CSIR genome plan to map population diversity

“We wouldn’t be sharing such information in the report. In some cases the correlation between disease and genes is weak. A person can request such information through their clinician because many disorders have single-gene causes but no cure or even a line of treatment. Ethics require such information to be shared only after appropriate counselling,” said Dr. Scaria.

The project would involve the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and cost Rs. 18 crore, with the sequencing to be done at the IGIB and the CCMB. Anurag Agrawal, Director, IGIB said that the project would prove India’s capabilities at executing whole-genome sequencing. The human genome has about 3.2 billion base pairs and sequencing it just 10 years ago cost about 10,000 dollars. Now prices have fallen to a tenth. “We can establish a baseline Indian population and ask novel questions. For instance, in developed countries diarrhoeal infections are much rarer than in India. Do genes have a role? We can follow people over long periods and track changes in health,” said Dr. Agrawal.

Ever since the human genome was first sequenced in 2003, it has opened a fresh perspective on the relationship between disease and the unique genetic make-up of each individual. Nearly 10,000 diseases—such as cystic fibrosis and thalassemia—are known to be the result of a single gene malfunctioning. While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer can be understood from genetics and genes going awry, rather than being seen only as a disease of certain organs.

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