About the Human Genome Project

What is the Human Genome Project? Begun formally in 1990, the U.S. Human Genome Project was a 13-year effort coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. The project originally was planned to last 15 years, but rapid technological advances accelerated the completion date to 2003. Project goals

identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 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. To help achieve these goals, researchers also studied the genetic makeup of several nonhuman organisms. These include the common human gut bacterium Escherichia coli, the fruit fly, and the laboratory mouse. A unique aspect of the U.S. Human Genome Project is that it was the first large scientific undertaking to address potential ELSI implications arising from project data.

Another important feature of the project was the federal government's long-standing dedication to the transfer of technology to the private sector. By licensing technologies to private companies and awarding grants for innovative research, the project catalyzed the multibillion-dollar U.S. biotechnology industry and fostered the development of new medical applications.

Landmark papers detailing sequence and analysis of the human genome were published in February 2001 and April 2003 issues of Nature and Science. See an index of these papers and learn more about the insights gained from them.

For more background information on the U.S. Human Genome Project, see the following

These proteins determine. for example. and technologies emanating from the HGP to further understanding of genetic contributions to human health. Nearly $1 million was spent on HGP ELSI research. insights gained from nonhuman genomes often lead to new knowledge about human biology. The particular order of As. Genetics is playing an increasingly important role in the diagnosis. and social challenges presented by genetic information. and what is being done to address these issues? The Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health Genome Programs set aside 3% to 5% of their respective annual HGP budgets for the study of the project's ethical. has 3 billion pairs of bases. sponsored in the United States by the Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. or fruit fly. monitoring. resources. Ts. The order underlies all of life's diversity. legal. and G) that are repeated millions or billions of times throughout a genome. Genes carry information for making all the proteins required by all organisms. Cs. and treatment of diseases. and Gs is extremely important. What are some of the ethical. among other things. has created the field of genomics --understanding genetic material on a large scale. The human genome. how well its body metabolizes food or fights infection.What's a genome? And why is it important? A genome is all the DNA in an organism. Medicine and the New Genetics Genetic Disorders Guide The Human Genome Project (HGP). and social issues (ELSI). T. and sometimes even how it behaves. C. As a result of this expansion of genomics into human health applications. all of which have their own genomes and are themselves the focus of genome projects. the field of genomic medicine was born. rice. Because all organisms are related through similarities in DNA sequences. Diagnosing and Predicting Disease and Disease Susceptibility . even dictating whether an organism is human or another species such as yeast. DNA is made up of four similar chemicals (called bases and abbreviated A. The medical industry is building upon the knowledge. legal. including its genes. how the organism looks.

And because genetic information is shared. although the scientific community continues to debate the best way to deliver them to the public and medical communities that are often unaware of their scientific and social implications. The potential for using genes themselves to treat disease--gene therapy--is the most exciting application of DNA science. patients taking the tests face significant risks of jeopardizing their employment or insurance status*. This rapidly developing field holds great potential for treating or even . cure. Also. Disease Intervention Explorations into the function of each human gene--a major challenge extending far into the 21st century --will shed light on how faulty genes play a role in disease causation. It has captured the imaginations of the public and the biomedical community for good reason. or even prevent the thousands of diseases that afflict humankind. The ultimate goal is to use this information to develop new ways to treat. With this knowledge. whether inherited or resulting from the body's response to environmental stresses like viruses or toxins. Drugs targeted to specific sites in the body promise to have fewer side effects than many of today's medicines. scientists remain unsure of how to interpret many of them.All diseases have a genetic component. *Passing of the 2008 Genetic Information Nondescrimination Act should protect against such discrimination. The successes of the HGP have even enabled researchers to pinpoint errors in genes--the smallest units of heredity--that cause or contribute to disease. commercial efforts are shifting away from diagnostics and toward developing a new generation of therapeutics based on genes. But the road from gene identification to effective treatments is long and fraught with challenges. In the meantime. Drug design is being revolutionized as researchers create new classes of medicines based on a reasoned approach to the use of information on gene sequence and protein structure function rather than the traditional trial-and-error method. An increasing number of gene tests are becoming available commercially. May 2008. these risks can extend beyond them to their family members as well. While some of these tests have greatly improved and even saved lives. biotechnology companies are racing ahead with commercialization by designing diagnostic tests to detect errant genes in people suspected of having particular diseases or of being at risk for developing them.

are churning out an unprecedented volume of data on human chromosomes and the tens of thousands of genes residing on them. genome maps. chromosomes.g. Scientists. enabled by the Human Genome Project. genetic variants. many associated with genetic disorders. sequence data. Gene Gateway. . is a collection of guides and tutorials designed to help students and other novice users get started with some of the resources that make these data available to the public. using normal genes to replace or supplement a defective gene or to bolster immunity to disease (e. and molecular structures. This Web site introduces various Internet tools that anyone can use to investigate genetic disorders.curing genetic and acquired diseases. by adding a gene that suppresses tumor growth). originally designed as a Web companion to the popular Human Genome Landmarks poster. These data.. are freely accessible on the Internet. and many Web sites on human genetic disorders. genes. See an article that speculates about how genetic advances sparked by the Human Genome Project may affect the practice of medicine in the next 20 years.