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The human genome unlocked

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© University of Exeter

One of the most exciting developments in biology and medicine is happening at a rapid pace right now. Genome scientists and their industrial partners are developing the technology and tools to read the full 3000 million letters of the human genome in a few hours for a few hundred dollars. Undoubtedly during the course of the next 5-10 years scientists and doctors will be able to read an individual person’s entire genome in the same way that they might perform a blood test for their cholesterol levels. This rate of progress is unprecedented and compares to the situation just ten years ago when it cost $100 million dollars to sequence just one version of the human genome.

But this development merely represents the end of the beginning for human genome research. The research scientists of the future will have a remarkable tool box to play with and many questions to answer. Why do some people live healthy disease-free lives well into their 90’s or beyond whilst others die suddenly of heart disease in their 50’s? Why do some of us put on weight quicker than others in today’s obesogenic environment? How can scientists help doctors personalise their patients’ medical care and reduce healthcare costs at the same time? What are the key factors that allowed human beings to evolve the unique skill of language and extreme intelligence compared to the rest of the animal kingdom? The answers to these questions lie, in part, in our genetic make-up. And yet it is only now that we are developing the full set of tools to unlock the secrets of the human genome and all its variation.

© University of Exeter
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