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Mission to Sequence Genes of Indians

  • 13 Oct 2018
  • 6 min read

India is planning a major mission to sequence the genes of a large group of Indians similar to projects in the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Australia.

  • This will improve health as well as facilitate designing of ‘personalised medicine.’
    • Personalized Medicine is the concept that managing a patient's health should be based on the individual patient's specific characteristics, including age, gender, height/weight, diet, environment, etc.
    • Pharmacogenetics (also termed pharmacogenomics) is the field of study that examines the impact of genetic variation on the response to medications.
    • This approach is aimed at tailoring drug therapy at a dosage that is most appropriate for an individual patient, with the potential benefits of increasing the efficacy and safety of medications.
  • This was among the key decisions taken at the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC) in its first meeting.
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Department of Biotechnology (Ministry of Science and Technology) would be closely associated with the project.
  • It can be noted that a group of Indian scientists and companies are already involved with a 100k GenomeAsia project, which aims to sequence the whole genomes of 100k Asians, including 50,000 Indians.

Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council (PM-STIAC)

  • The PM-STIAC (Science, Technology, Innovation Advisory Committee), was constituted in August, 2018 to advise the Prime Minister on all matters related to S&T, innovation and monitor the implementation as well.
  • It is a 21-member committee, chaired by Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government, presently K Vijay Raghavan.
  • PM-STIAC replaced the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) to PM and Cabinet.

Genome Sequencing

  • A genome is an organism's complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.
  • Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that make up an organism's DNA.
  • It is method of isolating and identifying variable elements within the base-pair sequence of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) as it shows high degree of polymorphism (variation) at genetic level. Polymorphism forms the basis of genome sequencing since DNA from every tissue (such as blood, hair-follicle, skin, bone, saliva, sperm etc.) from an individual show the same degree of polymorphism

Background

  • Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, meaning, that the entire DNA pattern in the cell that lends people their unique identity was deciphered, several countries have announced initiatives to map genomes of their resident populations.
  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in 2009 announced that it had sequenced the genome of an Indian, then making India one of six countries to achieve such a feat.
  • However, no compendium of genes that differentiate Indian populations from, say Caucasian or African genomes exist. Therefore, the announcement by PM-STIAC is aimed to create such mapping of population of India.

Human Genome Project

  • The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international, collaborative research program whose goal was the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes of human beings. HGP researchers have deciphered the human genome in three major ways: determining the order or "sequence" of all the bases in our genome's DNA; making maps that show the locations of genes for major sections of all our chromosomes; and producing what are called linkage maps.
  • It  was a result of the International Human Genome Project comprising scientists from the US, UK, France, Germany, Japan and China. The Project began in 1990, and the sequencing was completed in 2003.
  • The HGP has revealed that there are probably about 20,500 human genes. The completed human sequence can now identify their locations. This information can be thought of as the basic set of inheritable "instructions" for the development and function of a human being.
  • The International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium published the first draft of the human genome in 2001 with the sequence of the entire genome's three billion base pairs some 90 percent complete.
  • Thereafter, the United Kingdom announced a plan in 2014 to create a bank of 100,000 genomes in the nation which was followed by GenomeAsia 100K project announced by the National Technological University (NTU), Singapore.
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