08 February 2006

Hapmap, Human Genome Project give Genetics more Clout

This informative Eurekalert news release is a good discussion of the efforts to convert information from the Human Genome Project and the Hapmap Project, into real treatments for human diseases. The US National Institutes of Health refer to the increased funding for this research as the Genes and Environment Initiative (GEI).

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced the creation of two new, closely related initiatives to speed up research on the causes of common diseases such as asthma, arthritis and Alzheimer's disease.

.... "The discoveries made through these efforts will ultimately lead to profound advances in disease prevention and treatment," Secretary Leavitt said. "These are the kinds of innovative efforts that we should support. We must seize the historic opportunity provided by the Human Genome Project and the International HapMap Project, to speed up the discovery of the genetic causes of common diseases like diabetes and hypertension. At the same time, it's critical that we also understand the environmental contributors to sickness, and the interplay among genes and environment. There is not a moment to be lost."

GEI will have two main components: a laboratory procedure for efficiently analyzing genetic variation in groups of patients with specific illnesses and a technology development program to devise new ways of monitoring personal environmental exposures that interact with genetic variations and result in human diseases.

The proposed federal funding level will enable GEI to perform genetic analysis – or genotyping - studies for several dozen common diseases. The exact diseases to be studied will be determined by peer review.

...."This initiative would not have been possible a year or two ago," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services. "This is a tangible result of the nation's increased investment in medical research over the past 10 years. We are now poised to combine what we have learned from years of population studies, with newly available technologies, developed with NIH support. These technologies reduced the cost of genotyping by more than 100-fold, making such a comprehensive effort affordable. Equally important, this effort will dramatically increase our understanding of the environmental factors of health and disease, and help us develop novel measures of gene-environment interactions. We stand on the threshold of creating a future that will revolutionize the practice of medicine by allowing us to predict disease, develop more precise therapies and, ultimately, pre-empt the development of disease in the first place." Public-Private Partnership

Read the entire report.

Recently scientists estimated that Alzheimer's disease may be as much as 80% genetic. Most diseases have some genetic component. Gaining an understanding of that genetic portion may be the final link to a treatment or cure.


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