Search Magazine December 01, 2009

A Minute to Understanding: Genome sequencing

What is genome sequencing?

The human genome project provided the first complete human genome sequence, a total of three billion letters representing the four nucleotide bases of a DNA strand (A, C, G and T). The undertaking took many years and an estimated $3 billion. It was rightly hailed as a landmark scientific achievement.

Today machines are approaching the ability to sequence an entire genome in a day for a tiny fraction of the original cost. Within a few years human genome sequences may cost less than $10,000, perhaps even $1,000.

With its genetics expertise and computational resources, The Jackson Laboratory is making sense of genome sequences and what they do, how they interact and how they contribute to genetic disease.

What is the payoff of these parallel developments? A future of better health care. Our genetic variations make us more or less susceptible to a given disease, and more or less responsive to a given drug. Understanding these differences opens a new world of individualized medicine that's more precise, predictable and powerful than medicine today.