In the year 2003, scientists completed a very difficult exercise. A project that would make your leaf collection from grade three look almost unimportant. They completed the Human Genome Project. The HGP is considered one to the greatest accomplishments of our time. Learning about the human DNA, its 25,000 genes, and the sequencing of our over 3 billion chemical base pairs, was not easy task. Only laymen who own a magnifying glass to burn the wings off of pesky flies can truly understand the intricacy of this accomplishment.
The Human Genome Project was a 13-year project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institute of Health. It completed its initial mission in 2003. The initial purpose or goals were to:
- identify all the approximately 20,000-25,000 genes in human DNA,
- determine the sequences of the 3 billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA,
- store this information in databases,
- improve tools for data analysis,
- transfer related technologies to the private sector, and address the ethical, legal, and social issues (ELSI) that may arise from the project.
All genes together are known as genome. The plural of blue jeans is blue jeans. They did not colour the genes as markers in this project as the genetic coders feared the blue genes would fade over time. Designer jeans preceded the designer gene world by decades.
Charts like the one below, are not really going to help the average family when they are struggling to identify why their children won’t make their beds.
|Method||Read length||Accuracy (single read not consensus)||Reads per run||Time per run||Cost per 1 million bases (in US$)||Advantages||Disadvantages|
|Single-molecule real-time sequencing (Pacific Biosciences)||10,000 bp to 15,000 bp avg (14,000 bp N50); maximum read length >40,000 bases||87% single-read accuracy||50,000 per SMRT cell, or 500–1000 megabases||30 minutes to 4 hours||$0.13–$0.60||Longest read length. Fast. Detects 4mC, 5mC, 6mA.||Moderate throughput. Equipment can be very expensive.|
|Ion semiconductor (Ion Torrent sequencing)||up to 400 bp||98%||up to 80 million||2 hours||$1||Less expensive equipment. Fast.||Homopolymer errors.|
|Pyrosequencing (454)||700 bp||99.9%||1 million||24 hours||$10||Long read size. Fast.||Runs are expensive. Homopolymer errors.|
|Sequencing by synthesis (Illumina)||MiniSeq, NextSeq: 75-300 bp; MiSeq: 50-600 bp; HiSeq 2500: 50-500 bp; HiSeq 3/4000: 50-300 bp; HiSeq X: 300 bp||99.9% (Phred30)||MiniSeq/MiSeq: 1-25 Million; NextSeq: 130-00 Million, HiSeq 2500: 300 million – 2 billion, HiSeq 3/4000 2.5 billion, HiSeq X: 3 billion||1 to 11 days, depending upon sequencer and specified read length||$0.05 to $0.15|
In an attempt to make this discovery remotely relevant to Arts majors, I have taken a bold step. After reviewing the 50 years of research I meticulously tried to apply this knowledge to my own family’s DNA. It became very clear that the HGP did not go far enough to help with my genetic future. In the spirit of reverse engineering, I thought I would share the dominant genes of my family and let the scientists decode them with all their scientific language, using those small letters and numbers to ultimately improve the potential of my offspring.
The Ford Family Dominant Genes:
The Adele Gene: This gene seems to inhabit only the female DNA of my family. We must extract this and embed into the males to ensure all genders are exposed to it’s wonder.
The Paranoid Gene: This one has been exposed lately with the upcoming elections. Family members default to ultimate worse case scenarios to demonstrate the strength of this strand of DNA. If you wonder if you possess this defective gene it is easy to detect. When you watch football games, and the team goes into a huddle and you tend to think they are talking about you, this gene might be dominating your system.
The Second Helping Gene: When you attend family get togethers and you run out of food, this DNA strand is an intricate part of your genetic coding.
The Remote Control Gene: Without getting into a detailed discussion about chromosomes, this seems to be the opposite of the Adele Gene where male dominance rules the day, unless the remote is lost in the cushions. Female genes take over during the hunt.
The Guilt Gene: This gene tends to be dormant in most families. It was activated during my first day in Grade 1 at Saint Michael’s Catholic School.
The Sarcasm Gene: Like I have the time to research this one!
The Good Golfing Gene: We understand that every human has this gene. My family and friends would disagree.
The Jeannie Gene: I only add this curious one as I was a huge fan of those binary TV shows, I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched. My wife does not possess this gene, though she can be bewitching at times. Any gene that allows others to make your wishes come true should be carefully monitored. Derwood would agree.
The Balding Gene \ The Hairy Gene: This is the most complicated gene as it is two opposing forces inhabiting the same area… kind of like when your mother in law moves into your house.
The I’m Right \ You’re Wrong Gene: As annoying as this gene is, my family only tends to use this one when they are speaking. My fear is once the scientists isolate this important gene, they will argue for years about who truly got this one right.
The Road Rage Gene: Note to the Genome Project people: Don’t worry about this one if you are currently working on the “Move Over” gene.
The Starbucks Gene: Sadly this strand of DNA may never be solved. When I hear people order coffees in this environment, it is like they are reciting the Genome codes. “I’ll have a decaf, ion semiconductor, mocha with 50,000 per millionths of cream.”
The Cell Phone Kiosk Gene: This may not be the most dominant gene in your body, but it is in most malls.
The Pineapple on Pizza Gene: Fortunately my family has been blessed with only 50% of its members showing early signs of this mutant gene.
The Bad Blog Writing Gene: I am having this one surgically removed tomorrow morning, and having it replaced with the handy man gene. My wife is paying for the operation.
The “I Don’t Give a #@#$” Gene: Of all the genes discovered during the project, this is the one people can only acquire with experience and wisdom. The “Admiring Gene” is prevalent in those who can only dream of one day reaching this state of genetic superiority.
Which leads me to a little soundtrack for today’s genetic discussion.
Cue the Blong: I Don’t Give A…