New Study Suggests Human Gene Estimates ‘Too Low’
Estimates released in February of the number of genes that compose the human genome may be too low, according to a study published in today's issue of the journal Cell, the Washington Post reports. This winter, both the Human Genome Project and Celera Genomicsgenomic Corp. separately published papers estimating that humans have about 30,000 genes. Those estimates surprised many scientists, who had previously believed that the human genome contained about 100,000 genes (Chea, Washington Post, 8/24). Scientists from the Novartis Research Foundation's Genomic Institute and the Scripps Research Institute, both in San Diego, report that the 30,000-gene estimate is indeed probably too low (Hensley, Wall Street Journal, 8/24). The scientists compared the two genome sequences published in February and found that "almost half of the genes each group predicted did not overlap with the other group's genes," suggesting that the human genome tally could be higher. Dr. Michael Cooke, coauthor of the new study, said, "It underscores that Phase 2 of the genome project, which is finding all the genes, is still a work in progress. It will be a few years before we have a complete list of the genes that control human biology." Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Institute, said, "It's clear that the methods we use to identify genes in long stretches of DNA are imperfect. People will be debating the precise number of genes for years to come, but we'll get a narrower band in the next few years." Craig Venter, Celera's president and chief scientific officer, added, "We still have a long way to go. We're still early in this field" (Washington Post, 8/24).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.