Human Genome Project
What is the Human Genome Project?
The Human Genome Project is an international scientific project intended to decode all the genetic information or “recipes” contained in each of our chromosomes and to interpret their meaning, regulation and functioning under normal and pathological conditions so that all the knowledge gained can be used for the benefit of mankind towards the reset of those recipes that are defective or become defective throughout the course of our lives.
How advanced is the Human Genome Project at this moment?
At present, 100% of all the information (or “recipes”) has been decoded of our set of chromosomes. This represents a great breakthrough, but by no means everything. We are just starting our journey and much remains to be learnt on how these genetic recipes work and interact among each other, both under normal and pathological conditions.
What repercussions will the Human Genome Project have when it is completed?
The repercussions will be far reaching. It will be like a new dimension, a new era of medicine.
From a humanitarian point of view, it will be possible to cure all disorders of hereditary origin or those with a DNA alteration. It will also be possible to clone all organs and structures of the same individual using his or her own cells, thereby eliminating the problem of rejection and getting away with long waiting lists for the transplantation of organs.
From a legal point of view, it will be possible to inform an individual of the number of incorrect or defective genes he or she has. That is, he or she will be able to know in advance what disorders he or she will suffer from or be predisposed to suffer throughout life.
But, once this point is reached, it will be of outmost importance to keep such information completely confidential. No insurance company or employer must have access to know what percentage of the genome is defective in each individual in order to avoid future discrimination and repressions, as one of the fundamental rights of man is his freedom.
And from an ethical point of view, it will be of outmost importance to regulate the employment of these techniques in very specific applications. The risk being, that once we finally know how all these genetic recipes work and interact, all the newly gained knowledge can be put to work either to do good or to do harm.
What is the hardest part we have to deal with while we learn how the human genome works?
The hardest part is knowing that we are afflicted or will be afflicted with a disorder at a given age, which, so far we are unable to either cure or prevent. Because of this we run the risk of converting healthy individuals into virtual patients before due course, who will be consumed with finding out details about their future illness. So before any study of this nature is started, the individual requesting the test should be duly informed of this circumstance so that all pros and cons are weighed well before undergoing the test.
Next topic: Gene therapy
Reviewed: 27th of October 2014