Beijing researchers sequence first Asian genome

November 14th, 2007 - 2:10 am ICT by admin  
The announcement attains significance as Han Chinese represent 92 per cent of China’s population, and are the largest ethnic group in the world.

“Everyone will get their own genome sequenced in the near future, for better health care. We are very excited because this accomplishment got us closer to that goal,” Nature magazine quoted a scientist from the Beijing Genomics Institute as saying in a press release.

Normally, humans share most of their genome with one another. However, slight genetic differences may correspond to variation in their susceptibility to diseases and responses to therapeutics.

The researchers believe that people in the same ethnic groups can share genetic characteristics that may be useful for targeting future drug treatments.

“We certainly know there is a lot of genetic variation, and it is not distributed uniformly around the world,” says Kenneth Kidd, a population geneticist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, who is one of the founders of the Human Genome Diversity Project.

The researchers have yet not released the technical details of their research.

Earlier this year, biologists Craig Venter and James Watson’s personal genomes were sequenced.

“We’re seeing three genomes sequenced this year. It’s a very important step,” says Thomas Hudson, a geneticist at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research in Toronto, who led the effort to generate a gene map of the human genome at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and visited the Beijing Genomics Institute in 2005 as part of a collaboration on the International HapMap Project.

He said that more of announcement regarding genome sequencing may be made in future, as the cost of the procedure has decreased tremendously in the past year.

Hudson revealed that the Human Genome Project, which was completed four years ago, cost 3 billion dollars over 13 years, while James Watson’s genome was completed in June in just two months for less than 1 million dollars.

“That 1,000 dollars genome which people have been talking about, we’re getting there,” says Hudson.

The Beijing group is planning to sequence more individuals in the Asian population so that they can begin to correlate genetic variation with underlying disease.

Hudson sees their move as a step in the right direction.

“To really understand the spectrum of variation, we’re going to need thousands of sequences, not one or two per population,” he said. (ANI)

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