The Human Genome Project: The Future of Medicine

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The Human Genome Project: The Future of Medicine In the last half century, medicine has been rapidly progressing, finding cures for many diseases, developing new surgical techniques, developing vaccines, and generally improving the overall health and life expectancy of the average person. Instead of living to their forties, it is commonplace for people to live to seventy five and beyond. Medical research is constantly searching for ways to make people healthier and to keep them that way. New cancer and AIDS research comprises a huge portion of modern day medicine. However, the discoveries and breakthroughs that such projects have produced have been few and far between. According to many, we are no closer to finding an actual cure for either ailment than we were ten years ago. However, all is not lost. There is a way in which we can begin to regain some of the medical stride which we have lost. The way to do this is not by scouring the rainforests to try to make exotic drugs, nor is it new chemotherapy techniques or radiation treatments. This new way is based in our cells themselves, in understanding how we work, and knowing what our biological determinants are. To understand how our immune system fights disease, we must first understand what causes it. We must know our predisposition to certain kinds of ailments. We must know our genes. Knowing our genes is the fundamental concept behind the most exciting scientific endeavor of the past decade, the Human Genome Project. This project’s goal is to complete a comprehensive map of the human genome by the year 2003, one which illustrates the precise locations of every single gene in all twenty-three pairs of human chromosomes, along with the functions of these genes. The term gene is defined as being "one of many discrete units of hereditary information located on the chromosomes and consisting of DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid)." (Campbell, G-9) All these units put together comprise the genome. Many ailments that we suffer from are products of flawed genes. Cystic Fibrosis is the result of one such flaw. In 1989, biologists isolated the gene which causes this incurable ailment, and we have progressed very far in our search for a cure. Other ailments whose genetic causes have been isolated include breast cancer (Waldholz, B6), Alzheimer’s (OMIM Entry 104311), Tay Sachs (JUF News, 45), and Huntington’s (Brownlee, 580), as well as Diabetes (Maugh, 8), and many, many more.
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