Biotechnology and Human Disease

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Chapter: Biochemistry : Biotechnology and Human Disease

In the past, efforts to understand genes and their expression have been confounded by the immense size and complexity of human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).


Biotechnology and Human Disease

OVERVIEW

In the past, efforts to understand genes and their expression have been confounded by the immense size and complexity of human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). The human genome contains approximately three billion (109) base pairs (bp) that encode 20,000 to 25,000 protein-coding genes located on 23 chromosomes in the haploid genome. It is now possible to determine the nucleotide sequence of long stretches of DNA, and the entire human genome has been sequenced. This effort (called the Human Genome Project and completed in 2003) was made possible by several techniques that have already contributed to our understanding of many genetic diseases (Figure 33.1). These include, first, the discovery of restriction endonucleases that permit the cleavage of huge DNA molecules into defined fragments. Second, the development of cloning techniques that provide a mechanism for amplification of specific nucleotide sequences. Finally, the ability to synthesize specific probes, which has allowed the identification and manipulation of nucleotide sequences of interest. These and other experimental approaches have permitted the identification of both normal and mutant nucleotide sequences in DNA. This knowledge has led to the development of methods for the diagnosis of genetic diseases and some successes in the treatment of patients by gene therapy. [Note: The genomes of several viruses, prokaryotes, and nonhuman eukaryotes have also been sequenced.]


Figure 33.1 Three techniques that facilitate analysis of human DNA. dsDNA = double-stranded DNA.

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