Genome India Project

  • IASbaba
  • February 12, 2020
  • 0
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Science & Tech

Topic: General Studies 3:

  • Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life.

Genome India Project

The Genome India Project, is a collaboration of 20 institutions including the Indian Institute of Science and some IITs, whereby in the first phase the genomic data of 10,000 Indians will be catalogued

By sequencing the genome, researchers can discover the functions of genes and identify which of them are critical for life.

What is Genome?

  • Every organism’s genetic code is contained in its Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA), the building blocks of life. 
  • A genome is defined as an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. It contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.
  • In humans, a copy of the entire genome — more than 3 billion DNA base pairs — is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.

The Human Genome Project (HGP) – from 1990 to 2003 – was an international programme that led to the decoding of the entire human genome. India was also a collaborator for this programme

What is need for Genome India project if HGP has mapped human genome?

  • 95% of the genome samples available use the white, Caucasian genome as the base. Most genomes have been sourced from urban middle-class persons and are not really seen as representative and useful for India specific needs.
  • India’s project aim is to ultimately build a grid of the Indian reference genome, to understand fully the type and nature of diseases and traits that comprise the diverse Indian population
  • For example, if the Northeast sees a tendency towards a specific disease, interventions can be made in the region, assisting public health, which make it easier to battle the illness.

Benefits/Significance of Indian Project

  • Personalised Medicine: Propensities to disease can be mapped to variations across genomes and as a result public health interventions can be targeted better, and diseases anticipated before they develop
  • Deeper Understanding of Ecology: Traversing from the world’s tallest mountain range to warm seas through multiple bio-zones, this project could provide much information on the interplay of species and genetic groups within them
  • International Cooperation: The Indian project will aim to vastly add to the available information on the human species and advance the cause, both because of the scale of the Indian population and the diversity here.

Challenges to the Genome India Project

  • Medical Ethics: The project aims only to create a database of genetic information and gene modification is not a stated objective. However, the presence of such wide knowledge enhances the risk of doctors privately performing gene modification.
  • Data & Storage: After collection of the sample, the anonymity of the data and questions of its possible use and misuse needs to be addressed especially since India has not passed the data privacy bill
  • Fear of Scientific Racism: scientific studies of genes and classifying them could reinforce racial/caste stereotypes and allow for politics and history to acquire a racial twist.
  • Political Misuse: In India a lot of politics is now on the lines of who are “indigenous” people and who are not. A Genome India Project could add a genetic dimension to the cauldron.

Way Ahead

Genome India Project provides an opportunity for India to make progress in the fields of biotechnology and healthcare. Thus, it needs to be carried with necessary safeguards about data & ethical issues.

Did you know?

  • Shenzen-based scientist helped create the world’s first gene-edited babies.
  • He Jiankui stunned the world when he announced in 2018 that twin girls had been born with modified DNA to make them HIV-resistant

Connecting the dots!

  • Agriculture and Genetic engineering
  • Biotechnology and issue of equity.

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