Prather Pediatric and Allergy Center - Ask Doctor Brent

Printer Friendly Version

Title: The Human Genome Project and the Year 2000

Category: Access To Children's Health Care


The United States, through the National Institute of Health and several medical centers across our country, has set a goal of sequencing all of the 50,000 plus genes important in human disease. The goal is identifying, localizing and sequencing these genes by the year 2,000. Realistically the job may take a little longer, perhaps till 2,005 or 2,010. Why spend so much money and set such a difficult long term goal? The reason can easily be answered by any person who's family has been touched by a genetically treatable or untreatable disease such as muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis, Morphan's syndrome or Tay Sachs disease.

By identifying the gene defect which causes these diseases as well as thousands of other genetic diseases, we will be much closer to understanding and hopefully developing an effective cure for these diseases. Also we will be able to diagnose the diseases quicker and easier. This will help families cope better by knowing what to expect. No matter how horrible a disease you may have, the better you understand it, the more skills you have to cope with it.

Besides genetic diseases, which will be more easily diagnosed and treated through the results of this search, several cancers which occur more in genetically-inclined individuals will be able to be identified. This will allow treating and diagnosing them at a much earlier stage and increasing the chances of a cure. The prime example of this is breast cancer which in at least some of the cases is thought to be due to an abnormal gene. This leads to early onset of breast cancer and a much higher risk in such individuals. Other deadly cancers such as lung cancer, bowel cancer and prostate cancer may possibly be linked to genetic abnormalities as well. This may in the long run lead to cures for most of the major cancer cases we see in medicine today.

If you believe in the merits of the human genome project, please encourage your congressman to continue support for it. Also remember all the many patients who suffer with genetic disease in your prayers and give them all the moral support you can. Hopefully, in our children's generation, many of the diseases we face today will be history.