In 1990, The Human Genome Project (HGP) one of the most ambitious projects ever launched by the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was begun. It was heralded as an altruistic project with three main objectives:
1. To identify the genetic basis of all human traits.
2. To create a database and tools for data analysis to be shared with biotechnical industries.
3. To foster the development of new medical applications.
A genome is identified to be the total amount of genetic informaton in the chromosomes of a living thing including genes and DNA. At that time it was assumed more complex organisms contain greater numbers of genes within. With over 100,000 proteins in the human body and with a gene blueprint needed to make each protein, it was thought a human genome must have at least 100,000 genes. The project was under the guidance of James Watson who in 1953 discovered the structure of DNA.
An ulterior motive of HGP (Human Genome Project) was the belief that through patenting the nucleotide base sequence for each gene, and selling the information to pharmaceutical and bioengineering research companies, fortunes could be made. They believed the data could be used to engineer a human utopia. Venture capitalists invested millions in the HGP expecting to make fortunes based two misassumptions…..first, that genes control an organism’s traits and second, that complex organisms would possess the greatest number of genes.
As a precursor to the project, scientists sequenced the genes of simple organisms that have been traditionally employed in genetic research. Bacteria were found to contain 3,000 to 5,000 genes. The tiny round worm with only 1,271 cells has about 23,000 genes. The more evolved fruit fly surprisingly has only 18,000 genes. This finding didn’t appear to make sense, but the determined scientists proceeded with the HGP undaunted.
The HGP results were released in 2003, two years earlier than expected. The project did not turn out as anticipated. It just didn’t generate the kind of information the scientists had imagined. As it turned out, the biologically complex (50 trillion cells) human body has only approximately 23,000 genes almost the same number of genes as the tiny little round worm. Although the HGP has been heralded as one of humanity’s great accomplishments, the failure to fnd the anticipated 100,000 plus genes in a human genome led to the downsizing of the bioengineering companies it spawned and the resignation of many of their CEOs. In addition, Epigenetics immerged disproving genetic determinism.
Our schools, health systems and doctors are slow to recognize Epigenetics. And we still hear or read news reports about genetic determinism. We cannot help but wonder why good news travells so slowly. Below is a chart showing the Components of the Human Genome as determined by the HGP.
For now, Earlynn’s just sayin’: “You, your thoughts, your beliefs, and your moods control the expression of your genes. Those who expect good health generally have good health.”
If you would like to read Earlynn’s book, Transformed, just click on the ‘Earlynn’s Book’ tab above to order your copy. Thank you. God bless.