In June 2000, two competing teams of researchers said they had each completed rough drafts of the human genetic blueprint- the most important scientific achievement since the moon landing in 1969.
In Feb 2001, scientists published their first attempt to decipher the map of the human genome, raising immense hopes for curing disease and wiping out birth defects, along with fears of genetic discrimination and selective breeding. In the mean time, researchers have completed compiling a catalogue of the genetic information contained in human cells.
The newly-unraveled, 3.2 billion-letter-logn human genome is far more than a mere sequence of chemical bases arranged on a twisted stand of DNA, the first detailed analysis of the human genome code presented on Feb. 11, 2001 shows. The genome has a dynamic, vibrant ecology of its own, according to presentations made at simultaneous press conferences in Washington DC, London, Brussels and Tokyo experts say the genome faithfully records the entire history of mankind- right from the very origin of life four billion years ago.
Matt Redley a science writer says, “The genome is a piece of digital information written in ‘genetish’ composed of chemical symbols designated by a four letter alphabet of A’s, C’s and G’s” that works out to an genetic epiphany, which is 3.2 billion-letter-long. The biggest insight emerging from the analysis of the letters that we have fewer genes than predicted has surprising political and medical implications. First, it proves that the Universal Brotherhood of man celebrated by seers and sages is not mythical at all. For the biological difference between individuals work out to a mere fraction of the three billion letter in the human genetic code. “You and I differ by 2.1 million genetic letters from each other.” explains J. Craig Venter of Celera Genomics, a private initiative “Probably only a few thousand of those account for the biological differences between us, which means we are all essentially chemical twins-even more than I though.” In practical terms, what this means is that there is no scientific basis for the concept of race. “It also means people from different racial groups can be more genetically similar than individuals within the same group,” report BBC. “Geneit studies show there is more variability in the gene pool in Africa than outside.
The study of the genome establishes the universal fraternity of life espoused by Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. This transcends not just barriers of race, but those of species as well. Scientists have discovered that human genes have been derived from bacteria, that some genes haven’t changed much since the very first single-celled creatures populated the primeval ooze.
The human genome shows that humans all over the world share more than 99.9 percent of their DNA, the molecule that is building block of life. In effect, racism has no scientific basis. Genetic modification is, therefore, unnatural and tampering with ‘nature’ will unless untold dangers. Elementary cellular functions have stayed more or less the same since the evolution of singe-celled yeast and bacteria.
The map of life unfolded thus by the genome explorers virtually demolishes all boundaries of racial differences in the realm of a common humankind. All of use are product of the unique orchestration of our genes, proteins, prehistory bacteria and environment. This debunks the belief that individual ‘bad’ genes exclusively are the cause of most hereditary diseases and behavior patterns and that by hunting them down, one by one, we can affectively uproot these affections from our lives. Chunks of the human genome are being matched to diseases, even increased potential for tuberculosis or cancer. Now, the real relationship between a person’s proteins and genes is understood, modern medicine is primed for a revolution. Now science can aim at the very biological source of ailments. All medicine is built around a target a disease specific protein, enzyme or whatever. Until now, there were only 483 known drug targets. Scientists now expect several thousand such targets meaning and unprecedented explosion in new pharmacy products and medicines. Also scientists now expect to tailor medical treatment to a persons’ genetic make up. “It will be individualized medicine, where we will treat the individual person for the right disease, with the right medicine, at the right does, at the right time,” says Mike Dexter of Wellcome Trust.