HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Human Genome Project Produces Results

McClatchy News reports on the latest and very exciting, developments resulting from the Human Genome Project

Four years ago, scientists triumphantly announced that they’d finished reading the entire human genome — the 3 billion "letters" of DNA that are the instruction manual for making a person.  Trouble was, they didn’t know how to make sense of the bewildering clutter of A's, C’s, G’s and T’s in the so-called "book of life." Now the genome project is beginning to bear fruit. A bumper crop of fresh discoveries connects specific bits of DNA to numerous diseases, including cancer, diabetes, blindness and AIDS.

New findings are being published almost weekly in scientific journals. Scientists say they're important steps toward future treatments or cures. "A whole series of studies is coming down the pike," Teri Manolio, a geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Md., told a genome conference in Boston this summer. "This is an unprecedented opportunity to apply genetics to disease."

The latest discovery is a report published in the journal Nature on Sunday declaring that two tiny changes in human DNA may add more than an inch to an individual’s height. An Aug. 2 paper in The New England Journal of Medicine identified other DNA variants that may predispose a person to a heart attack. Armed with such knowledge, doctors can recommend changes in lifestyle, such as losing weight and stopping smoking, that could save a patient’s life. . . .

The detection of a DNA variant related to a disease doesn’t mean that a cure is just around the corner. Some variants raise the risk of disease only slightly, and multiple genes are usually involved in complex diseases. The variant itself may not be to blame, but it shows the location along a strand of DNA where the trouble lies, helping researchers find the culprit. . . .

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