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2012 NatSci Budget: Genome project

Collaboratory (Students using iPads to Present on Multiple Screens)

"The Genome Project"

The purpose of the Human Genome Project is to map out the human genome (all of the DNA in humans). The research began in 1990 and finished in 2003 (two years ahead of expectations because of technological advances). At least 18 countries have established human genome research programs.

To understand the importance of this project it must first be made known that genes are just part of DNA and carry the information that determines the traits that are inherited. DNA, however, tells us so much more (the complete instructions of the human body).

Genomic Research

   Quite often we underestimate nature's ability to surprise us with it's awe inspiring potential for incredible complexity. For example, only a short time ago RNA was simply an intermediate between DNA and proteins in the process of protein synthesis. Now RNA is recognized for having a particular role in gene expression as well as cataylizing enzymatic reactions such as linking amino acids to form proteins. In addition inherited traits were derived solely from the arrangement of nucleotide base pairs. It has now been shown that epigenetic factors can play a heritable role in expression of genes through processes such as DNA Methylation, which can have far reaching consequences for causes of disease as well as prevention and treatment. Furthermore only a handful of diseases were known to have genetic components compared to today, in which new genetic and epigenetic correlations to disease are being discovered routinely. Recent technological advances have made it possible to analyze vast quantities of data much faster and more efficiently than previously possible, resulting in an explosion of research in the field of molecular biology and answering questions about everything from the migration patterns of various forms of life on earth, to manipulating adult cells to produce embryonic stem cell-like organisms for future application to medical science.

What is DNA/Genome?



   We have all heard of DNA and if you've seen any police dramas on t.v. then you know DNA is often the defining evidence that puts the bad guy away. First, what is DNA and how does it prove anything? Well to begin, life as you know it starts with a single cell. This cell will then divide and divide, and take you from that one cell to the entire body your in today. From one cell to many trillion cells that all work together helping us live as long as possible. For this initial cell to replicate and become many, it must have instructions or a blue print of how to build more cells. That's where DNA comes in. DNA is the set of instructions which are kept inside the cells nucleus. At first DNA is wound up in whats called a double-helix, which is it's formation. The DNA unwinds out of this formation and stretches out to be read. The blue print, DNA, has the information to make a multitude of different kinds of cells, so only certain parts of the blueprint are used depending on what type of cell is being made. All the information to make each specific type of cell that you need is stored in the form DNA.

   DNA stands for Deoxyribonucleic acid. I know, exactly what you thought it meant, right? The name comes from the parts making it up. These parts are long polymers of units called nucleotides. A nucleotide is made up of a nitrogenous base, a five-carbon sugar (deoxyribose), and one phosphate group. The nitrogenous bases are the letters by which the blueprint is written. When the DNA is unwound, it comes down to four letters( nitrogenous bases) arranged in certain sequences. A,T,C, and G, which are Adenine, Thymine, Cytosine, and Guanine respectfully, are the four nitrogenous bases.

File:DNA chemical structure.svg

   How can this prove anyone guilty? Well although everyone's DNA is closely related, we all have slightly different DNA sequences specific to each individual. Forensic investigators use what is called "DNA fingerprinting" by way of looking at repeat regions of the letters.Their are around three billion letters in the human genome, so the chances of someone having the same repeat regions ( twelve required by law) are one in a milion!

   What is the genome? The human genome is a map of all the letters characteristic of a human being and the possibilities of using this map are endless. Diseases often cause mutations or changes in the order of the letters. They do this in many ways including adding letters, removing letters, or rearranging them. By having this map we may be able to read exactly how these changes are occurring, and the major part, fix them! The human genome is one of our key pieces of information by which the future of health and medicine will be conducted.