Stringing Along; November 2002; Scientific American Magazine; by Ken Howard; 2 Page(s)
Readers could be forgiven for stifling a yawn on learning that yet another genome has been sequenced. After tracking down most of the human base pairs by 2000, scientists have continued to use highthroughput sequencing machines to complete upward of 100 other genetic blueprints; the next few years will see some 600 more. And amid the proud announcements are general statements indicating that the information will be a boon to medical science. Yet an individual curious to know how the genomes have been helpful might well ask "Where's the beef?" even before the bovine genome is done.
A jaded public, however, may be just what geneticists want. "I'm hoping we can go back to being scientists and get beyond the hype of the human genome," comments Chad Nusbaum, co-director of genome sequencing and analysis at the Whitehead Institute-Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Genome Research. "Analysis is what's important, not the sequencing." This is perhaps most true for nonvertebrates, which represent most whole genomes that have been sequenced. Bacterial genomes, approximately 70 of which have been done, "are no longer of broad interest," explains Robert H. Waterston, director of the Genome Sequencing Center at the Washington University School of Medicine. "Generally these new genomes are not going to add anything broadly to the concept of what a bacterial genome contains," although they are important to researchers studying specific bacteria, he notes.