Why Was the Discovery of the Structure of DNA So Important and When Was the Human Genome Project Completed?

Three years after Watson and Crick proposed their model of DNA, American scientist Arthur Kornberg proved its accuracy by producing a molecule of DNA.

Other research showed that the exact sequence of the chemical rungs of the DNA ladder determines the identity of the living organism.

Even Watson and Crick, however, probably could not have predicted the eventual consequences of their discovery.

Using DNA, scientists can now make new forms of DNA using genetic material from two different organisms.

The process, called genetic engineering, has already been used to produce huge amounts of human insulin for diabetics. The process has been used in agriculture to improve crops.

Genes for specific diseases like cancer have been identified, and the eventual cures for these diseases probably will entail manipulation of these genes.

Watson himself started the Human Genome Project in 1988.

The goal of the project was to determine the exact location, chemical composition, and function of all human genes. The gene map or genome, was completed in 2000, several years ahead of schedule because humans have far fewer genes, only about 30,000, than originally suspected.

The genome will now be studied to discover tests and possible cures for thousands of hereditary diseases.

The possibilities seem endless.

Will we bring extinct species back to life by engineering their genes found in fossils? Will we create brand-new species by combining the genes of two different organisms? Will we create superhumans by eliminating so-called bad genes?

Scientists have reached the point where they need to ask themselves, “How far do we want to go?”

DNA is now used in court to prove the innocence or guilt of those accused of crimes because each individual’s DNA is unique like a fingerprint.

Rosalind Franklin was the first researcher to produce useable X rays of DNA.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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