10 Things Our Genes Can Tell Us

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by: Jacob Silverman
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Microbiologists observe x-ray film containing a DNA pattern. With the mapping of the human genome complete, we learn more about our genes every day -- how they behave, what they tell us about ourselves and what can be done, or undone, about their actions.
George Doyle/Thinkstock

Ten years after the first rough draft of the human genome was unveiled in 2000, opinions appear varied on the success of the Human Genome Project -- an ambitious multibillion-dollar project to map the entire human genetic code and to learn more about the genetic underpinnings of disease. A series of New York Times articles in June 2010 criticized the project for not leading to many new cures for diseases [source: Wade and Pollack]. Another repeated point has been that the project has been more fruitful for scientists than medical researchers. 

But many scientists took issue with the New York Times' assessment. One Harvard Medical School professor wrote that the project should be appreciated for the opportunities it's provided to study human health on a molecular level and for the insights it's provided to a range of medical and biological sciences -- not just drug research. He went on say that the project "may be the most effective $3 billion ever spent by this country" [source: Farzan].

Whatever the individual views on the success of the Human Genome Project may be, there's no doubting that science's understanding of genes, and what they tell us about our bodies, has progressed immensely in recent decades. We now know far more than we did even a decade ago about how our genes are ordered and what many of them do. In this article, we'll take a look at 10 things our genes can tell us -- from blood type to disease; from where our ancestors came from to how long we might live.

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