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The Human Genome Project

Watch Chiara provide an overview of The Human Genome Project, discuss its impact on biomedical science and what it means for nutrition science.
CHIARA MURGIA: The Human Genome Project is a tool that revolutionized our understanding of the complexity of human genetics. It is the idea of sequencing, letter by letter, your human DNA. That’s a big task. And when it was thought about the possibility of even doing that in the ’80s, the technology was not quite up to speed to do the task. So it was launched as an international collaboration project in 1990. And it’s probably the biggest international collaboration project that was achieved by international– by the scientific community. And it took 11 years to have the first draft of the human DNA sequence.
And to have a final draft, it took another couple of years, so it was published in 2003 and was made available in the internet. That’s another big change in the way biomedical scientists cooperated. Before, everyone was keeping the results for themselves. Now this information is public on the internet, and every person that works in the field can use it. And that made a big, huge impact in pretty much every branch of biomedical research. With the completion of the Human Genome Project, we now have acquired the complete list of building blocks necessary to put together a functional human being. But we’re still learning how to assemble these parts and also trying to understand how they work together.
It’s like having the list of parts of a space rocket, a very complex object, that having the list of its parts might be a good starting point. But very few people would be able to put together the rocket from the list of its components. More than 99% percent of DNA sequence between any two human individuals is identical. So the only part that varies is less than 1%. But this part is very important. It’s the part that makes us individuals. It makes you have blue eyes and me have brown eyes, but also impacts the way we are predisposed to acquire diseases. And also, we know now that it impacts the way we respond to diet.
And that’s what is really interesting in the nutrition field. We know now that no every two individuals have the same requirements. And that’s because there are differences in terms of gene variations. Another level of complexity is added by the regulation of the genome activity– biochemical modification of DNA. This is, in part, regulated by the environment, including our diet. We call this level of regulation epigenetics. It’s also important to keep in mind that genetic information is just one piece of the puzzle of an individual when it comes to health. Lifestyle and environmental factors, such as diet and pollution exposure, are essential to consider as well.

Watch Chiara provide an overview of the Human Genome Project, discuss its impact on biomedical science and what it means for nutrition science.

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Food as Medicine

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