The Human Genome Project (HGP) and bioinformatics
Initiated in October 1990 and completed in April 2003, the Human Genome Project (HGP) was a 13-year project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. Its goals were to identify all the approximately 25,000-30,000 genes in the human genome, to determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up the human genome, to store the information that resulted from the project in databases, to improve tools for data analysis, to transfer related technologies to the private sector, and to address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project. As researchers learn more about the functions of genes and proteins through the results obtained from the project, it will have a major impact in the fields of medicine, biotechnology, and the life sciences. For instance, the genetic sequences recorded by the project will aid in the identification of genetic diseases. Once the causes of those diseases are discovered and understood, there is hope that defective genes may be repaired and the disease cured by establishing new drugs based on the DNA base sequences of those genes or the structure of proteins coded for by them. Already, the genes responsible for cystic fibrosis, breast cancer, colon cancer, and sickle cell anemia have been found, making genetic tests for carriers of the disease a reality. In addition to this, the sequencing of the entire human genome will give us new insights into the origins, evolution, and migration of humans.
The need for bioinformatics capabilities has been precipitated by the explosion of publicly available genomic information resulting from the Human Genome Project. Bioinformatics is a field that deals with the application of computer technology to gather, store, analyze, and integrate mainly molecular biological information. Using this information in a digital format, bioinformatics can solve problems...
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