Brussels, 03 Jan 2003
An international group of scientists has mapped the longest human chromosome to date, chromosome 14, in its entirety, and published its findings online.
The chromosome, the fourth to be decoded, contains key genes linked to the functioning of the immune system, as well as genes linked to over 60 different diseases. In all, scientists had to decode 1050 genes, or a total of around 87 million pairs of chemicals called bases.
Roland Heilig, from the Genoscope-Centre National de Sequencage in France, is reported to have described the mapping of chromosome 14 as the 'gold standard', due to the lack of gaps in the sequencing.
Many scientists, including Mr Heilig, hope that the breakthrough will lead to new therapies for conditions such as early onset Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative problems.
Whilst gene therapies themselves have enjoyed only limited success to date, it is felt that in the future it may be possible to replace a defective gene with a healthy copy. More immediately, the work of the team will help doctors screen for those genes associated with disease.