A new international research collaboration has recently announced an ambitious project: mapping the complete genomes of 1,000 individuals from different parts of the world. The new map of the human genome will contain the most detailed data yet on DNA variations, increasing our understanding of genetic roots and diseases.
Credit: Jane Ades, NHGRI
The researchers hope that new technology and the results of the project will help them cut the cost of DNA sequencing to one-tenth of what it currently costs.
Even the most unrelated humans share at least 99% of their DNA. The main goal of the 1,000 Genome Project is to investigate that 1% of DNA that varies from person to person, and is often responsible for people's different reactions to treatments and disease susceptibility.
Some of the ethnic groups that the researchers will study include Yoruba in Ibadan, Nigeria; Chinese in Denver, Colorado; Chinese in Beijing; Toscani in Italy; Gujarati Indians in Houston, Texas; Mexicans in Los Angeles; and African descendants in the US southwest. Individuals will give their permission to have their DNA collected, and their samples will be stripped of personal information to preserve anonymity.
Because of the DNA detail that the scientists will examine, the scale of the project is much larger than any previous genetics project. "When up and running at full speed, this project will generate more sequences in two days than was added to public databases of all of the past year," said collaborator Gil McVean of the University of Oxford in England.
While the collaboration consists of three major organizations - England's Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), and China's Beijing Genomics Institute-Shenzhen - the data will be stored on databases that will be made freely accessible for scientists worldwide to analyze.
While genetics researchers have already mapped several regions of variations in the human genome (called "haplotypes") that are associated with common diseases, the 1,000 Genomes Project will provide much more detail into the genetic factors of disease. Currently, scientists know of genetic variations that are found in 10% or more of a population. The new study, along with new sequencing technologies and computational methods, will hopefully give researchers a map of variation down to the 1% level.
Ultimately, the 1,000 Genomes Project will help people understand their biological heritage, and live longer, healthier lives.