Sunday, June 13, 2010

Human genome's promise, complex information to review

The story by Nicholas Wade in the NYT on the human genome research status is, no doubt, food for thought. With all the excitement that surrounded the mapping of the genome, it is now a challenge to take all of the information that can be obtained and make sense of it. If you want a snapshot of how complex information gathering and assessment has gotten, read the Wikipedia entry on bioinformatics.

"Ten years after President Bill Clinton announced that the first draft of the human genome was complete, medicine has yet to see any large part of the promised benefits. For biologists, the genome has yielded one insightful surprise after another. But the primary goal of the $3 billion Human Genome Project — to ferret out the genetic roots of common diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s and then generate treatments — remains largely elusive. Indeed, after 10 years of effort, geneticists are almost back to square one in knowing where to look for the roots of common disease."

Wade writes: "As more people have their entire genomes decoded, the roots of genetic disease may eventually be understood, but at this point there is no guarantee that treatments will follow. If each common disease is caused by a host of rare genetic variants, it may not be susceptible to drugs."

Watch for part two in the NYT on the work of drug companies in this area.