Differences in human DNA find tops Science magazines Breakthrough of the Year list

December 24th, 2007 - 1:00 pm ICT by admin  

Sydney, December 24 (ANI): A genetic study that revealed small differences in the DNA, which provide individuals their personal traits and reveal how they vary from others in terms of disease vulnerability, has been named the breakthrough of the year by Science magazine.

“For years we have been hearing about how similar people are to one another and even to other apes,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Robert Coonz, a senior editor at Science, as saying.

“In 2007 advances on several fronts drove home for the first time how much DNA differs from person to person too. It’s a huge conceptual leap that will affect everything from how doctors treat diseases to how we see ourselves and protect our privacy,” he added.

The study revealed more than 50 genes linked to increased risk for various diseases like colorectal cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, bipolar disorder, heart disease, and diabetes.

Australian researchers involved in the study analysed the DNA of almost 50,000 women across the world. Ten per cent of the women subjects were of Australian origin.

Graham Giles, the director of the Cancer Epidemiology Centre at the Cancer Council Victoria, said that the study revealed genetic faults that raised the susceptibility to breast cancer by only a small amount.

But since such faults are very common, he added, they might cause more cancer than the high-risk breast cancer genes.

“One was also associated with a protective effect,” he said.

Professor Giles further said that the identification of the genetic differences could pave the way for personalised treatments for individuals on the basis of their susceptibility to diseases, and help identify the best lifestyle changes they that a person should make.

Other breakthroughs in the top 10 list included:

An ethically uncontentious way to produce human embryonic stem cells from skin cells without having to create or destroy any embryos.

The finding that cosmic rays, tiny particles that strike the Earth’s atmosphere at extremely high energies, appear to come from near enormous black holes in the middle of galaxies within 250 million light years of our planet.

A computer program showing that a draw in draughts was inevitable if neither player made a mistake.

The finding that memory of past events and imagination about the future are intimately linked, and that a part of the brain called the hippocampus plays a role in both.

The finding that a new class of materials is shaping up to be as important as silicon, showing that transition metal oxides produce a wide range of electrical and magnetic properties when grown together in layers. (ANI)

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