Researchers decode human chromosomes 5, 16, and 19

U.S. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson announced today that researchers at the Department of Energy's Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, have decoded in draft form the genetic information on human chromosomes 5, 16 and 19. The chromosomes contain an estimated 10-15,000 genes, including those whose defects may lead to genetically linked diseases such as certain forms of kidney disease, prostate and colorectal cancer, leukemia, hypertension, diabetes and atherosclerosis.

"Three chapters in the reference book of human life are nearly complete," said Secretary Richardson. "Scientists can already mine this treasure trove of information for the advances it may bring in our basic understanding of life as well as applications such as diagnosing, treating and eventually preventing disease." Richardson made his remarks at the 25th Annual American Association for the Advancement of Science Colloquium on Science and Technology Policy in Washington, D.C.

"All involved in this great international labor of discovery are tremendously excited, delighted, and even a little surprised, by how swiftly it is now racing towards its wonderful, revolutionizing goals," said Dr. Elbert Branscomb, director of the Joint Genome Institute and chief scientist for the Energy Department's human genome program. "Of course, we are extremely pleased to have reached our draft milestone as part of that effort."

The human genome is the full complement of genetic material in a human cell; it contains instructions for making all the protein molecules for all the different kinds of cells of the human body - neurons in the brain, red blood cells, bone tissue, liver cells, etc. In decoding DNA, researchers determine the "sequence" or exact order of the individual chemical building blocks, or bases, that make up the DNA.

The three chromosomes sequenced by Department of Energy researchers contain more than 300 million base pairs, or an estimated 11 percent of the total hum

Contact: Jeff Sherwood
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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