Molecular Biology
Genes are fun!
Volume 2 March 2014 (Index)

As was stated in last month’s newsletter, we now know roughly how many genes you and l have; around 22,000. This number is much lower than was originally thought 45 years ago when scientist Friedrich Vogel estimated the number to be in the millions. Why should you care? The ongoing curiosity about what makes us who we are and what controls our characteristics and disease processes resulted in the much publicized Human Genome Project (HGP). Up to that point, scientists had been sequencing the genetic codes of lower living things such as the fruit fly, the worm, baker’s yeast, fish, mice and other smaller organisms.

The HGP was initiated to identify all the genes in our genetic code. The first rough draft was completed in February 2001. Since that historic event, more detailed drafts have been published periodically. The importance of having this knowledge is that it opens the door to learning which genes are associated with which diseases, among other useful facts.

Here is one example of the trickle down knowledge from the HGP:

There was a guy in England who was suffering an embarrassing condition…he was giving off a very fishy odor. Scientists looked through his genes and identified the guilty gene causing his problem. It turned out that he had a gene that had mutated (been changed) in a way that it could not get rid of the chemical causing the smell! This mutation or change can be inherited but is very rare.

Some individuals have taken HGP to the extreme. J.Craig Venter, owner of the Venter Institute in Maryland, spent 13 years sequencing HIS OWN genome at a cost of $3 billion!!! What did he learn from it? He now knows 96% of his own genes, including the genes for heart disease, blindness, and even Alzheimer's disease!