Scientists launch Encode Project, follow-up to Genome Project - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Scientists launch Encode Project, follow-up to Genome Project

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Researchers in Huntsville are celebrating a historic breakthrough in understanding how human genes work.

The Encode Project is a follow-up to the Titanic Human Genome Project, which mapped our DNA.

The new initiative could now mean new weapons against a long list of diseases. In 2001, the Human Genome Project revealed the alphabet of our genes, a "book of life," but researchers said they still didn't have a complete translation.

Today, researchers released, around the world, what they've discovered since then, what those genes do, what one researcher called a "Google Maps" of human genetics.

"What this project, the Encode Project has done is taken those three billion letters in that book of life and try to decipher as much of it as we possibly can," said Rick Myers, director and president of HudsonAlpha.

Hundreds of scientists have been experimenting to understand how the human genes uncovered in the Human Genome Project actually operate and go wrong.

"I don't think we're that far off from being able to diagnose diseases earlier, much earlier, long before symptoms, use that information to either prevent or stop the disease in its tracks," he said.

Myers said one real genetic miracle has been what has happened to the cost of this kind of research.  A decade ago, the Genome Project wrapped up mapping the DNA of one person at a cost of three billion dollars. Today, that could be done for someone for about eight thousand dollars and that price could go cheaper still.

The results of the "encode" project are now being published around the world as a veritable encyclopedia for researchers to use.

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