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Genome India Project

Context:

Government aims to sequence 10,000 genomes by the end of the year 2023 under the Genome India Project (GIP).

The Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology has sequenced close to 7,000 genomes and 3,000 of these are already available for public access.

Relevance:

GS III: Science and Technology

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About Genome
  2. Genome India Project
  3. Significance of the Genome India Project
  4. Challenges of the Genome India Project

About Genome:

  • It refers to the complete set of genetic instructions or information that an organism possesses.
  • It is made up of DNA, which carries the instructions for the development, functioning, growth, and reproduction of all living organisms.
  • The study of genomics involves the analysis of genomes and has led to many breakthroughs in various fields, including medicine and biotechnology.
Genome Sequencing
  • Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), and guanine (G), that make up an organism’s DNA.

Genome India Project

  • India’s population consists of over 4,600 diverse population groups, many of which are endogamous.
  • These groups have unique genetic variations and disease-causing mutations that cannot be compared to other populations.
  • The Genome India Project aims to create a database of Indian genomes to learn about these unique genetic variants and use the information to create personalized drugs and therapies.
  • The project was started in 2020 and is inspired by the successful decoding of the entire human genome in the Human Genome Project (HGP).
  • The project seeks to better understand the genetic variations and disease-causing mutations specific to the Indian population, which is one of the most genetically diverse in the world.
  • By sequencing and analyzing these genomes, researchers hope to gain insights into the underlying genetic causes of diseases and develop more effective personalized therapies.
  • The project involves the collaboration of 20 institutions across India and is being led by the Centre for Brain Research at the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
  • Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, China, and the United States, also have similar programs to sequence their genomes.

Significance of the Genome India Project:

The Genome India Project (GIP) has significant implications in various fields, including healthcare, agriculture, and global science. Here are the key points of its significance:

  • Personalized Medicine: The GIP aims to develop personalized medicine based on patients’ genomes to anticipate and modulate diseases. By mapping disease propensities to genetic variations, interventions can be targeted more effectively, and diseases can be anticipated before they develop.
  • Understanding Disease Propensities: GIP can help understand the genetic basis of disease propensities in different populations. For example, variations across genomes may explain why cardiovascular disease leads to heart attacks in South Asians but to strokes in most parts of Africa.
  • Agriculture: The GIP can benefit agriculture by understanding the genetic basis of the susceptibility of plants to pests, insects, and other issues hampering productivity. This can reduce dependence on chemicals.
  • Global Science: The project is said to be among the most significant of its kind in the world because of its scale and the diversity it would bring to genetic studies. Global science will also benefit from a mapping project in one of the world’s most diverse gene pools.

Challenges of the Genome India Project

Potential for scientific racism and reinforcement of stereotypes: There are concerns that genetic mapping could be used to promote ideas of racial purity and justify discrimination.

  • Deepening of social divisions: In a country already divided by identity politics, genetic mapping may further deepen existing social divisions.
  • Data privacy and storage concerns: In the absence of a comprehensive data privacy bill in India, there are concerns about the possible misuse of genetic information collected by the GIP.
  • Ethical questions about gene modification and selective breeding: The project raises ethical questions about the potential for doctors to privately perform gene modification or selective breeding, which have always been controversial.
  • Risk of misuse of genetic information: There is a risk that genetic information collected by the GIP could be misused, either intentionally or unintentionally. The 2018 sentencing of a Chinese scientist who created the world’s first gene-edited babies highlights the seriousness of these concerns.

-Source: The Hindu


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