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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Human genome project is 25!: 11/30/2015

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Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

The human genome project changed how science is conducted in addition to providing a fresh understanding of human disease, note three of the project's pioneers in a recent commentary within Nature.

Eric Green, James Watson, and Francis Collins write while the result of the human genome project was to sequence all three billion base pairs of the human genome for the first time, the initiative's serendipitous byproduct changed how scientists collaborate.

The authors (who are the Director of the U.S. National Genome Research Institute, chancellor emeritus of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and director of the National Institutes of Health respectively) write (and we quote): 'none of us foresaw that a major legacy of the HGP (human genome project) would be a new way of doing science' (end of quote).

The authors explain in order for the 13 year quest to sequence the human genome project to succeed, the more than 2000 participating researchers from around the world needed to collaborate at an unprecedented level. They write (and we quote): 'by necessity, the HGP broke the mould of individual researchers toiling away in isolation to answer a small set of scientific questions' (end of quote).

The authors add the project's scientific participants soon found the crux of their work was to discover foundational information (and we quote): 'that would inform many follow-on investigations' (end of quote) instead of concentrating on hypothesis-driven approaches to research.

The authors also find once a collaborative approach was established, the human genome sequencing project changed how biomedical researchers share information.

The authors write (and we quote): 'Once large amounts of genome mapping and sequence data began to be generated, momentum quickly grew for establishing policies that shortened the time between the generation and release of data' (end of quote).

The sharing of data brought new and persistent international challenges, such as using computers to analyze and move vast data sets. The authors add (and we quote): 'and in the case of human data (especially genomic and clinical), the problem of how to protect the privacy of research participants' (end of quote).

The authors explain the founders of the human genome project additionally recognized that the information gleaned from mapping and sequencing the human genome had important social implications. They write (and we quote): 'The HGP thus became the first large-scale research project to include a component dedicated to examining broader societal issues, such as how to protect people's privacy and prevent discrimination' (end of quote).

In discussing the project's challenges, the authors acknowledge they should have paid more attention to the capacity among the initiative's global collaborators to analyze the vast data they generated.

The authors continue the success and lessons learned from the human genome project continues to influence contemporary big science projects, such as the U.S. Precision Medicine Initiative (which among other things, plans to assess interactions among the genetic, medical history, and related health information of one million volunteers).

The authors conclude (and we quote): 'The story of the HGP provides a valuable reminder that some advances will almost certainly trigger fundamental changes in the way that research is done — as well as a reminder of the importance of accepting and celebrating these changes' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, MedlinePlus.gov's genes and gene therapy health topic page helps you follow progress as scientists and physicians learn more about the genetic underpinnings of health as well as the pioneering efforts to clinically intervene via gene therapy.

MedlinePlus.gov's genes and gene therapy health topic page provides links to the latest pertinent journal research articles, which are available in the 'journal articles' section. Links to clinical trials that may be occurring in your area are available in the 'clinical trials' section. You also can sign up to receive updates about genes and gene therapy as they become available on MedlinePlus.gov.

MedlinePlus.gov's genes and gene therapy heath topic page also provides frequent links to Genetics Home Reference, a comprehensive web service NLM created to explain the human genome project and the clinical revolution it spawned. You can find Genetics Home Reference by typing 'Genetics Home Reference' in any search engine, such as Google, Bing, or Yahoo.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's genes and gene therapy health topic page, please type 'genes and gene therapy' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page. Then, click on 'genes and gene therapy (National Library of Medicine).'

And let's hope the next quarter century is as productive as the human genome project's first 25 years.

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It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!