Gene geniuses to crack 10,000 genomes
A DECADE after the historic completion of the "book of life" – the first blueprint of human DNA – British scientists announced ambitious plans yesterday to crack the personal genetic codes of 10,000 individuals.
Spread over the next three years, the UK10K programme launched by the Wellcome Trust charity will dwarf the original Human Genome Project.
Experts hope it will provide a deeper picture of genetics than has emerged since the first draft of the genetic code, or genome, was published in June 2000.
One part of the 10.5 million project will completely sequence the genomes of 4,000 people who have already been studied for diseases and traits over many years.
Another will focus on the gene-containing regions of DNA from 6,000 people with extreme obesity, neurodevelopmental diseases, and other conditions.
Principal investigator Dr Richard Durbin, from the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, said: "Although genetics over the past five years has yielded a rich harvest of hundreds of variants associated with disease, much more remains to be discovered.
"We are seizing the chance to use technological advances in DNA sequencing to find variants that have even greater consequence for health."
The 2 billion Human Genome Project was an achievement compared with landing men on the Moon.
It took a publicly-funded international team of scientists ten years to complete the sequence of chemical patterns in DNA that make up the genetic code. They found themselves in a race with American geneticist Dr Craig Venter, who produced his own version of the genome using a different approach.
In the end, both finished at the same time and published simultaneous results in the journals Nature and Science.
Then prime minister Tony Blair and then US president Bill Clinton announced the landmark achievement in a joint video address on 26 June, 2000.
The new study is part of an ongoing effort to investigate the genome in more detail and uncover more of its secrets.
Sir Mark Walport, director of the Wellcome Trust, said: "The pace of technological change is extraordinary. We can now study the genome sequences of 10,000 people in three years. Just a decade ago it took much more time and money to decode just a single sequence.
"The involvement of clinicians, researchers and, most importantly, the thousands of people who have donated DNA samples, will help us to correlate genetic variation with individual variation in health and disease, and help to deliver on the long-term promise of the Human Genome Project."
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