The Human Genome

In the years since Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, biologists have achieved a milestone in applying this knowledge to human biology. The entire gene sequence of the human genome, the complete genetic content, is now known. Biologists have deciphered the order of the 3.2 billion base pairs in the 23 human chromosomes. The human genome is so large that it would take a person almost 10 years to read the total sequence aloud.

The challenge now is to learn what information the DNA sequences actually encode. An important new field called bioinfor-matics uses computers to compare different DNA sequences. Scientists can program computers to help interpret most DNA sequences and predict where genes lie along the DNA.

To learn where and when human cells use each of the proteins coded for in the approximately 30,000 genes in the human genome will take much more analysis. This information is important because learning which gene sequences control particular biological functions may help diagnose, treat, and prevent genetic disorders, cancer, and infectious diseases in the future.

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