Company Finishes Sequence of One Person's Genes
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Celera Genomics said on Thursday it had finished the
first step of sequencing -- making a kind of map -- the genes of one person
and was starting to put the pieces together.
The U.S. company aims to be the first to have a complete sequence of the
human genome, which is the collection of all the genes and other genetic
material that are the basic blueprint of life.
Celera plans to use the genes of five different people, who will remain
anonymous, to make up a final human genome sequence. It will copy this
sequence several times over to make sure it is correct.
It started working on the human genome in September, using a method called
whole genome shotgun sequencing. This is a different method from that used
by a public alliance of researchers, called the Human Genome Project, which
is also working to sequence the human genome.
``Now that we have completed the sequencing of one human being's genome we
will turn our computational power to the task of ordering the human
genome,'' Craig Venter, the company's president and chief scientific
officer, said in a statement.
``This is expected to allow researchers worldwide and our subscribers to
utilize our data to make important medical advances.''
Celera has been accused of failing to keep its promise to make the human
genome information widely available. But Celera has said it will provide
this information. Venter is set to testify before the U.S. Congress Thursday
The sequence is only a very early first step to understanding the human
genome. It does not tell scientists what the genes do -- it just gives the
order of the nucleotides, which are the molecules that make up the twisted
double helix of DNA.
What Celera has done is take the genes and break them apart into two
different lengths. It uses standard genetic technology to read out the
nucleotides -- known by the initials A, C, T and G. These four nucleotides
repeat over and over again in varying patterns, and these patterns make up
the genetic code.
What Celera has now is what has been described as a big pile of jigsaw
puzzle pieces. It will now use its powerful computers to read the A, C, T
and G code and put together the pieces.
One person's genes are not considered enough to tell scientists about the
human genome. Celera plans to use five people, all of whom will remain
Mark Adams, vice president for genome programs at Celera, said they were
chosen for their diversity. ``They are not five white guys,'' he said in a
The Human Genome Project, in contrast, is using a ``mosaic'' of about 10
different donors. Most of the sequence will come from one person's genes.
He, too, will remain anonymous.
Scientists then hope to compare various people's different genes to one
another to find the tiny changes in the code that make one person different
Celera just last month published the genome of the most complex animal yet
sequenced, the common fruit fly. Other scientists, who had cast doubts on
the company's methods, have praised the work.
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