In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick established the structural components of human Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA); the instructions code for every living thing on earth (Jain, 2009). Later after a period of 50 years, humankind had developed and advanced in technology, computing capability and the financial status to record one complete human DNA sequence composing of some 3 billion letters of genetic code (Palladino, 2002).
Human Genome Project
Human Genome Project was an international exercise conducted by scientists, which involved three stages. First was the identification of the 20,000-25,000 genes in the Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of a human, then sequencing the 3 billion chemical base pairs found in the DNA of a human being and later keeping this information in databases (Palladino, 2002). The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Energy funded the project and it was anticipated that the project would take 15 years (up to 2005) but because of technological advances, the timeframe became short.
The work of Human Genome Project has enabled researchers to begin to understand the blueprint for building a human being (Ginsburg, & Willard, 2013). It is clear that as the researchers learn more about the role of genes and proteins, this knowledge will have a major impact in the field of medicine, life sciences and biotechnology.
It incorporated research facilities in various countries like Japan, Germany, France, United Kingdom and United States. It also involved private companies. Its goals were to identify about 20000-25000 genes in human DNA (Hodge, 2010). In addition, it aimed to develop the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make a human DNA. Besides, HGP was designed to store these findings in a database, improve tools for analysis of scientific data and make it widely available (Palladino, 2002). Finally, it aimed to mitigate the legal, ethical and social issues that may arise because of the project (Toriello, 2003). As a result, it will produce a relatively accurate reference sequence of human genome.
Importance in Evolution of Bioinformatics
Human Genome Project is an important part of the evolution of bioinformatics because the project has been incorporated practically rather than being just a pure research program during its initiation (Hodge, 2010). The genetic sequences, which the project has recorded, play an important role in identifying the relationship between human genetics and diseases. When the causes of these diseases related to human genetics are established (Palladino, 2002). It also forms a basis in which genes with defects may be rectified and thus disease cured.
It will help us know why some of people are at risk getting some diseases and why others are not. Therefore, new medicines and therapies can be developed to get rid of some diseases. It also helps detect diseases that are inherited from one generation to the other (Toriello, 2003).
Ethical and Legal Issues in Human Genome Project
The Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) program was founded in the year 1990 as an integral part of the Human Genome Project. The mission of the ELSI program was to pin point and address legal and ethical issues raised by the genomic research that would have effects on individuals, families and to the society (Best, & Swensen, 2012). The program focused on the possible outcomes of the genomic research in four main fields; privacy and fairness in the use of genetic information, which includes the potential for genetic discrimination in place of employment and insurance cover (Palladino, 2002). Another concern was the incorporation of new genetic technologies like gene testing and/or gene therapy into the practice of clinical medicine.
Furthermore, another ethical issue was that surrounding the design and conduct of genetic research with individuals, including the process of informed consent. Further, the education of healthcare professionals, students, and the public about genetics and the complex issues that rose from genomic project was another issue (Toriello, 2003). The legal and ethical issue I select from the HGP website for further discussion is potentiality of gene therapy to occur (Jain, 2009). This is