A Year Ago: British-led scientists map human DNA

Project as significant as landing on the moon and splitting the atom

A complete strand of human DNA has been successfully mapped for the first time in history, scientists announced Monday.

The international scientific community has heralded the achievement as significant as splitting the atom and landing on the moon.

The Wellcome Trust and Cambridge's Sanger Institute held its press conference Monday to announce that the Human Genome Project has completed its work identifying all human genes. This means a full 97 percent of the human genome has been mapped, 85 percent accurately.

Leaders of the project, which includes a total of 16 centres across the world, said the information discovered is be to distributed freely, opening up the way for anyone to use it in their research. The news has been welcomed: many believed patents for parts of the genome mapping would be applied for.

"Mapping the human genome has been compared with putting a man on the moon but I believe it is more than that," said Dr Michael Dexter director of the Wellcome Trust. "This is the outstanding achievement not only of our lifetime but in terms of human history."

The Wellcome Trust invested £210m in the research.

It is believed that unlocking human genetic information could hold the key to treating many genetic disorders, although some have also raised concerns over the moral implications of controlling the building blocks of human life.

Dr John Sulston director of the Sanger Centre acknowledges that these concerns must be recognised. "The ability to predict, which undoubtedly genetics at this level is beginning to bring more and more accurately, has to carry with it social responsibility," says Solston. "It's absolutely no different from our recognition that people should be treated equally no matter what their skin colour is. One's genetic inheritance has got to be treated in the same way."

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