Human Genome Project

Melanie Mohler

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The Human Genome Project is the world’s largest collaborative biological project which has served as a foundation for DNA testing companies and the direct-to-customer DNA tests offered today. Learn more about the Human Genome Project and how it is still very relevant in the world of DNA testing.

What is the Human Genome Project?

Human Genome Project logo. Wikipedia Commons (public domain).

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international project that began in 1990 and is the foundational component of our DNA testing companies’ original data in a lot of ways. The project was founded by the U.S. Department of Energy and National Institutes of Health. They relied on HGP for ethnicity estimates of reference populations, for one. But really it was just that carrying out the project helped to innovate and drive down costs for this kind of testing, which made it affordable for direct-to-consumer DNA tests to be offered by our big companies.

What does the Human Genome Project do?

The HGP was created to study and generate the first sequence of the human genome. A genome is a set of all of the DNA of an organism, i.e., the genetic code. Unlike most science projects that are driven by a specific hypothesis,  the HGP was different in that it was simply a discovery-driven project.

Is the Human Genome Project still going on?

The Human Genome Project was declared complete in 2003, with an estimated 92% of the human genome having been sequenced. Since then, more advanced technology has emerged which allowed scientists to finish sequencing the remaining roughly 8% of the human genome in 2022.

What are the two major goals of the Human Genome Project?

The two main goals for the Human Genome Project were to sequence the human genome and to develop research tools to identify genes that are involved in different diseases. The project also studied the ethical, legal, and social implications of new genetic research and technology.

Was the Human Genome Project successful?

In short, yes! The project was completed by a group of scientists in several countries ahead of time and under budget, producing a nearly complete sequenced human genome in 2003, with the genome being fully sequenced in 2022. A “big science” project such as the HGP had previously been met with skepticism in the biomedical field, unsure if a project at such a large scale without a hypothesis could be beneficial.

Why is the Human Genome Project so important?

The HGP created the first human genetic blueprint and is considered one of the greatest scientific projects ever undertaken. All of the information discovered was made publicly available so that scientists can use this sequenced genome to further study human genetic diversity.

The HGP also made scientists aware of the potential ethical, legal, and social risks involved with incorporating genomic information into medicine and research, which led to the study of implications of genetic advances made with the project. This led to a greater emphasis on ethics in biomedical research.

So really, we’re interacting with this research from the Human Genome Project every time we do genetic genealogy— how cool is that?! Let the Human Genome Project inspire you to start on your DNA testing journey. You can download our free guide on what you need to know about DNA testing, including why you should take a DNA test, which DNA testing company to use, what kind of results you’ll get, and more!

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1 Comment

  1. Julia Stockwell

    Great and exciting job sequencing the human genome. I have DNA tested with three different companies. Each one provides a little different information depending on the group(s) in which my DNA is compared. There were a few surprises prior to the 17th century on my lineage. From my records my mother’s line was French back to France in the 1500s. 12 generations and my father’s lines were not only English and French, but Viking, Spanish, Italian, German and a few others.

    I have been do genealogy research since the late 1970s, the hard way visiting cemeteries, town offices and reading several genealogical family books. It was not until I was able to make use of the internet for my French Canadian lines for my maternal side in using Canadian Drouin and Tanguay records for documentation that I made head way on my mother’s lines. Name changes due to pronunciation when entering the United States made finding the records challenging. I am down to four brick walls and into the seventeenth century and sometime beyond. The period of late 1700s to early 1800s and the settling of new territory left holes in the newly formed town records. The DNA tests have actually helped to support my actual research. I know we are all linked back to Africa, the beginning.

    I am hoping to gain a better understanding of terminology of genetics and the comparisons in each of the chromosomes.


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