Scientists at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have started the “1,000 Genomes Project” in which they will decode the genomes of 1,000 people from all over the world in hopes of finding genetic roots of both rare and common diseases worldwide. On October 31st, the results of DNA variations on people from 14 different ethnic groups were published, but the scientists hope for the project to expand to involve 2,500 people from 26 different world populations. According to Doctor Elaine Mardis, co-director of the Genome Institution at Washington University, “[scientists] estimate that each person carries up to several hundred rare DNA variants that could potentially contribute to disease. Now, scientists can investigate how detrimental particular rare variants are in different ethnic groups.”
We are One
Everyone on earth share 99% of the same DNA. That means you, your best friend, your mortal enemy, your boyfriend/girlfriend, next door neighbor, and The President of the United States all share 99% of your DNA. However, there are rare variants that occur with a frequency of less than 1% in a population that are thought to contribute to both rare diseases and common conditions (i.e cancer, diabetes). The rare variants explain why some medications do not effect certain people or cause nasty side effects (i.e insomnia, vomiting, and even death).
The goal of the “1,000 Genomes Project” is to identify rare variants across different populations. In the pilot phase of the program, researchers found that most rare variants different from one population to another, and the current study supports this theory.
Researches tested genomes from populations from the Han Chinese in Beijing (and the Southern Han Chinese in China) to Utah Residents with ancestry from Europe to the Toscani people of Italy to the Colombians in Columbia. Participants submitted an anonymous DNA sample and agreed to have their genetic material on an online database. Researchers than sequenced the entire genome of each individual in the study five times. However, decoding the entire genome only detects common DNA changes. In order to find the rare variants, researchers sequences small portions of the genomes about 80 times to look for single letter changes in the DNA called Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, or SNPs.
The Results and Importance
The Study concluded that rare variants vary from one population to another. Researchers found a total of 38 million SNPs, including 99% of the rare variants in the participants’ DNA. In addition, researchers found 1.4 million small sections of insertions or deletions and 14,000 large sections of DNA deletion. The “1,000 Genomes Project” is incredibly important in medical science. It now allows researchers to study diseases, such as cancer, in specific ethnic groups. I personally think this project in incredibly important. As an Ashkenazi Jew from Eastern Europe, my family has a medical history of certain cancers and diseases. With the results of the “1,000 Genome Project,” researches could potentially find out why, and maybe even find a cure for some of these diseases.