Complete Human Genetic Code Map

An international consortium of scientists announced on Monday – 14th April 2003 – that it had completed the map of the human genetic code to an accuracy of 99.99 percent.

This is the result of 15 years of research into the human genetic code, by the scientists from six countries – Britain, China, France, Germany, Japan and the United States – the work had been finished two years ahead of schedule.

Scientists say they have finished writing the “book of life”, the
three billion letters of DNA that make up the human genome.

Prime Minister of UK, Tony Blair has joined fellow national leaders in welcoming
the completion of the Human Genome Project.

The heads of government of the consortium said in a joint statement that now “revolutionary progress will be made in biomedical sciences and in the health and welfare of humankind”.

The genome is composed of about three billion pairs of DNA chemicals within 24 chromosomes. The genes that control the body’s development, growth, functions and aging are made of specific sequences of these chemical pairs. A small change in these sequences can be enough to cause disease.

By identifying the correct and healthy sequence of base pairs, researchers hope to be able to find the disease-causing genetic flaws that could yield to treatment.

Scientists are still uncertain how many genes there are in the genome, but most believe it is about 30,000. This number is expected to be refined with more research.

Knowledge of the human genome will enable scientists to find better ways of preventing medical problems, new drugs to treat previously untreatable disorders and medicines with fewer side effects, according to experts.

The human genome project will also give scientists the tools to cure every known form of cancer because it provides researchers with a guide of where to look for cancer-causing defects in genes and enzymes, according to leading cancer researcher Brian Druker.

Research by hundreds of experts at 20 centres in the six countries started in 1990 and a first draft of the human gene sequence was made public in June 2000.

Scientists announced in February they had completed a map of 95 per cent of the human genome. The complete sequence includes an estimated 30,000 to 40,000 genes that encode more than 10 times that number of proteins.

The finished sequence produced by the Human Genome Project covers about 99 per cent of the human genome’s gene-containing regions, and it has been sequenced to an accuracy of 99.9 per cent, the US institute said.

The release will coincide with the 50th anniversary of the announcement by Nobel laureates James Watson and Francis Crick describing DNA’s double helix.

With the entire sequence in hand and available to scientists worldwide, experts predicted it would lead to new drugs, better forecasts of people’s health and new ways to treat or prevent many of the most devastating human illnesses.

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