NEW DELHI, Dec. 9 (Xinhua) -- Indian scientists claimed they have successfully decoded the human genome for the first time in India, a breakthrough which puts the country in the select list of six nations to have achieved the medical feat, local media reported Wednesday.
A team from the Indian Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi, led by Dr. S. Sridhar and PhD student Vinod Scaria, has mapped the Human Genome Sequence of a 52-year-old male, paving the way for predictive healthcare and the possibility of identifying why certain people do not at all respond to certain medications, and what diseases a particular gene carrier or a population is likely to develop.
"The human genome sequence is like a map of the human body. Through this map, we can tell what leads to what. We can use this map to predict mutations in the gene, like predicting how a certain person may get a certain disease. We can predict for instance, who will get the common bipolar disease or single nuclear polymorphism," IGIB director Dr. Rajesh Gokhale told reporters on Tuesday.
"Through the same tool, we can predict the chances of a particular disease affecting a population. We can also explore aspects like why certain drugs don't affect certain people," he said.
The human genome contains 3.1 billion base pairs, which describe every bodily function. Only five other countries -- the United States, Britain, Canada, China and South Korea -- have so far sequenced the human genome.
According to the scientists, the 52-year-old man was chosen from among several people profiled because he was at the "onset" age for certain diseases, but was healthy in terms of biochemical parameters like blood and cholesterol count. The entire project took a period of two years of background work.
Despite the high cost of sequencing, scientists at IGIB predict that it may soon become a fairly popular procedure.
"While genome sequencing is certainly expensive now, in about five years, we can look forward to making it a common diagnostic tool. A cancer patient for instance should be able to avail this facility, and the sequencing can predict what drugs will be useful for him," Dr. Gokhale said.
In its official statement, the Ministry of Science and Technology has lauded the "unique" achievement "by a team of very young scientists".¡¡