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Overview of the Importance Genomes

written by: Jamie Robertson•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 9/14/2008

Genomes provide an important link to help physicians and scientist discover tests for diseases, causes of illness, and specialized treatments.

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    A genome is a person’s, or organism’s, complete set of DNA. The human genome is made up of about three billion DNA base pairs. Almost every cell in the body contains a copy of all these pairs. Genes are the part of the DNA that carries instructions for making certain sets of proteins. Each gene contains the genome codes to make an average of three proteins.

    Two unrelated people have about 99.9% of their DNA in common, the remaining 0.1% is what influences the different diseases people acquire and the way they react to treatment. International projects such as the Human Genome Project and the International HapMap Project have worked to help scientist discover the differences in the human genome.

    Genome Mapping Projects

    The Human Genome Project was designed to map the human genome. The project was led by the National Institutes of Health and the National Human Genome Research Institute. The international project finished mapping the human genome in April of 2003. A second project called the International HapMap Project published a map of human genetic variations in October 2005. This project is funded by agencies from Canada, China, Japan, Nigeria, the UK, and the US. This project has allowed physicians and scientist to speed up the search for individual genes involved in complex diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

    Genomics and Disease

    Almost every disease has some basis in a person’s genes. The above projects have allowed researchers to not only look for the genes involved in complex diseases, but to design test for the disease and develop pharmaceutical agents. Genome based research has already allowed scientist to create better diagnostic tools and treatments based on a person’s genetic structure.

    While genes play a large role in the disease process, it is important to note that they are only partially responsible for many complex diseases. Factors such as diet, physical activity, use of drugs and alcohol, and other lifestyle factors also contribute to a person’s risk of developing a disease.