The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international scientific research project with a primary goal to determine the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up DNA and to identify and map the approximately 20,000–25,000 genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional standpoint.
The human genome is the genome of Homo sapiens, which is stored on 23 chromosome pairs. Twenty-two of these are autosomal chromosome pairs, while the remaining pair is sex-determining. The haploid human genome occupies a total of just over 3 billion DNA base pairs. The Human Genome Project (HGP) produced a reference sequence of the euchromatic human genome, which is used worldwide in biomedical sciences.
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The first available assembly of the genome was completed in 2000 by the UCSC Genome Bioinformatics Group, composed of Jim Kent (then a UCSC graduate student of molecular, cell and developmental biology), Patrick Gavin, Terrence Furey, Mark Mattheiss and David Kulp.
The project began in 1990, initially headed by James D. Watson at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. A working draft of the genome was released in 2000 and a complete one in 2003, with further analysis still being published. A parallel project was conducted outside of government by the Celera Corporation. Most of the government-sponsored sequencing was performed in universities and research centers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand. The mapping of human genes is an important step in the development of medicines and other aspects of health care.
While the objective of the Human Genome Project is to understand the genetic makeup of the human species, the project also has focused on several other nonhuman organisms such as E. coli, the fruit fly, and the laboratory mouse. It remains one of the largest single investigational projects in modern science.
The project began with the culmination of several years of work supported by the United States Department of Energy, in particular workshops in 1984 and 1986 and a subsequent initiative of the US Department of Energy. This 1987 report stated boldly, "The ultimate goal of this initiative is to understand the human genome" and "knowledge of the human as necessary to the continuing progress of medicine and other health sciences as knowledge of human anatomy has been for the present state of medicine." Candidate technologies were already being considered for the proposed undertaking at least as early as 1985.
James D. Watson was head of the National Center for Human Genome Research at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the United States starting from 1988. Largely due to his disagreement with his boss, Bernadine Healy, over the issue of patenting genes, Watson was forced to resign in 1992. He was replaced by Francis Collins in April 1993, and the name of the Center was changed to the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) in 1997.
The $3-billion project was formally founded in 1990 by the United States Department of Energy and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and was expected to take 15 years. In addition to the United States, the international consortium comprised geneticists in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, China, and India.
There are multiple definitions of the "complete sequence of the human genome". According to some of these definitions, the genome has already been completely sequenced, and according to other definitions, the genome has yet to be completely sequenced. There have been multiple popular press articles reporting that the genome was "complete." The genome has been completely sequenced using the definition employed by the International Human Genome Project. A graphical history of the human genome project shows that most of the human genome was complete by the end of 2003. However, there are a number of regions of the human genome that can be considered unfinished.
In summary: the best estimates of total genome size indicate that about 92.3% of the genome has been completed and it is likely that the centromeres and telomeres will remain un-sequenced until new technology is developed that facilitates their sequencing. Most of the remaining DNA is highly repetitive and unlikely to contain genes, but it cannot be truly known until it is entirely sequenced. Understanding the functions of all the genes and their regulation is far from complete. The roles of junk DNA, the evolution of the genome, the differences between individuals, and many other questions are still the subject of intense interest by laboratories all over the world.
Benefits: The work on interpretation of genome data is still in its initial stages. It is anticipated that detailed knowledge of the human genome will provide new avenues for advances in medicine and biotechnology. Clear practical results of the project emerged even before the work was finished. For example, a number of companies, such as Myriad Genetics started offering easy ways to administer genetic tests that can show predisposition to a variety of illnesses, including breast cancer, disorders of hemostasis, cystic fibrosis, liver diseases and many others. Also, the etiologies for cancers, Alzheimer's disease and other areas of clinical interest are considered likely to benefit from genome information and possibly may lead in the long term to significant advances in their management.
There are also many tangible benefits for biological scientists. For example, a researcher investigating a certain form of cancer may have narrowed down his/her search to a particular gene. By visiting the human genome database on the World Wide Web, this researcher can examine what other scientists have written about this gene, including (potentially) the three-dimensional structure of its product, its function(s), its evolutionary relationships to other human genes, or to genes in mice or yeast or fruit flies, possible detrimental mutations, interactions with other genes, body tissues in which this gene is activated, diseases associated with this gene or other datatypes.
The project's goals included not only identifying all of the approximately 24,000 genes in the human genome, but also to address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that might arise from the availability of genetic information. Five percent of the annual budget was allocated to address the ELSI arising from the project.
The Chimpanzee Genome Project is an effort to determine the DNA sequence of the Chimpanzee genome. It is expected that by comparing the genomes of humans and other apes, it will be possible to better understand what makes humans distinct from other species.
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