Salinas, CA Progress Made On Human Genome Mappingby Richard Kuehn on 09/07/12
I've written many times on my blog about the importance of DNA sequencing which may someday allow doctors to know your body so well that you could get individualized prescriptions based on the make-up of your DNA. On Wednesday, a group of scientists who had been working with Encode, or Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, said that almost 80% of the genomes mapped are biochemically active. This was a surprise, and it will make much more work for the scientific community as each genome is tracked and better understood. Encode succeeded the Human Genome Project, which identified the 20,000 genes that are the blueprint of human biology. Now, it has been found that those 20,000 genes represent just 2% of the human genome. In addition to that vast mapping project, the scientists found 400,000 regulators (also referred to as enhancers) that help activate or silence genes. Although this is a massive project, progress has already been made. One regulatory switch, referred to as the GATA family of transcription factors, was recently found to be associated with the risk of Crohn's disease. "That's a new association, and we're saying we have about 400 of those showing other biological links," Ewan Birney of the European BioInformatics Institute told the Wall Street Journal. All of this is fantastic news, although it does mean that many years will be spent analyzing each of these genomes and regulators. But it gives us hope, particularly for those with Alzheimer's disease or another condition for which there is no cure.