Human Genome Project (HGP)
Updated: Jul 20, 2021
The Human Genome Project was a research program formed to discover the exact genetic makeup of humans. Genes contain the information that controls how humans develop and grow. The project began in 1990 and ended in 2003. The success of the HGP allowed people to understand the process of evolution and how genes direct the growth of human cells. Discoveries in genomics are built upon the HGP such as treatments and cures for genetically related diseases.
The genome is the complete set of genetic instructions for an organism. All the information necessary for building any living organism and allowing it to develop is contained in its genes. A gene is one section of a chromosome...so one chromosome may carry many genes. Genes are segments of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that contain the code for a specific protein that functions in one or more types of cells in the body.
DNA is a series of smaller units known as bases. Genes are formed when the DNA bases combine. These contain the directions that are passed down from one generation of an organism to the next through reproduction. The human genome contains about 25,000–30,000 genes. The illustration below shows 46 chromosomes covering the human genome. These include 22 homologous pairs plus two sex chromosomes … also called the X and Y chromosomes.
Many scientists had analyzed specific human genes prior to the start of the HGP. They knew what those genes did and what DNA bases they were composed of. However, scientists needed to learn a lot more about the whole genome and how genes within the chromosome impacted things like the probability of getting cancer. The project's key objectives were to determine the sequence of all DNA bases in the human genome and identify all human genes in existence.
The Human Genome Project included tens of thousands of scientists from all over the world. They began by cutting the DNA into small sections. The order of the various bases in each section was then determined by computers. The scientists then determined which bases made up genes and which did not. Just about 2% of the human genome is made up of genes. The mapping became easier as computers advanced. The first draft of the human genome was written in 2000, followed by a more complete edition in 2003.
Throughout the research, the scientists made numerous discoveries. They discovered that there are far fewer genes than they previously believed. They also discovered that 99.9% of a human's genome is similar to that of another. Just 0.1 percent of our genes distinguish us as individuals. Remember that next time you feel different. The HGP paved the way for the Genomics Revolution...including discoveries, therapies, vaccines, and cures for hundreds and potentially thousands of ailments. Most recently, advances in genomics made rapid creation, testing, and deployment of covid vaccines possible. This is because the covid vaccine is based on human DNA...the pieces of which were discovered during the HGP.