Brussels, 20 Apr 2004
A detailed map of more than 20,000 human genes has just been published on the Internet by an international research team.
Some 152 scientists from 40 research institutes from around the world, including France, Germany, Sweden and the UK, worked together to validate and annotate 21,037 human genes. The results of the study were then collected and assembled into a searchable database, the H-Invitational database, linked to other functional databases around the world.
'We are confident now that anyone in academia or industry who uses our database will gain far deeper insight into the meaning of human disease than was previously possible,' said the Japanese team leader Takashi Gojobori.
It is a milestone event for biologists, doctors and pharmacists, laying the groundwork to connecting functions of genes and their products to the clinical effects each has on human health.
'It is very gratifying that this common effort makes use of all the contributions by teams of biologists and computer experts working together keenly to produce knowledge in the service of human health,' commented French researcher Charles Auffray, from the CNRS, the French National Scientific Research Centre.
The database, the result of two years' cooperative effort, is the largest of its kind in the world, stated the German Centre for Cancer Research (DKFZ) in Heidelberg, a consortium member.
'The announcement of the human genome sequence three years ago was widely hailed as one of the great scientific achievements in modern history, and with good reason,' stated an article in the journal Public Library of Science Biology. 'Determining the structure and nature of the genetic code promises to provide valuable insights into human evolution and the molecular basis of disease.'
However, this was only a first step, the journal went on to say. '[T]he monumental task of ascribing biological meaning to those sequences has just begun.'
The international consortium, however, took a momentous step towards this goal. Indeed, by relating intermediate gene products - the messenger RNAs - to each of their parent genes and systematically connecting them to the relevant proteins, 'the consortium has established a reliable systematic network of human-curated relationships between genes and their biological functions,' says the journal.
As there are around 30,000 genes in a human, a detailed map of most of them is a great gain for geneticists, drug researchers and genome scientists around the world. The map, a starting point for further analyses, will be used to find links between gene functions and pathologies.
'Future research on the human genome will be aimed at expanding the list of known genes and analysing the properties of these genes. This study not only moves us closer to a complete functional description of the human genome, it also builds on the traditions of international cooperation and large-scale collaboration that played such an important part in deciphering the sequence itself,' concludes the article. To read the result of the study, please visit: http:///www.plosbiology.org To access the H-Invitational database, please visit: http://www.jbirc.aist.go.jp/hinv/index.j sp