Innovations and Inaugurations: President(s) Bush

Innovations and Inaugurations: President(s) Bush

01.17.13 | By Kaelan Hollon

When President George H.W. Bush first appropriated funding for The Human Genome Project in 1989, I doubt he considered gene mapping would become one of the most celebrated father-son projects in history. By the time the mapping was completed in 2003 under President George W. Bush's administration, more than 20,000 genes in human DNA and the sequence of more than 3 billion has been mapped out.

Why does gene mapping matter? Well, the map is something like a mechanic's manual. Without an understanding of how the car is put together, you'll end up performing a great deal of guesswork and potentially hooking your timing belts up to your battery - not good. Until we put together a map of the body's contents and began collectively working on how to read those contents and parsing out how the parts work together, we were collectively standing around in a mechanic's bay just guessing at the answers. Gene mapping, and the Human Genome Project specifically, has made tremendous gains for discovering the genetic basis of health and the pathology for human disease, and providing researchers a framework for personalized medicine.

Ten years after the complete mapping, we're still discovering the genetic basis of diseases and using that research to make better medicine. To put the significance of the discovery in perspective, within just a two year span between 2000-2001, scientists discovered:

  • the genetic 'signature' behind malignant melanoma
  • identified genes involved in Down syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, Usher syndrome and Lou Gehrig's disease
  • new ways of mapping hereditary breast cancer
  • found tumor suppressor genes
  • used gene technology to more accurately diagnose four kinds of children's cancer.

If you're curious, there's no shortage of educational materials about the project. One of my favorites is a media workshop for science reporters put together by the National Human Genome Research Institute which includes extensive video's, teaching materials and background information easy enough for non-scientists to understand. National Geographic also did a great story highlighting the five biggest scientific advancements at the project's ten year anniversary.

The Human Genome Project is quite the legacy for the Bush family, one that will have positive health implications for millions in the years to come. I invite readers to peruse the project's home page and learn more about your own personal mechanic's manual - it's worth a read.

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