The Human Genome Project undertaken by the US Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health commenced study of the human genetic characteristics in 1990 and was able to prepare a comprehensive report on the map of the sum total of all genes in a human body by 2003. This study was a revolution in terms of scientific knowledge acquired and the spin offs in the field of complex disease prediction, diagnosis and intervention. The concept of the human genome study was to chart all the combinations that make the DNA structure of a human body. Once this DNA structure has been readied then the scientists are in a position to diagnose any disease in that body to the extent of predicting diseases that may manifest in the future. In fact all the genetic related disorders can be effectively targeted by health medicines created as per the exact requirements of the particular body. This is a significant advancement in the field of diagnosis and treatment which can now be early thereby having greater chances of success. The health medicines that are based on the human genome are specifically designed for that combination of genes and hence are more effective. Also the side effects of the health medicines on that genome can be predicted and thereby catered for. This new concept of health medicine is also in the same way helpful in the treatment of addictions and abnormal behavior of humans which was not so developed prior to this. The therapy for behavioral changes depends greatly on the use of such oriented health medicines that have a better success rate compared to conventional medicines. The Human Genome Project is a significant milestone in the field of medical research and its findings will have dramatic implications on the formulation of future health medicines.
A snail is just a snail, right? According to recent scientific discoveries in Germany, maybe not. Biologists there have discovered a way to reshape the body design of snails, with implications for humans as well.
The results of a study done at Tubingen University have found that exposing snails to platinum leads to formation of an internal shell instead of the usual outside version. Apparently there is a time period of only a day or two during which the genetic makeup of a snail determines whether or not a shell will grow on the outside or not. By reprogramming the direction of the growth of the shell during this short time-frame, scientists have been able to prevent the development of the usual convoluted shell common to most snails. Instead of this formation, a small hollow, cone-shaped object forms internally, similar to a squid.
With only a brief exposure to platinum ions, the fundamental biological makeup of the snail is permanently altered. This genetic discovery came about during a study of the toxicity of different metal ions, including platinum. This ion is often released into the atmosphere through automobile catalytic converters. When snail embryos were exposed to these ions within the specific time frame of the snail’s developing an external shell, the process was altered and the internal shell was instead formed.
Genetic mutation itself doesn’t take place. There are not any mutations other than the change from an external to an internal shell. That being said, scientists do believe that gene activity regulation is being modified. The team of scientists plan to continue their research into gastropod development and genetics generally. They are confident that a process of "macromutation" is taking place within the snails, and want to expand their research to see if platinum-based gene activity is occurring during a gastropod’s early embyrogenisis. This report was recently published in Evolution & Development by two German geneticists, based at the Institute for Evolution and Ecology.
When most people think of the human genome project that was completed in 2003, they think about health medicine and the human genome. Advances have been made in other areas of biotech research such as crop and agricultural sciences. The research that allows scientists to map the human genome can be used to map the genetic makeup of the plants that provide us with food, clothing, and other products which lead to improvements in crop yield and quality. There are a wide range of benefits to exploring this area more.
Biotech research continues to search for ways to develop insect, disease, drought resistant crops, more nutrient rich produce, vaccines which are edible through food products, and using plants as solutions to environmental problems/cleanups. Understanding and mapping the genome structures of plants will no doubt lead to the development of improved fruits and vegetables such as crispier apples, crunchier carrots, and juicier grapes; but this science goes beyond improving the experience of food. Plant genome engineering can go so far as to increase the quantity and quality of protein in certain crops making them more nutritious for the humans and animals who consume them.
In the recent difficult economy, farmers welcome plant varieties that are stronger, disease tolerant, and resistant to pests because it cuts down on the costs they incur when producing the crops. Using gene modification, scientists can control the rate at which plants ripen which can lengthen growing seasons. Consumers will benefit from lower prices on the final products which is a win-win for the economy. Additionally, there are alternative uses for plants like tobacco. One researcher engineered tobacco plants that were capable of producing an enzyme that actually breaks down the structure of explosives. This type of environmentally dangerous waste would typically take hundreds of years to decompose can be broken down with you use of a biotech engineered plant crop.
The human genome project has open up a brave new world of opportunity in biotech agricultural research. The mapping it provided will help the next generation of agricultural scientists to open doors to previously unimagined frontiers.
The breakthroughs in human genome research have led to health medicine advances and disease prevention, but there are unexpected doors being opened and new and exciting realms being explored as a result of biotech research.
One interesting outcome of the human genome project is the ability to determine genetic ancestry. Although these advances can be used to pinpoint ancestry in any race, the Jewish population is especially interested in these breakthroughs as questions have been raised for over a century questioning whether the Jewish people are a religious group, an actual race, or in some cases both.
Biotech advances in human genome studies have allowed researchers to pinpoint similarities by way of genomic analysis between Middle Eastern Jews and European Jews. Even though the two groups have been scattered around the world for over 2,500 years; these genetical markers demonstrate that all Jews have certain characteristics in common in their blood along with their religious and cultural similarities.
There is another reason why these biotech advances are exciting today. The migration of the Jewish people from their region of origin has taken place for 3,000 years. This migration is commonly referred to as the Diaspora. Since the establishment of Israel as a state in 1948 many of the Jewish people have chosen to make what is referred to as Aliyah, or a return to their homeland. Many people are often delayed and even not permitted to return because they lack the documentation to prove their Jewishness. Many Eastern European Jews lost all of their family records such as birth certificates as a result of the Holocaust. These biotech advances could open doors for many to receive the opportunity to return to Israel.
The millions of dollars that has flowed into the Human Genome Project has accomplished much more than breakthroughs in the area of health medicine. It is clear to see that the full extent of the impact of biotech and human genome research has yet to be discovered.
Scientists are using human genome mapping to search for genetic clues to why certain individuals more likely to suffer the effects of alcoholism. Study of these genes common amongst alcoholics have shown that while alcoholism does appear to run from one generation to the next, not all children of alcoholics are destined to develop alcoholism. Although genetics does play a role, environmental factors also come into play. Identifying the genes that influence the risk for alcoholism and related diseases will lead health medicine researchers to more effective therapies and prevention.
One study conducted by the Collaborative Study of Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA) revealed compelling evidence that the predisposition to alcoholism does pass from one generation to the next genetically. They noted that children with alcoholic parents, especially sons of alcoholic fathers, are four to nine times more likely to suffer from alcoholism that those of nonalcoholic parents; children whose genetic parents were alcoholics but were adopted by nonalcoholic parents were still at a high risk. Meanwhile, those who were raised by alcoholics whose genetic parents were not alcoholics, had a reduced risk of developing problems despite environmental factors.
Scientists began to associate alcoholism and genetics over thirty years ago but have only recently had the research and tools necessary to pinpoint specific genomes in the DNA. Despite these advances, alcoholism is a very complex disease. There are multiple genes interacting with each other and certain environmental and physiological factors that all playing a role. Alcoholism is genetically linked to other addictions and behaviors such as depression, antisocial personality disorders, and nicotine and/or cocaine addiction.
Alcoholism is a bigger problem than one may think, effecting over 75 million people globally. An even greater concern is of those who become dependent and undergo treatment only one-fifth will be sober one year later. The good news is that those who are aware of their genetic predisposition can totally prevent dependence altogether by abstaining from the substance, particularly during their younger years.