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{bio,medical} informatics

Saturday, January 20, 2001

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find related articles. powered by google. The New York Times Human Genome Project Director Peers Into the Future
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"The director of the federal government's Human Genome Project is predicting that "a number of big surprises'' will come out of genetics research in the coming weeks.

Speaking at a National Institutes of Health conference on ethical and social issues in genetics, Dr. Francis Collins said that a "spate of papers in public journals'' due out within a month will signify the incredibly rapid pace of scientific discovery seen since the announcement of the nearly complete sequencing of the human genome last summer.

The first, Collins said, will be a paper that puts the total count of human genes at between 30,000 and 35,000. ''That's less than half the number most people have been predicting.'' The second is a study ascribing previously unknown biological missions to genes scientists thought were inactive, or so-called "junk genes.''

"There is now clear evidence that (the junk genes) have been performing a number of functions for tens or hundreds of thousands of years,'' he said."
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find related articles. powered by google. BioMedNet UK geneticist offers exact count of human genes
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"If James Watson, co-discoverer of DNA's structure, says we don't know how many genes there are, you're inclined to believe him. So it was a great surprise to hear the legend denounced, albeit with due deference. At the last count, insisted Kay Davies, professor of anatomy at the University of Oxford, humans are reckoned to have 40,944 tiny protein factories.

She was drawing on statistics that define the proteome, the protein equivalent of the genome, as the set of all expressed proteins in humans, for which 40,944 genes are individually responsible. Not a huge figure, she noted, barely the equivalent of three flies or a couple of worms. "Apologies Jim, let's talk over tea," she added."

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find related articles. powered by google. Wired News Amped Geneticists Bet on Genome
"Well, they weren't all men, but mostly. The betting in the pub continued, the lowest bet being 29,800 genes placed by Pat Tome and the highest number coming from John Quackenbush at 118,259.

The pool was organized by Erwin Birney, a team leader at the European Bioinformatics Institute. He tried to convince the bartender to oversee the betting, but was told in no uncertain terms that no gambling was allowed in the Cold Spring bar.

Guesses on the number of genes in the human genome have lowered considerably since the mapping of chromosome 21, which researchers found to contain only 225 genes, far fewer than previously predicted. The researchers on the chromosome 21 study predicted their results could mean that there are as few as 40,000 genes in the entire human genome.

"Someone from Incyte will probably show up and bet 150,000," one gambler said."

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find related articles. powered by google. BioMedNet Genomic junk
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"Nearly 97% of the DNA in the human genome is believed to be junk DNA. It may seem wasteful, but most of the DNA in all higher organisms appears to be junk. Whatever information is contained in junk DNA is never translated into proteins. Intron DNA is transcribed into RNA but does not appear after maturation, and it is never translated into protein. To determine if much of the junk DNA is intron DNA, researchers used a new approach to analyze all of the complete or nearly complete genomes on record. They conclude that most junk DNA in animals is intron DNA. Their conclusion, however, does not apply to plant DNA.

Reference: Wong, G.K.-S., Passey, D.A., Huang, Y.-z. et al. 2000. Is "junk" DNA mostly intron DNA? Genome Res. 10(11):1672-1678."

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Bioinformatics will be at the core of biology in the 21st century. In fields ranging from structural biology to genomics to biomedical imaging, ready access to data and analytical tools are fundamentally changing the way investigators in the life sciences conduct research and approach problems. Complex, computationally intensive biological problems are now being addressed and promise to significantly advance our understanding of biology and medicine. No biological discipline will be unaffected by these technological breakthroughs.


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