The Human Genome Project is an initiative of the international scientific community to completely decipher the genetic information of human beings. In this article we are going to tell you what it is about and its implications for health.
The human genome project began in 1990. It had an initial perspective of fifteen years, but before that, the information that was sought could be completed. In 2003 the group of researchers in charge declared that they had completely deciphered human genetic information.
The initiative could be classified as the largest investigation in history. The budget available and the number of different countries involved make it a unique historical event.
Through the formation of an international public consortium between the United States, Japan, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and other countries, the investigative lines were drawn. The initial budget base was $ 3 billion.
Along with the initiative and the scientific knowledge involved, the human genome project was made possible by the development of bioinformatics. Thanks to advances in the treatment of biological information through computers capable of assembling millions of data from DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), it was possible to come to fruition.
In summary, the human genome project aimed to:
- Identify all of the genes that make up human DNA.
- Save all the information obtained.
- Develop forms and techniques for analyzing DNA data.
- Establish the legal and ethical scope of the use of genetic information.
Repercussions of the human genome project.
Obtaining all the genetic information of our species represents very great repercussions for humanity, both scientifically and ethically. And we cannot underestimate the legal repercussions of possessing such information.
In scientific terms, the information in DNA is invaluable. The door is opened for the cure of diseases that were previously impossible to treat. There is even a space to think about prevention in genetic terms, acting before the onset of the disease.
From the ethical point of view, the question of genetic manipulation arises. If the human species knows all of its DNA information, then it is capable of modifying itself through artificial processes. The limits of the natural and the provoked are erased. It is a powerful knowledge to be used well and badly.
Finally, from the legal point of view, the legislative repercussion is interesting. Laws that regulate the use of information from the human genome project must be enacted. The DNA of each human being can be a reason for discrimination, since it is possible to know in advance who will have disabilities or alterations in the not too distant future.
Medical applications of the human genome project.
The human genome project is shocking news for the medical world. The possibilities of influencing situations that were previously a mystery are fabulous. We will discuss the most relevant lines of application so far:
- Cancer: With the knowledge of DNA it is possible to decipher the mechanisms that unleash the uncontrolled growth of neoplastic cells. The branch known as genetic engineering would be able to repair faulty genes to prevent disease.
- Prenatal: One of the great applications of the human genome project is fetal analysis in pregnancy. It will be possible to know, before birth, the entire genetic makeup of a baby, even predicting what diseases it will develop.
- Adverse drug effects: With information from human DNA it would be possible to test drugs virtually, prior to launch and use in humans, to detect possible adverse effects. This would allow drugs to be refined and improved before they are available on the market.
- Daily clinic: There is also an application for this information in the office. With the patient’s DNA in hand, doctors could establish the tendencies that the person has to become ill in the short or medium term. Action plans could be drawn up to reduce or avoid widespread pathologies such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
- Rare diseases: The complex list of low-incidence pathologies, that is, they affect very few people, benefit from genetic information. Most of these diseases are related to DNA alterations. They could be prevented or specifically treated.
Various authors have warned since the beginning of the human genome project that it is a double-edged sword. It is both a marvel of scientific advancement and a bridge to evil individual and corporate practices.
Only in the United States has a large part of the project’s budget been dedicated to financing scientific studies on the ethical problems surrounding human genetics. We can intuit, then, that the concern exists.
Knowing the totality of the genetic information of the human species and developing techniques for manipulation could establish a normality. That is to say, it could tend to define which human is normal according to the genetics and which human is not, even with the risk of declaring it a non-human.
Insurance companies could also access that information to deny coverage to a person who is genetically at higher risk of future illness. Or a job could be denied following the same logic. Even denying access to education on the premise that genetically such a child or youth will not be fit.
We are facing a new era that has inaugurated the world of genetics. Like all scientific advances before and now, clear rules are needed for its handling and a dose of humanity. The human genome project cannot become a business but, on the contrary, an opportunity to become more human.