Human Genome Project
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The Human Genome Project

The U.S. Human Genome Project (HGP) began officially in 1990 as a $3-billion, 15-year program to find the estimated 80,000-100,000 human genes and determine the sequence of the three billion DNA building blocks that underlie all of human biology and its diversity.  The early phase of the HGP was characterized by efforts to create the biological, instrumentation, and computing resources necessary for efficient production-scale DNA sequencing.  The first five-year plan was revised in 1993 due to remarkable technological progress, and the second plan projected goals through FY 1998.  The latest plan was developed during a series of individual and joint Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) workshops held over the past two years.

In September 1998, advisory committees at DOE and NIH approved new five-year goals aimed at completing the Human Genome Project (HGP) two years earlier than originally planned in 1990.  The target date of 2003 also will mark the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick's description of DNA's fundamental structure.

The new plan was published in the October 23, 1998, issue of Science magazine, which also cited the contributions of international partners.  These partners include the Sanger Centre in the United Kingdom and research centers in Germany, Japan, and France.

The HGP's continued emphasis is on obtaining a complete and highly accurate reference sequence (1 error in 10,000 bases) that is largely continuous across each human chromosome.  Scientists believe that knowing this sequence is critically important for understanding human biology and for applications to other fields.

A March 1999 update of the October 1998 plan called for generating a "working draft" of the human genome DNA sequence by the spring of 2000 --accelerating the efforts of the 1998 plan which called for a draft by December 2001.  On June 26th, 2000, President Clinton, leaders of the Human Genome project and representatives of the biotechnology company Celera announced the completion of a "working draft" reference DNA sequence of the human genome.  The achievement has provided scientists worldwide with a road map to an estimated 90% of genes on every chromosome.  Although the draft contains gaps and errors, it provides a valuable platform for generating a high-quality reference genome sequence -- the ultimate HGP goal expected to be achieved by 2003 or sooner.

 Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI)

 Rapid advances in the science of genetics and its applications present new and complex ethical and policy issues for individuals and society. ELSI programs that identify and address these implications have been an integral part of the United States HGP since its inception. These programs have resulted in a body of work that promotes education and helps guide the conduct of genetic research and the development of related medical and public policies.

 A continuing challenge is to safeguard the privacy of individuals and groups who contribute DNA samples for large-scale sequence-variation studies. Other concerns are to anticipate how the resulting data may affect concepts of race and ethnicity; identify potential uses (or misuses) of genetic data in workplaces, schools, and courts; identify commercial uses; and foresee impacts of genetic advances on the concepts of humanity and personal responsibility.

 If you would care to read more about the Human Genome Project (HGP) click the following link.


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