Prelims cum Mains Science & Tech

Major mission to sequence genes of Indians planned

The News

  • India will soon start a Genome Sequencing mission of its population in a bid to promote precision/personalized health services.

 

Context

  • 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:
  1. Accelerating Growth for New India innovation (AGNIi)
  2. Deep Ocean Mission
  3. Teaching S&T in Indian languages
  4. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Quantum Computing
  5. Waste to Energy
  6. Research, Development and Innovation towards making India a leader in Electric Vehicles
  7. 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.

 

Basics

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.

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