Beginners guide to genetics: Past, present, and future
In the last article of our series, the Genetics Group, coordinated by Osvaldo Mutchinick, deals with the history of genetics and how future research will impact diagnosis and treatment of diseases
The Human Genome Project started officially on 1 October 1990 in the United States. Japan, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom later joined the project. Besides working out the genetic sequence in the human genome, it also analysed the genomes of other living organisms. The first was the bacterium Haemophilus influenzae in 1995 and the first multicellular organism was Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode, in 1998. By June 2000 the human genome was sequenced,45 and a big political, social, ethical, and religious debate ensued and still goes on.
One of the most surprising results was that the total number of human genes was only half that expected, and only a few more than Caenorhabditis elegans.6 This begged the question: what allows humans so many different characteristics when 99% of our genome is the same as chimpanzees? And why are there so many variations between humans, when 99.9% of our genomes are