Sun, Nov 21, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Scientists band together to map Asian gene pool


Hundreds of scientists are banding together to map the region's diverse gene pool in the hope of opening up new tailor-made medical treatments.

The landmark project, emerging from the Human Genome Organization Pacific Meeting and Asia-Pacific Conference in Human Genetics which concluded yesterday, is the first effort to paint a detailed genetic pictures of the differences in races.

Asia, with nearly half the world's population, is home to thousands of ethnic groups.

"Over the years, we have developed a cadre of friends and scientists who are like-minded in their resolve to solve some of the problems in the region," said Professor Edison Liu, executive director of the Genome Institute of Singapore.

Mapping out the tiny genetic variations between populations that make some more prone to certain diseases or more responsive to specific drugs will hopefully bring tailor-made cures.

For a start, 2,600 people from more than 10 countries will be recruited to give small blood samples for analysis. Among the nations selected are Indonesia, Singapore, India, Japan, South Korea and China.

The Human Genome Project showed that everyone's DNA is 99.9 percent identical.

The scientists are concentrating on the 0.1 percent which accounts for human differences such as skin color or disease predisposition.

The effort will also provide a genetic map of human history in the world, highlighting how populations migrated throughout the region.

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