Before I start today’s VERITAS I am reminded of a few lines by Goethe which run opposite to the subject of today’s VERITAS :
He who would study organic existence
first drives out the soul with rigid persistence
Then the parts in his hands he may hold and class
but the spiritual link is lost . Alas !!
Goethe ( Faust )
The Human Genome Project
Each of our cells contain 23 pairs of chromosomes . One set that we got
from Dad and another we got from Mom . Each of these chromosomes contain
genes . These genes control the way we look , behave etc . These genes
are a sequence of chemical building blocks represented by letters :
A( adenine ) , T(thymine ) , G(guanine) , C(cytocine ) . So you get a pair
of genes of each characteristic ( one from Mom and another from Dad ) and
one of them dominates and decides the way we are .
In 1990 a project was started to study each of the chromosomes and find
how many genes each contains and where they are on the chromosomes and
what their functions are . This is called The Human Genome Project .
The task was huge . There are approximately 10,000 human genes and
each has a long chemical structure . The project should be finished in 2003.
If the entire DNA sequence of an individual is written is a book it
would have 200 books of 1000 pages each . It is that big .
At the end of all this we would know what diseases are caused by what
gene . What each gene is responsible for and how we can treat ourselves
genetically . But most importantly we will be able to understand ourselves
from a basic chemical level .
How far has the project progressed ? The 5th , 16th , 19th , 21 st and the
22 nd chrosomes have been completely mapped( studied ) . The rest of
the chrosomes are beiong studied parallely at different labs in the world .
The first chromosome to be completely studied was the 22nd . THis
was because of its small size . It reveled 545 genes and 134 pseudogenes
( these are genes that once functioned but no longer do ) .
One very important development occurred when the 21st chrosome
was decoded . It contains 225 genes . Mutations in 14 known genes of
this chromosome cause diseases like Alzeimer’s syndrome , epilepsy .
And this may be a boon to control these diseases before they occur
in individuals ( right at the embroyonic stage ) . Mutation is some kinda
garbar in sequence of a gene . Another disease we may control by the
map of the 21st chrosome is Down’s syndrome which is responsible for
mental retardation in one out of every 700 kids .
The Human Genome project is funded by Department of energy US
and has scientists all over the world working on it . IT also maintains
a very inteseting website : http://www.ornl.gov/hgmis . You can even see
some chrosomes and see the sequences . Amust see !