Human Genome Project

By Jerilyn Watson

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT.

A private American company says it has identified all the chemical pieces in the genetic material that shapes human life. Celera Genomics (suh-LAIR-uh jeh-NO-mix) Group says it has identified and named all the genetic parts of the material inside the nucleus of the cell of a human being. And, the company says it probably will succeed in placing the chemicals exactly as they appear in the human cells in a few weeks.

Finishing this process would be an extremely important discovery. It would describe a person's complete genetic structure. This structure depends on more than three-thousand-million chemical pieces chained together. This chain decides a person's physical appearance, such as hair color and eye color and height. The genetic structure also may make a person more likely to suffer diseases like diabetes or some kinds of cancer.

Completion of the human genetic map will permit scientists to study the mysteries of human health and disease. The discovery is expected to change the way some diseases are treated. It would help doctors develop new treatments that fight disease on the level of cells and genes.

J. Craig Venter heads Celera Genomics in Rockville, Maryland. He announced his company's discoveries to Congress in Washington earlier this month. Celera is competing with a government-led group of scientists to be first to complete the human genome project.

Francis Collins heads the other group of scientists. Their work is being led by the National Institutes of Health. Doctor Collins says he does not believe Celera has succeeded in completing the human genetic map. Doctor Collins says he believes it will take several more years to do this. He says his group has finished about ninety percent of the genetic work and will announce early results by the end of June. The government-led scientists have shared their research results on the Internet computer system. Earlier, experts had criticized Celera Genomics for wanting property rights to information provided by the government group. However, Celera now says it will put most of its information on the Internet when its studies are completed.

Scientists at Celera Genomics recently announced they had produced a genetic map of the common fruit fly.

This VOA Special English SCIENCE REPORT was written by Jerilyn Watson. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English