DNA decoding has been completed
Human genetic code contains three billion base pairs.
The results from the completion of the Human Encyclopedia of DNA elements, which were presented in September 2012 at the reputable Nature Review are expected to shed light on the mystery of the genetic code and the way it encodes multifactorial diseases.
For the first time and after many years of concerted effort, it has been possible to determine how the human genome works. This painstaking work is codenamed ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) and 440 scientists from 32 international research centers have been working for 5 years to complete it. The scale of the effort has been remarkable. Hundreds of researchers from the United States, the Great Britain, Spain, Singapore and Japan conducted more than 1,600 experiments on 147 types of tissue with standardized technologies in all laboratories, with data volumes exceeding 15 trillion bytes.
The aim of the researchers was to understand what is happening with the human DNA sequence and the results overthrow the idea that in the past the human genome contained purposeless genetic material, i.e. DNA that does not contain genes. As reported in the review, genetic material that is inserted between the genes and considered “purposeless” actually includes areas associated with the expression of these genes. Indeed, it has been estimated that 20% of the genome is required to regulate the expression of genes that account for only 2% of the genome! In this 20%, researchers have identified regulatory areas that will help us understand why different cell types have different properties. For instance, why muscle cells generate strength while liver cells break food down.
The human genome encyclopedia is similar to the way Google Maps works. As with Google Maps, we select the magnification and we can see the countries, states, cities, roads, even individual crossings, likewise with ENCODE scientists can inspect chromosomes, genes, functional elements and individual nucleotides in human genome in nearly the same way.
Access to these data is free to the scientific community so that everybody can use them. They are expected to change the way researchers’ think about the very idea of the gene as a unit of heredity.