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Human Genome Project

OLogy Series
biology
card
107

Human Genome Project

OLogy Series
biology

Many scientists have joined forces on the Human Genome Project. Their goal is to figure out the order of all "DNA letters" (bases) in our genome. Since the human genome is more than 3 billion "letters" long, this is an insanely huge job! By learning about our genome, scientists will better understand how our bodies work and how diseases develop.

Whose DNA is Being Explored, Anyway?
Everyone on the planet -- except identical twins -- has a unique genome. So, to get a complete picture of our species' DNA, you might think that the Human Genome Project scientists have to study the DNA of millions of people -- not even close! They need to examine the DNA of only a few people. That's because humans are 99.9 percent genetically the same. Many people gave their DNA to the scientists to study, but only a few samples were actually studied. Whose genome was selected for this important project? Did they pick the President of the U.S.? Tiger Woods? Britney Spears? Nope! The researchers combined the genetic information from a small sample of various donors from different cultural backgrounds from around the world. The DNA donors were anonymous, which means that no one knows who the actual people are -- not even the scientists!

The results of the Human Genome Project's research are:

top secret

available on the Internet

known only to other genetics experts

Are you right?

Correct!

The results of the Human Genome Project are published on the Internet. HGP scientists hope that by making their findings public, many kinds of scientists will use them in their research.

After the entire human genome is sequenced, scientists still won't know which genes control which traits.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Our genome is a complicated puzzle. It will take many years before scientists can figure out which genes control which traits.

Scientists with the Human Genome Project (HGP) study only the human genome.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

To understand how our genome works, scientists compare it to the genomes of mice, flies, worms, and even bacteria.

Human Genome Project
Important dates: started in the mid-1980s; first draft finished in 2000; completion expected in 2003
Who was involved: teams of scientists from 18 countries and all over the United States, and a private company
How did they do it: using the latest technology
What was the goal: to understand how human genes work and how diseases develop

Image credits: Kelvin Chan.