BioTech FYI Center - Resources



Q . What's a genome? And why is it important?

A genome is all the DNA in an organism, including its genes. Genes carry information for making all the proteins required by all organisms. These proteins determine, among other things, how the organism looks, how well its body metabolizes food or fights infection, and sometimes even how it behaves.

DNA is made up of four similar chemicals (called bases and abbreviated A, T, C, and G) that are repeated millions or billions of times throughout a genome. The human genome, for example, has 3 billion pairs of bases.

The particular order of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs is extremely important. The order underlies all of life's diversity, even dictating whether an organism is human or another species such as yeast, rice, or fruit fly, all of which have their own genomes and are themselves the focus of genome projects. Because all organisms are related through similarities in DNA sequences, insights gained from nonhuman genomes often lead to new knowledge about human biology.

Q . How big is the human genome?

The human genome is made up of DNA, which has four different chemical building blocks. These are called bases and abbreviated A, T, C, and G. In the human genome, about 3 billion bases are arranged along the chromosomes in a particular order for each unique individual.

Q .Why are genome projects are important?

The major goal is to obtain the complete sequences of as many genomes as possible. A catalog containing a description of the sequences of every gene in a genome is immensely valuable, even if at first the functions of many of the genes are unknown. Not only will the catalog contain the sequences of the coding parts of every gene, it will also include the regulatory regions for these genes. The genome sequences therefore opens the way to a comprehensive description of the molecular activites of living cells and the ways in which these activites are controlled.

Gene catalog also aid the isolation and utilization of important gens, such as those human genes reponsible for inherited disease, or bacterial genes whose protein products have industrial value. These genes can be isolated from a genome even if the complete genome sequence is not known, but the process is time-consuming and costly, and a different projects has to be devised for each gene that is sought. It will be very much easier to obtain a copy of the desired gene, if the sequence of its genome is already known, so that the gene can simply be withdrawn from the catalog.
Source: Genomes by T.A.Brown

Q . What is the Human Genome Project?

The Human Genome Project (HGP) is an international 13-year effort formally begun in October 1990. The project was planned to last 15 years, but rapid technological advances have accelerated the expected completion date to 2003. Project goals are to discover all the approximately 30,000 to 35,000 human genes (the human genome), make them accessible for further biological study, and determine the complete sequence of the 3 billion DNA subunits (bases). As part of the HGP, parallel studies are being carried out on selected model organisms such as the bacterium E. coli to help develop the technology and interpret human gene function.

Q . What are the goals of the Human Genome Project?

Project goals are to
* Identify all the approximate 30,000 genes in human DNA,
* determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA,
* store this information in databases,
* improve tools for data analysis,
* transfer related technologies to the private sector, and
* address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project.

Q . What is Human Genome Sequencing Consortium?

The sixteen institutions that form the Human Genome Sequencing Consortium include:

  1. Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas, USA
  2. Beijing Human Genome Center, Institute of Genetics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China
  3. Gesellschaft für Biotechnologische Forschung mbH, Braunschweig, Germany
  4. Genoscope, Evry, France
  5. Genome Therapeutics Corporation, Waltham, MA, USA
  6. Institute for Molecular Biotechnology, Jena, Germany
  7. Joint Genome Institute, U.S. Department of Energy, Walnut Creek, CA, USA
  8. Keio University, Tokyo, Japan
  9. Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics, Berlin, Germany
  10. RIKEN Genomic Sciences Center, Saitama, Japan
  11. The Sanger Institute, Hinxton, U.K.
  12. Stanford DNA Sequencing and Technology Development Center, Palo Alto, CA, USA
  13. University of Washington Genome Center, Seattle, WA, USA
  14. University of Washington Multimegabase Sequencing Center, Seattle, WA,USA
  15. Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, MIT, Cambridge, MA, USA
  16. Washington University Genome Sequencing Center, St. Louis, MO, USA

In addition, two institutions played a key role in providing computational support and analysis for the Human Genome Project. These include:
The National Center for Biotechnology Information at NIH
The European Bioinformatics Institute in Cambridge, UK
The assembly of the genome sequence across chromosomes was also assisted by scientists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and Neomorphic, Inc.

Q . What are the countries are participating in the HGP?

At least 18 countries have established human genome research programs. Some of the larger programs are in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, European Union, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States. Some developing countries are participating through studies of molecular biology techniques for genome research and studies of organisms that are particularly interesting to their geographical regions. The Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) helps to coordinate international collaboration in the genome project.

Q . What are the potential benefits of human genome research?

The project will reap fantastic benefits for humankind, some that we can anticipate and others that will surprise us. Generations of biologists and researchers will be provided with detailed DNA information that will be key to understanding the structure, organization, and function of DNA in chromosomes. Genome maps of other organisms will provide the basis for comparative studies that are often critical to understanding more complex biological systems. Information generated and technologies developed will revolutionize future biological explorations.

The unveiling of the full sequence of the Human Genome Project will ultimately provide a vast array of new targets for diagnosis and drug therapies, but already preliminary new treatments are being envisaged based on newly found genes for asthma and Alzheimer's disease, as well as depression and other mood disorders.

Apart from new drugs, the research is pointing to a vastly increased knowledge of how the human body works - with better explanations now available for a range of conditions or biological responses. From the HGP may lead to new treatments for addiction, possibly even for non-substance addictions such as gambling, and new therapies for jet-lag and sleep disorders.

Q . How HGP related to bioinformatics?

The human genome is 3 billion base pairs long, 3 gigabytes of computer data storage space are needed to store the entire genome. This includes nucleotide sequence data only and does not include data annotations and other information that can be associated with sequence data.

As time goes on, more annotations will be entered as a result of laboratory findings, literature searches, data analyses, personal communications, automated data-analysis programs, and auto annotators. These annotations associated with the sequence data will likely dwarf the amount of storage space actually taken up by the initial 3 billion nucleotide sequence. Of course, that's not much of a surprise because the sequence is merely one starting point for much deeper biological understanding!
Storing all this information is a great challenge to computer experts known as bioinformatics specialists.