Adonis Diaries

Genetics: Illusions for cures?

Posted on: July 1, 2010

Human Genome Project (HGP), a public consortium, started in 1993 with the goal of sequencing and decoding all genes in the ADN. Craig Venter also founded Celera Genomics to compete with HGP headed by Francis Collins; the two institutions managed to complete the job of decoding 21,000 gene combinations faster than expected within a decade due to new and cheaper technologies.  Over $3 billions were invested in this project.

Francis Collins had declared in 2001: “New therapeutic medicines, genetically tailor-made, will soon be introduced in the market to curing diabetes, hypertension, mental disorders, and many other ailments.” Francis Collins predicted that this dream will take effect no longer than 2010.

Well, we are in 2010 and not a single genetically tailor-made medicine was introduced.  Worse, we should not expect any breakthrough for a long time.  What are then the main difficulties and barriers?  It appears that technology is not synonymous with scientific knowledge.  For example, how a genome functions? After this first hurdle is crossed then, what are the effects of the horrendous number of interactions of these 21,000 genes?  There is this musoviscidose attributed to a single gene and yet, crossing from a theoretical knowledge to viable therapeutic treatments has proven to be a real headache.

The entire project didn’t start from any coherent set of hypotheses.  It was assumed that applications will automatically be generated from discovered data.  Many starting hypotheses proved to be wrong.  For example, researchers thought that genes conditioned the synthesis of proteins (essential for the proper functioning of cells); that genes were drowned in useless piles of ADN that failed to be eliminated in the course of evolution; that for each gene corresponded a unique protein that was coded by the intermediary of acid ribonucleic (ARN) serving as model for assembling of proteins.

All these hypotheses turned out to be incorrect.  It appears that genes are not linearly distributed unto the genome; that gene activities are influenced by various factors not explicitly coded in the genome; that the implications of a hereditary gene count little in the disease.  In short, there is this new big “black box” in the arsenal of sciences admitting ignorance.

After the discovery of the molecular structure of the ADN in 1953 by Francis Crick and James Watson, geneticists considered ADN to be the “Book of Life”; to be read as a manual of utilization. This paradigm stated “We are what our genes do to us.”

The scientist Jim Collins (not Francis) said:”We made the error of confounding data collection with the improvement of our knowledge.”  So far, the only general principle extracted from that labor of two decades is: “There is a link between the sequence of genes and the structure of a protein.”  Obviously, many more general principles have to reach consensus among scientists before anything useful can be done in therapeutic treatments.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

July 2010
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