An international team has tracked a million DNA variations in volunteers around the world, as part of an effort to map the diversity of &to=http://english.pravda.ru/world/2001/02/13/2490.html' target=_blank>human genes. Experts say the growing catalogue, called the HapMap, will help to pinpoint genetic causes of disease and develop more effective treatments.
"It's a major leap for genetic research," says Tom Hudson of McGill University in Montreal, who led the Canadian contribution to the HapMap, informs Nature.com
According to London Free Press, the "HapMap," so-called because it details DNA variations known as haplotypes, will allow scientists to study every region of the human genome by keying in on specific areas of chromosomes where these differences are now known to exist, lead researchers for the project said in announcing their achievement yesterday.
"It's a big turning point in the field of human genetics and understanding risk factors to disease," said Dr. Tom Hudson, director and one of the lead researchers of the project at McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre in Montreal.
"It's like putting someone out in space for the first time," Hudson said from Salt Lake City, Utah, where yesterday's announcement was made. "It's not yet to the moon or to another planet, but it is a major milestone."
Humans worldwide share 99.9% of their genetic blueprint. It is that 0.1% difference that makes each of us unique and that is the root of the genetic mischief that causes diseases such as diabetes, asthma, hypertension, cancer and a host of others.
Teams in Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom have begun screening the haplotypes of individuals with a variety of diseases, comparing them to healthy control groups to identify genetic susceptibility; not only to chronic diseases such as hypertension and bipolar disorder, but also to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria.
"We will see an outpouring of discovery in the next two to three years," said Dr. Francis S. Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute.