Scientists release sequel to the human genome

New York: Nearly a decade after the Human Genome Project assembled the genome’s 3 billion chemical units, an international consortium of scientists has revealed how the components fit together into a sensible union.

“The questions we can now ask are more sophisticated and will yield better answers than the ones we were asking nine years ago,” Science News quoted Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which coordinated and funded the mammoth Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE, project.

Results from ENCODE, which involves more than 400 researchers around the globe, appeared in the Sept. 6 Nature, with more than 30 companion papers published in Science, Genome Research, Genome Biology, Cell and BMC Genetics.

When scientists announced the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, researchers could pick out genes that carry instructions for building proteins. But that information comprises less than 2 percent of the genome. Some people passed the rest of the genome off as “junk DNA”.

For the new project, ENCODE collaborators cataloged all 50,000 human genes, including about 21,000 that make proteins and nearly 30,000 that don’t. The analysis reveals that at least 80 percent of the genome serves some purpose.