This week's In The News highlights the landmark publication of the complete human genome sequence and its scientific interpretation. Spearheaded by two separate approaches and funding sources, the outcome of some ten years of hard work -- and moments of intense competition -- is the release of two complete sequences: one led by Craig Venter of Celera Genomics (a private venture with limited access to data, previously discussed in the April 7, 2000 Scout Report
) and the other by a consortium of publicly funded laboratories (led by Francis Collins of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)). The two sequences provide an excellent opportunity for comparison and convergence, opportunities that would not have been possible through a single approach. Also published this week are the first scientific analyses of the genome. These initial analyses uncover new details on the organization of the human genome and how it evolved -- including the surprising fact that humans have a smaller number of genes than previously thought, indications that some human genes may have come directly from bacteria, and variability in mutation rates among males and females. With these advances, researchers have begun to unlock the secrets of our genetic heritage and to better understand our relationship to other living creatures. Although more work lies ahead to refine and, in some places, re-sequence the human genome, this first draft, and its initial interpretation, represents a landmark achievement in science.
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