by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted January 7, 2008 in DNA Around the World
Chinese scientists at the Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) have completed the fourth human genome to be sequenced worldwide. The first two were James Watson and J. Craig Venter, the third was a researcher of Han Chinese descent in October 2007, and this fourth genome was a Chinese volunteer.
The Chinese-British collaborative BGI genome project, called The Yanhuang Project, aims to map the 100 Chinese genomes. It’s not clear whether all of them will be expected to be as generous as the Chinese volunteer who donated approximately 1.3 million US dollars to the project. (Note: Harvard’s Personal Genome Project will not be expecting their volunteers to donate anything except their DNA, tissue samples, and medical data.)
The Yanhuang Project has three phases:
- To sequence a Chinese individual’s genome that serves as the reference.
- To sequence at least 99 more individuals’ genomes to construct a Chinese genetic polymorphism map.
- To study the results of the first two phases and apply the findings to medical science.
Researchers plan to use the Chinese genome database to “solve problems related to Chinese-specific genetic diseases*” as well as improve diagnosis, prediction, and therapy.
*What Chinese-specific genetic diseases might they be referring to? Unlike the Ashkenazi Jewish community, I was unaware of any hereditary diseases that disproportionately affected the Chinese population. Maybe I just don’t know because most of the studies conducted in China stay in China and aren’t even indexed in PubMed.
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