The rare breed we are, our genes now marked on genomic atlas


It took 10 months and a newly-developed gene mapping technology for a team of scientists from Pakistan and China to draw up the complete genome of Pakistani, living in Karachi. “Pakistani and Chinese scientists have jointly mapped the genome of a Pakistani,” announced International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) Director Prof Dr Iqbal Choudhary on Monday. There are approximately 30,000 genes in human beings, the same range as of mice and twice that of roundworms. Genome mapping, also called gene mapping, is the creation of a genetic map by assigning the DNA fragments to the complete sets of chromosomes.
In 1990 the US Department of Energy and the US National Institutes of Health had formally established the $3-billion Human Genome Project, an international syndicate comprising geneticists from Japan, France, Germany, India, China and the UK. The project was expected to take 15 years for completion. The primary goal of the project was to identify and map out the genes in the human genome from both standpoints – physical and functional.
While talking to a group of scientists at the ICCBS University of Karachi (KU), Choudhary said that the scientists at ICCBS’s Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) and at Beijing Genomics Institute in China have jointly worked for mapping out the genome of a Pakistani. He pointed out that the gene mapping was carried out over a period of 10 months while deploying the latest technology in the specific field.
The research team that achieved the feat included PCMD’s Assistant Professor Dr Kamran Azim and the head of Beijing Genomics Institute’s Genomics Department, Dr Yong Zhang.
Terming the completion of genomic mapping as a big achievement, KU Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Shahana Urooj Kazmi, who is also a molecular biologist, said that further studies in this area would help in genomic analysis, identify various chronic diseases and develop proper strategies for their management.
Speaking on the occasion, she said the feat has been achieved when Pakistan and China are celebrating their 60th year of diplomatic ties. “Projects in this field of science and technology would be of mutual benefit for both the countries.”
On September 4, 2007, a team led by American biologist and entrepreneur Craig Venter, had unveiled the six-billion-nucleotide genome of a single human individual for the first time.
The work on the interpretation of human genomic data is still in initial stages and it is anticipated that detailed knowledge of the genome will provide new avenues for advancement in biotechnology and medicine.