit. It is a difficult issue to balance the interests of crime solving against civil liberties.

Human genome project links

Feel free to update me with any more significant links, or to point out any below which are no longer useful

Human Genome project

Human Genome Project From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

All About The Human Genome Project (HGP)

Human Genome Project at the Sanger Institute

BBC pages

bitesize The Human Genome Project

How the code was cracked

Human genome further unravelled

Human genome data to be released (2004)

Path To The Genome BBC world service info

Will genome mapping change medicine? The World Around Us

Other species

Overview of HGSC Sequencing Projects sequencing projects on many organisms

Horse Genome Project

The International Rice Genome Sequencing Project (IRGSP)

International Tomato Sequencing Progress

Extinct mammoth DNA decoded

Caenorhabditis Genome Sequencing Projects

More BBC stuff

Platypus genetic code unravelled

Horse genome unlocked by science

Mouse genome laid bare to science

Reading the chimp book of life

'Walkies' through dog genome


Title: Gene Reader : Date: 10-23-2001 : Episode: The Gene Hunters Video shot during the investigation stage, introduced by Alan Alda (some will know him of MASH fame) from Scientific American

www.BioTopics.co.ukHome Contents Contact via form Contact via email Howlers Books WWWlinks Terms of use Privacy