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Human Genome Project

Teacher/Instructor Patrick Roisen
Patrick Roisen

M.Ed., Stanford University
Winner of multiple teaching awards

Patrick has been teaching AP Biology for 14 years and is the winner of multiple teaching awards.

The Human Genome Project is a research project that attempted to identify every gene found in human DNA and it's sequence of base pairs. The Human Genome Project produced an incredible amount of data, much of which still needs to be processed, but all of this information is available to genetic researchers and provides insight into our genetic makeup.

Back in the year 2000 the Human Genome Research Project announced it had finally completed sequencing the entire DNA of human beings. Now that's true-ish but not quite true. Then in 2003 they announced that they had finally finished sequencing the entire genome with the complete genetic code for humans and that is mostly true. Now I keep saying it's mostly true because there was actually some parts that are not sequenced. For example in the middle of chromosomes you have a portion of the DNA called a centromere and because of the way that inside of the cell it's tightly wound et cetera it cannot currently be easily sequenced and there's other parts of the chromosome like the telomeres that are also technically extremely challenging but they did complete what they had set out to accomplish and has to create a rough map that scientists can use to help research all sorts of genetic conditions and treatments etcetera.

Now some of the interesting things that we found through the Human Genome Research Project for example is that we only have roughly 24,000 genes. Now you may be saying, only? At that time that was surprising because originally humans we'd thought we had roughly a 100,000 genes and to figure out that we these incredibly complex things are done with only 24,000 genes, that's pretty surprising of the scientists.

They also found out that maybe 1.5% of our DNA is actually used for instructions on how to build proteins. What's the other 98.5% used for? Well some it's used for coding how to build RNA like t-RNA and ribosomal RNA but there's also a lot of regulatories information in there. Then there's a lot of other stuff that some people used to call junk but now other people are saying hey, maybe that stuff is important. There's a lot of stuff that's in the human genome research projects data that we've still yet to finish mining that data. It's kind like somebody gave you a map of a town and then said hmm have fun exploring. You don't know who's in those houses. Some of the houses you open up you go nobody here, others you open up and it turns out clowns live there yeah! Other ones it turns out to be the psycho clowns the ones with chain saws hmm, so we have a lot of what we'd be doing in the mining of this information doing the exploration that is actually a whole field of science exploration called bauinformatiks.

Now yet more stuff us coming out of that is really interesting, one thing that I found fascinating there was a scientist who happened to have access to a lot of his own equipment and so he wound up doing in maybe a year or two what it took 13 odd years for the genome project to do. He sequenced his own genome and in just his DNA he found roughly 1.6 million single bases that were different than the average individual assembled through this project and that's telling you a lot of really cool informataion that we even though we look so much a like at our cellular level at our molecular level we have these intriguing little differences and sometimes one base being different can cause huge differences and so that's one of the reasons why this stuff fascinates me so much to figure out what's truly inside of us and why we are the way we are.