Achievements and Prospects
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Genome – the complete set of genetic information – determines the nature, form and activities of a living organism. Human genome, present in 23 pairs of chromosomes, consists of 3.2 billion pairs of A,T,C & G repeated over and over again in varying order. Announcement of double helical structure of DNA in 1953, cloning of first gene in 1973 and completion of the human genome sequence in June 2000 are the most outstanding landmarks of all life sciences. A race between the Human Genome Project (HGP), a publicaly funded consortium, and Celera Genomics, a private company, led to completion of human genome sequence much earlier than initially planned. Celera Genomics using a so-called shot gun sequencing strategy coupled with high speed computers using novel software went ahead of the HGP. In spite of the entire sequence known, the complete understanding of chemical structure of all the genes and how they work are decades away. Computer analysis shall be instrumental in locating all the genes within the 23 chromosomes in the human genome, which may turn out to be first step in solving all the mysteries. It will be possible to detect the genetic disorders at an early stage and to design gene therapy procedures accordingly. Pharmaceutical companies are working to create drugs tailored to a patient’s genetic profile, boosting effectiveness and drastically reducing side-effects. Current developments have led to new social, philosophical and ethical issues which shall need to be tackled wisely.
Dr. Muhammad Waheed Akhtar
Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, University of the Punjab, Quaid-e-Azam Campus, Lahore