The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) today announced the first grants in a three-year, $36 million scientific reconnaissance mission aimed at discovering all parts of the human genome that are crucial to biological function.
In recent years, researchers have made tremendous progress in sequencing the genomes of humans and other organisms. Scientists use DNA sequence data to help find genes, which are the parts of the genome that code for proteins. However, the protein-encoding component of DNA comprises just a small fraction of the genome, accounting for roughly 1.5 percent of the genetic material of humans and other mammals. There is compelling evidence that other parts of the genome must have important functions, but at present there is only very limited information available about how these other parts work.
The new effort, which is called the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, will be carried out by an international consortium made up of scientists in government, industry and academia. A major aspect of this initiative is a three-year pilot project in which research groups will work cooperatively to test efficient, high-throughput methods for identifying, locating and fully analyzing all of the functional elements contained in a set of DNA target regions that covers approximately 30 megabases, or about 1 percent, of the human genome. If the pilot effort proves successful, the project will be expanded to cover the entire genome.
National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI)
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