Seattle team has big role in Human Genome 2.0

Sep 5, 2012

It's not officially called Human Genome 2.0. But, key scientists say the research results published Wednesday should re-kindle some of the promise of the Human Genome Project.

One of those key scientists is John Stamatoyannopoloulos of the University of Washington, along with his team of about 40 researchers.

"One of the important hopes here is that this will reinvigorate drug development that’s built around the genome," he says.

The main project is called the "Encyclopedia of DNA Elements," or ENCODE. Stamatoyannopoloulos is one of seven principal investigators, located around the world, involved with the work.

The Human Genome Project showed that only about 1.5% of our DNA is actually in the form of genes – the code that makes every cell in our body run -- but the other 98.5% was considered far less important. Since then, scientists have begun to appreciate how vital that other DNA is.

For example, much of that extra code determines when a gene is turned "on" or "off."

The UW team showed how more than 400 different diseases are related to these portions of the genome that once were labeled "junk DNA," because they were considered unimportant. Their study was published in the journal Science.

In the interview (audio above), Stamatoyannopoloulos explains why switching genes on or off makes all the difference in the world.


To explore more about this huge project, which made a splash with 30 different scientific articles published simultaneously this week, check out these sites devoted to ENCODE: