The Human Genome Project

title = The Human Genome Project

The Human Genome Project, What
Is It?


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