April 2, 2010

Genome’s Promise Still Undiscovered After 10 Years

With the 10th anniversary of the human genome's discovery, experts continue to pour time and money into research hoping to deliver on promises of a medical renaissance.

According to an April 1 article by Richard Ingham of the AFP, "The genome has yet to deliver on promises it would usher in a golden age of medicine," despite billions of dollars being spent studying human DNA hoping to cure cancer, solve the mysteries of heart disease, and put an end to illnesses like the common cold once and for all.

"The consequences for clinical medicine... have thus far been modest," Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project (HGP) is quoted as saying in this week's issue of the British scientific journal Nature.

"Some powerful new drugs have been developed for some cancers; genetic tests can predict whether people with breast cancer need chemotherapy; the major risk factors of macular degeneration have been identified; and drug response can be predicted for more than a dozen drugs," Collins added. "But it is fair to say that the Human Genome Project has not yet directly affected the health care of most individuals."

American biologist and entrepreneur J. Craig Venter, founder of HGP competitor Celera Genomics, told Ingham that the public should be patient. "The genome revolution is only just beginning," he said, adding that with research costs falling, the DNA of individual sperm and egg cells, embryos in their early stages, pre-tumor cells, and stem cells should be visible within the next decade.


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