- India will soon start a Genome Sequencing mission of its population in a bid to promote precision/personalized health services.
- In its first meeting the Prime Minister’s Science, Technology and Innovation Advisory Council announced various projects including ‘Bioscience Mission for Precision Health and Optimal Well-being’ which starts with genome sequencing of large number of Indians.
- Other important project announced include:
- Accelerating Growth for New India innovation (AGNIi)
- Deep Ocean Mission
- Teaching S&T in Indian languages
- Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Quantum Computing
- Waste to Energy
- Research, Development and Innovation towards making India a leader in Electric Vehicles
- Indian Biodiversity: characterisation, preservation and sustainable use.
Bioscience Mission for Precision Health and Optimal Well-being
- Though India represents 20 percent of the world’s population, only about one percent of the world’s genomic data is that of Indians.
- The diversity of people of India is a factor of their lifestyle, the environment and the genes that is inherited.
- Thus understanding the diversity and its consequent impact on health requires a large-scale study of human genomes.
- Studying Indian genomes could uncover unique genetic risk factors for diseases and explain why some ailments occur more or less often in Indian population helping in development of personalized medicines.
- The initiative will involve large number of India from various geographies, caste, tribal and linguistic groups.
- The Genome Sequencing will be a combined initiative of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Health Research, Department of Biotechnology
- The initiative will include sequencing genomes and link it to human health disease as a research initiative.
Need for such a project
- India has a high burden of genetic disorders.
- Every year, about 100,000 babies are born with genetic disorders.
- However currently there is very limited understanding of the genes responsible for many of these disorders, thus limiting their accurate diagnosis.
- The key reason is that there is no catalog of genetic variations for Indians and their categorization into disease/non-disease causing variations.
- Developing a database of genetic make-up will help providing tailored medical treatments and prescribe drugs based on an individual’s genetic make-up, often referred to as Precision Medicine.
- The initiative will pave the way for identifying genes and genetic variations for common diseases.
- Thus helping to treat genetic disorders and thereby enabling the transformation of the Precision Medicine landscape in India.
About Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA)
- DNA is a molecule that all living organisms carry in every cell in their body.
- DNA is a code that holds the detailed instructions for the building of the organism.
- In humans, this information is laid out in long linear strands of DNA in the nucleus.
- The DNA is present in the form of many smaller, more manageable pieces, called chromosomes.
- Humans have three billion base pairs divided into two copies of 23 chromosomes (one from our mother and one from our father) with six billion base pairs in every cell.
- Chromosomes influence everything from a person’s hair color to susceptibility to disease.
- For example chromosome 1 contains the gene that controls whether you’re susceptible to some forms of malaria while chromosome 16 has a gene that influences hair color.
- Some people have a missing chromosome, an extra chromosome, an inverted chromosome or any other mutation, which can cause disorders.
What is genome sequencing?
- The full set of DNA present in an individual organism is called its genome.
- DNA sequencing is a procedure for determining the linear order of nucleotide bases in DNA.
- Sequencing a gene is like reading a book one letter at a time to look for any spelling mistakes.
- Mapping out a person’s entire genetic code, or genome or in other words reading each of the 3 billion base pairs that make up a person’s genetic code is called genome sequencing.
- By creating a genome sequence we will be able to test specific genes to detect the presence of mutations associated with genetic disorders.
- Within the next few years, experts expect the turnaround time to improve and the cost to drop so much that analyzing a person’s genome will be no more expensive than zeroing in on just one gene.
Country-wise Genome sequencing efforts
- UK was the first country to launch a program called Genomics England dedicated to whole genome sequencing.
- Australia is currently working on the 100,000 Genomes Project, sequencing patients with rare diseases and cancer to create a massive database for R&D.
- US precision medicine initiative, Genomes of Netherlands are underway to develop precision medicine efforts in their respective countries.
- Genome Asia 100K is a genome sequencing project representing populations from South and South-East Asia including 50000 Indians.
- Japan and China also have started their own genome sequencing projects.