Jun 27, 2000|
It’s all in the genes
The Human Genome Project has attracted a lot of attention and with the announcement that scientists have finished a rough draft of the ‘genome map’ and ‘assembled it’ in a proper order, attention has refocused on the advances in molecular biology.
The human genome project is basically about the knowledge of the genes, how the genes manufacture the enzymes and the proteins that keep us well or occasionally cause us to fall ill.
In a human cell are chromosomes wrapped in DNA strands. The DNA in all the cells of a human body are organised into 23 pairs of chromosomes. Each chromosome contains thousands of codes for building proteins. The totality of DNA present in the cells of a species is called its genome. Hence the name ‘Human Genome Project’.
The output of the Human Genome Project will be in the form of 3.2 billion letters such as ATCCGHTT… and so on. Each triplet of letters instructs machinery in a cell to pick up certain amino acids from the food that we consume. A certain number of amino acids combine to form a protein such as an enzyme for digesting food, a brain chemical that causes depression etc.
The mapping of the genome basically means sequencing of the DNA. This would enable the identification of the quality of the genes in each individual and help pharmaceutical companies to produce drugs suited to each individual for genetic diseases such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, malfunctioning of joints, obesity and even baldness.
Quite a few of the bigger multinational drug companies such as Glaxo–Wellcome, SmithKline Beecham, and Novartis have already taken stakes in biotech companies who would commercialise human and animal healthcare discoveries based on the project’s data. While Glaxo has announced the takeover of Spectra (involved in central nervous system genomics), Novartis has a stake in Genetic Therapy and SmithKline has a collaboration with Human Genome Sciences Inc.
During the last century, it is the use of chemistry that has led to discovery of new molecules for the pharmaceutical industry. This century could well belong to biology.
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