In a fast-pacing world marked by technological advancements, scientists are finding new ways every day to solve the enigmas of both this world and its inhabitants – which also include us. To untangle the intricacies of the human body, various scientists are studying the most elementary unit of our body – the human genome.
Genome is your complete set of genetic instructions – including the genes you inherit from your parents – which govern your growth, development, and health.
The Human Genome Project, a collaborative research study, was designed to map and arrange all the genes of the human body in the correct sequence. Various international researchers joined hands for this project to understand the “coordinate research and technical activities related to the human genome.”
History of the Genome Project
A 1990 publication, called the Understanding Our Genetic Inheritance: The Human Genome Project, laid the foundation for the project and set out its goal for the next five years. It included mainly three areas of study: working out the order of bases in our DNA, mapping locations for crucial parts of the chromosome, and discovering linkage maps to track inherited traits.
In 1998, the U.S National Academy of Sciences drew further plans for the genome project, and later on, the National Institute of Health and Department of Energy took on the project. The project allowed the researchers to read the layout of human genes for the first time in the history of biological science and finally concluded after thirteen long years in April 2003.
Interesting Facts About The Human Genome Project
This mind-blogging project, aimed at researching human genes and traits, resulted in quite some fascinating findings. These findings made the scientists acknowledge and appreciate the complexity of the human body. To find out more, keep on reading!
1. Only 30,000 Genes?
A human being has between 30,000 to 40,000 genes, according to the HGP. Guess how many a roundworm has? 19,098!
A human being can be made from a gene count only twice that of a fruit fly – 13,062 genes. Additionally, yeast has 6,034 genres, and the microbe that causes tuberculosis has 4,000 genes.
2. How Long Is The DNA?
You would find it quite surprising to know that if all the DNA in the human body were joined end to end, the total length would be six hundred times the distance between our home planet and the sun!
In our body, there are about a hundred trillion cells in total, with three billion base pairs in each of them. If all the DNA in one cell were to be uncoiled and straightened, the total length would be almost six feet! That is quite long, considering the biggest cell in our body has a diameter of only 0.1mm.
3. Computing Your Genes
The entire data in a human genome is about three giga-bytes: one gigabyte for every one billion base pair. The computers used in the Human Genome Project decoded twelve thousand letters each second!
4. More Control Genes
Are we really just 11,000 genes away from being a roundworm? Can adding more genes to the genes of a roundworm make human DNA? Probably not.
The human body is way more intricate than this. The HGP states that we have more control genes than creatures like yeast or fruit fly. Human genes can evolve over time to increase the variety of control genes that can control other genes making us who we are: homo sapiens.
5. Bacteria or Depression?
It appears that we have quite similar genes to that of bacteria. The HGP suggests homo sapiens and bacteria have a hundred similar genes. One of these genes is what causes depression. Now you know who to blame for your depressed state!
6. The Majority of Our DNA is “Junk”
Almost 97 percent of our DNA has sequences we are unable to comprehend. We call these undecipherable sequences the junk DNA. Most scientists believe that we have only 3% useful DNA, but some think that it is impossible to have such a large quantity of genome perform no function at all. The latter group is trying to find the resourcefulness of junk DNA. They presume that this junk DNA must have some role to play in our bodies, even if it is to help move the useful genes around.
7. Understanding Human Body
An increasingly positive result of the research is finding the answer to so many questions about the human body. There are now better explanations for our biological methods and manners, all thanks to the HGP. For instance, it has been discovered that a set of proteins from a specific gene is responsible for why we can taste a bitter flavor.
8. Did We Evolve From Chimpanzees?
You may have heard the most common explanation of human ancestry: monkeys. Scientists have long believed and put our descent at the hands of these intelligent creatures. Indeed the Human Genome Project points in that direction as well. Did you know our DNA is 98% identical to that of a chimpanzee!
Additionally, the variation in the chimpanzee genome is more than that in human genomes. The average genetic variation in two chimpanzees is four to five times greater than the average difference between two humans (which is 0.2 percent).
However, even a minor variation of 0.2 percent has critical consequences in the health sector. Due to this genetic difference, a new stage of personalized medicine will soon be introduced in the near future. As of now, SNPs have discovered over 1.4 million of these variations – SNP stands for single nucleotide polymorphism.
9. Male Mutation
The majority of the mutation in genetic sequences occur in males. Researchers suggest it may be due to numerous divisions in the male reproductive line (sperm).
10. Genetic Archeology
As stated earlier, one of the main goals of the HGP was working on our genetic ancestry. Studying this gave rise to a new subject called Genetic Archaeology, which includes a vast spectrum of study, mainly on our relationship with previous versions of homo sapiens: versions before evolution. This branch focuses on nature and how variations in nature lead to a specific species evolving gradually. It also shows our close ties with all the other life forms present on this earth. Genetic sequencing provides information on our adaptation from monkeys over 25 million years ago. Even as we speak, our species and every other species around us is evolving to serve its needs in a better way.
Human Genome is a very vast topic with different areas of research. The Human Genome Project itself cost around 3,000,000,000 dollars and took over thirteen years to complete. However, the findings opened new pathways to the understanding of our body and its complex structure. These pathways, in turn, led to research for improved drugs resulting in better healthcare. It also provides explanations for how our body works and why it is the way it is today.
Furthermore, it can even help predict the future of human evolution, equipping us with necessary measurements for the new era. Darwin famously coined the term “survival of the fittest” so, the study of the human genome and its sequence helps us stay fit for survival while also allowing us to interpret and understand what is going on inside the labyrinthine of proteins in our body.