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Researchers decode 1st genetic map of a Korean

Dec 05,2008
Researchers have succeeded in decoding the first genome sequence of a Korean.

A joint team from the state-run Korean Bioinformation Center, of Kobic, and Gachon University of Medicine and Science has deciphered the whole personal genome of Kim Seong-jin, a researcher at the institute specializing in cancer and diabetes, it was announced yesterday. With the achievement, Korea becomes the fourth country to succeed in deciphering a human genome, while Kim becomes the fifth person to share his genetic sequence for scientific use.

Korean researchers embarked on the project in April 2007 with a 250 million won ($169,262) budget. It took seven months to decode the genome using five milliliters of Kim’s blood. “It is very meaningful that Korea has its own genome sequence map because we’ve been using a reference genome [which decoded a Caucasian’s sequence],” said Bhak Jong-hwa, head of Kobic, in a release.

With a genome map, an individual can glimpse his genetic disposition, revealing vulnerability to diabetes, cancer and other chronic diseases. The map could make customized medical treatments possible. Many countries have been trying to decode the human genome, a compound word from gene and chromosome. In 2003, 16 laboratories, including those in the United States, Britain, Germany, France, Japan and China, unveiled the first human reference genome.

The multinational project took 13 years and cost 2.7 trillion won.

A personal genome map of U.S. biologist Craig Venter was released in 2007. The genome sequence of James Watson was unveiled last April and Chinese scientist Yang Huanming unveiled his own last month.

Kobic said that genome sequencing will become more common, and people will soon be able to pay about 1 million won to decode their genome. The process should take just seven days. Along with the positive, some negative side effects are possible.

“If genome sequencing becomes a daily routine, we will see a different type of discrimination. If one’s genome map says he is vulnerable to cancer, he might not be hired by a company,” said Kim Yoo-yeon, a researcher at Kobic.

The human genome is a full set of 3 billion base pairs of organic compounds called nucleotides that comprise chromosomes. In the chromosomes there are thousands of genes that determine one’s unique biological makeup.



By Sung So-young Staff Reporter [so@joongang.co.kr]




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