Feature Archive

Human Genome

What mapping really means.

WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Annie Finnegan

June 27, 2000 -- Since the announcement of the rough draft of the human genome, the metaphors describing the special accomplishment have been nearly as plentiful as genes yet unmapped: Lewis and Clark, man-on-the-moon, the book of life, just plain phenomenal.

As accomplishments go, all that hyperbole may fall short. But in the meantime, there's still work to be done to truly realize all the bounty of the mapping of the human genome.

Stephen T. Warren, PhD, professor of human genetics at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD there's "still a substantial effort that needs to be carried out, so I think the important thing people need to realize, it was a lot of work to get the sequence, but that alone isn't going to tell us much until we do another huge amount of work."

By 2003, the Human Genome Project aims to map the entire human genome to almost 100% accuracy. The private company that has also mapped the genome, Celera Genomics, already claims to have mapped 99% of the genome.

Craig Venter, president of Celera, says the next step in the project is the "interpretation phase" where we "discover what it all means."

Part of that discovery will involve cataloguing substances that help determine differences in people. Those differences may lead to some of the earliest benefits from the current "rough draft" of the genome.