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10 Years On, Still Much To Be Learned From Human Genome Map
Date:4/14/2013

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 12 (HealthDay News) -- As scientists mark the 10th anniversary Sunday of the completion of the Human Genome Project, they will note how that watershed effort has led to the discovery of the genetic underpinnings of almost 5,000 diseases.

And it has made it possible to develop personalized treatments that have prolonged the lives of many.

But the scientists will also acknowledge that, while the project has unlocked many mysteries that once shrouded diseases, there's still much to be learned before new drugs can be developed to target illness-causing mutations in human DNA.

"What we've learned over the past 10 years is that we're still far from really understanding the complexity of the human genome," said Eric Schadt, chairman of genetics and genomic sciences at Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine in New York City. "Human disease is way more complicated than the old view that single hits to single genes cause diseases.

"In most forms of diseases, it's whole constellations of genes operating in networks," Schadt explained. "That becomes a much harder problem. How do you target networks with a single drug?

"We keep learning how much we really don't know and how much further we need to go," he added. "That's the big story."

A decade ago, the Human Genome Project was hailed as a major milestone because researchers identified all of the nearly 25,000 genes in human DNA and sequenced the 3 billion chemical base pairs comprising that DNA.

The feat took 13 years and cost close to $3 billion, but the genetic information gleaned from the project gave scientists the tools needed to pinpoint how changes in specific genes could kick-start some diseases.

One of the most tangible benefits of the project has been the development of ever more sophisticated sequencing technology and a dramatic lowering of the cost of using that technology.

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