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Public consortium launches final phase of human genome sequencing

The final phase of the human genome project - the international effort to decipher the three million codes that make up human genetic material - is now underway. 'The milestone marks the transition from the initial phase of generating a 'working draft' of human DNA to the fina...
The final phase of the human genome project - the international effort to decipher the three million codes that make up human genetic material - is now underway. 'The milestone marks the transition from the initial phase of generating a 'working draft' of human DNA to the final phase of producing the complete 'finished' sequence,' reports the Sanger Centre, UK.

Some 16 genome centres around the world from the USA, EU, Japan and China officially began phase two of the human genome project on 9 May.

In just 14 months, researchers have amassed data on most of the human chromosomes. The last remaining information from these centres will be sent to public databases over the next month and scientists estimate more than 10,000 DNA letters a minute will be deposited into these human genome data banks by the middle of June.

Now researchers face the task of producing a 'finished' sequence of the human genome, filling the gaps in the sequence and increasing the overall sequence accuracy to 99.99 %.

While the draft sequence, established during the first phase of the project, allows researchers to pinpoint most of the human genes, the sequence itself still contains gaps and uncertainties. Yet the working draft is nevertheless useful. By laying out the data so far, scientists have a rough map of human DNA. This will provide a permanent resource for human genetics, which can be used to study the function of genes.

'It's breathtaking to see the DNA sequences arrayed along the human chromosomes, from one end to the other,' said Dr Robert Waterston, Director of the genome sequencing centre at Washington University in St Louis, Missouri. 'The individual contributions have fallen together to yield a global picture. We can now turn to plugging the remaining holes'

'The progress in human DNA sequencing has been stunning,' said Dr Eric S Lander, Director of the Whitehead institute centre for genome research in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Advances in automation, informatics and organisation at the various centres have combined to help speed the pace of the project, he added.

The 'working draft' of the human DNA sequence is freely available to scientists across the world. Researchers from industry, academia and commercial database companies who provide information services to biotechnologists scan the information daily.
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