Thursday, November 20, 2008

Craig Venter - ASHG Conference, Philadelphia Nov 13, 2008

I had dropped in at the American Society of Human Genetics Annual conference at Philadelphia mainly to understand what is happening in the exciting field of Genetics. The most impressive event for me was the presentation from the leading scientist Craig Venter on "My Genome".

Some key points that struck me from his presentation:

1. The variations in the genome between human beings are more than what had been assumed earlier. Now it is expected to be as much as 1.5 % to 2% between two individuals.
2. This also means that our genome variation with the Chimpanzee (our closest relative) is more closer to 5%  (the earlier conclusion was about 2%) - his comment in the presentation that this should be a relief to many evoked laughter in the audience.
3. Understanding the human genome would only be a first step in our efforts for finding cures for many of our diseases. We would need to sequence the whole 'Human Microbiome' which would include all the microbial organisms that live inside the body and which outnumber our cells by a factor of 10.
4. Preventive Medicine would be a key benefit for individuals we understand our genome better. Based on our genetic tendency for various diseases, we should be able to use appropriate medicine as well as life style choices to reduce or eliminate the risk of some diseases.

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