If things proceed as planned, an ambitious project to understand India’s enormous genetic diversity will be launched later this year. Called the Genome India Project, it could have several phases, though the fate of the subsequent phases will depend on the first one that kick starts in October. The Department of Biotechnology will be the nodal government agency overseeing this endeavour which will use cutting-edge technology in genetic science to map the Indian genome.
What is a genome?
- A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including the genes.
- A gene contains all the information that serve as building blocks life.
- Gene sequencing has given scientists the tool to identify the genes that are critical to life, and which can be separated to understand its potential to give rise to diseases, and thereafter find genetic ways to counter the challenge.
Purpose of the project –
The Genome India Project (GIP) has a specific mandate; to explore the country’s rich genetic diversity, but the core purpose is to use the information gathered to understand fully the nature and types of diseases that affect the Indian population, and how they can be tackled at the ‘root’.
The Genome India Project will be spearheaded by the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science’s Centre for Brain Research, and involve some 20 institutions spread across the country, engaged in collecting samples, collating the information, conducting research and eventually creating a grid of the ‘Indian reference genome’. In October 2020, the first phase starts in which 10,000 genetic samples will be collected from across the country in a bid to have a ‘representative Indian genome’.
- The GIP should not be used for discriminatory purposes — racial purity and civilisational evolution, being two of the many red-flags. There is no need to fall into the trap of determining the ‘genuine Indian’ or the ‘indigenous Indian’ and creating fissures in society.
- The issue of medical ethics is also critical. Recently, a doctor in China was sentenced to three years in prison after it was found that he had privately used genetic information to gene-edit babies and made them resistant to HIV. Gene-modification is, therefore, a tricky subject.
New India’s GIP, will, hopefully, trigger further interest among Indians on the potency of cutting-edge genetic engineering and its potential to harness information to confront rare diseases — both at the preventive and later stages.
Source – VIF India
QUESTION – What is a ‘genome’? Discuss in brief about the proposed Genome Project of India in terms of its benefits and concerns attached to it.