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What was the Human Genome Project for?

The Human Genome Project, which began officially in 1990, was the largest international collaboration ever undertaken in biology and involved thousands of scientists. 

The [Human Genome] project was hugely significant to biology and has influenced biological research ever since.

Researchers worked together at institutes around the world, including the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, to read and record the entire sequence of the human genome.  The project was hugely significant to biology and has influenced biological research ever since.

The main tasks of the Human Genome Project were to read and record the genetic instructions contained within the human genome and provide that information to researchers worldwide freely and without restriction. They also aimed to sequence the genomes of several other organisms important to medical research, such as the mouse, fruit fly and nematode worm, C. elegans. They did this using the most up-to-date DNA sequencing methods available at that time.

The Human Genome Project also aimed to sequence the genomes of the mouse, fruit fly and nematode worm, C. elegans.

However, the project was not only about sequencing. It also had a number of other important scientific and social implications. For example, the project was about encouraging more international collaboration between scientists and facilitating the distribution of research data. Those involved in the project also had a responsibility to encourage public debate and provide important information to the public about the ethical, social and legal implications of looking inside the human genome. Those involved were committed to exploring the consequences of genomic research through its Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) programme.

The Human Genome Organisation (HUGO), an international organisation of scientists involved in genetics, was responsible for gathering and distributing information on human genome-related projects. They also offered their expert advice to agencies, both governmental and non-governmental, on supporting human genome research. 

 

The Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) is an international collaboration of scientists involved in genetics.
Image credit: www.hugo-international.org

The Human Genome Project also sought to develop new tools to obtain and analyse genomic data to be used beyond the project to help benefit many areas of biology.

We now know so much more about how we function and how diseases develop.

The sequenced human genome is now a crucial reference for all of human biological research. It is a template against which all human genomes are compared. Since the full human genome sequence became available to the scientific community, progress of research into human health and disease has accelerated dramatically. We now know so much more about how we function, how diseases develop and how we can apply this knowledge to improve diagnosis and treatment. However, it has also led to many more biological questions for scientists to tackle as well as social and ethical issues for us all to consider. 

This page was last updated on 2016-06-13