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    Mapping Of Human Genome Is a First Step To Many Answers

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    The first benefits we're likely to see from the project, though, will be in the ability to test people for certain diseases that are due to abnormal genes they possess, such as Alzheimer?s disease, Mardis says.

    She is also hopeful that researchers may be able to stop genes that are responsible for certain deadly diseases, such as cancer. Although some diseases, such as cystic fibrosis, are caused by a single abnormal gene, many are due to more than one bad gene. So finding one genetic mutation may not be the only piece to the puzzle.

    Genetic material by no means contains all the answers to medical mysteries. With ailments like high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, Mardis says, finding a responsible gene will help identify people at risk for the disease, but a healthy lifestyle will still play a role in fighting it.

    Although mapping the human genome will not lead to immediate results, it?s an accomplishment that brings a lot of hope.

    "It lays a huge puzzle out in front of us, and that sounds like a bad thing, but without the pieces of the puzzle we wouldn?t have anywhere to start," Mardis says. "It?s going to fuel medical research for the next 20 or 30 years in a huge, huge way."

    Vital Information:

    • The human genome project may provide a blueprint of human genetics, but experts say developing it will only mark the beginning of the research. Scientists still have to figure out how to use the information.
    • Scientists know some diseases, like cystic fibrosis, are caused by one defective gene. But experts say there are probably several genes involved with developing most diseases. Also, researchers need to consider other factors in disease, such as environmental influences.
    • Understanding people's genetic makeup also could help doctors predict their patients' future health. But knowing someone is at risk of developing a disease doesn't mean doctors can do anything to prevent or treat it.
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