The two professors explained the importance of DNA and its evolution in order to clarify the advancements made in today’s medicine.
“It’s only been 150 years since scientists discovered what we now call DNA,” said Herzog and Niesel. “Today, it’s a household word, the basis for the field genomics, and an integral part to multitudes of scientific studies. It’s remarkable how relatively quickly our understanding of genes has progressed.”
What they find remarkable is the fact the human genome project has helped accelerate knowledge about both genetics and heredity, which led to a redirection of medicine towards DNA and genomics. They highlight the work conducted at the National Human Genome Research Institute from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which has enabled in-depth knowledge of several diseases.
Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, has been responsible for several studies with promising outcomes in the field of genomic medicine, including cancer genomics, which has relied on DNA sequencing to determine tumor phenotypes, as well as the underlying causes for cancer. The scientists believe that research like this has enabled the development of personalized cancer treatments with more effective individual results, as well as an improved knowledge of the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals.
In addition, Herzog and Niesel recall that while DNA was first used to represent genetic material from living beings in the 1940s, with its double helix structure disclosed in 1953 by Francis Crick and James Watson, DNA has since gained great importance in the medical field, becoming part of the latest medical paradigms.
“Genomics continues to be a part of the third revolution, convergence, which merges the rigors of computational science and engineering with modern biology,” they explain. “It cost $1 billion and took eight years to complete the sequence of the first human genome. Now, the cost of sequencing a human genome is a fraction of that at $2,000-$4,000 and takes a mere 1-3 days to complete.”
Over 2,500 human genomes have been sequenced in 26 different populations, leading to the discovery of 100 million genetic variations of human samples. The variations identified are responsible for the uniqueness of each person, and they hold the potential to reveal the odds of developing certain diseases.