The Human Genome Project is a global, long-term research effort to identify the estimated 30,000 genes in human DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and to figure out the sequences of the chemical bases that make up human DNA. Findings are being collected in database s that researchers share. In addition to its scientific objectives, the Project also aims to address ethical, legal, and social issues (which the Project refers to as "ELSI"). The Project will make use also of results from the genetic research done on other animals, such as the fruit fly and the laboratory mouse. Research findings are expected to provide a dramatically greater understanding of how life works and specifically how we might better diagnose and treat human disorders. Besides giving us insights into human DNA, findings about nonhuman DNA may offer new ways to control our environment.
A genome is the sum of all the DNA in an organism. The DNA includes genes, each of which carries some information for making certain proteins, which in turn determine physical appearance, certain behavioral characteristics, how well the organism combats specific diseases, and other characteristics. There are four chemical bases in a genome. These bases are abbreviated as A, T, C, and G. The particular order of these chemical bases as they are repeated millions and even billions of time is what makes species different and each organism unique. The human genome has 3 billion pairs of bases.
Some databases that collect findings are already in existence. The plan is for all databases to be publicly available by the end of 2003. The organization of these databases and the algorithm for making use of the data are the subject of new graduate study programs and a new science called bioinformatics . A biochip is being developed that is expected to accelerate research by encapsulating known DNA sequences that can act as "test tubes" for trial substances that can then be analyzed for similarities.