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Experts sequence gene maps — for cheap

Scientists have sequenced the entire gene maps of two men, one Chinese and the other African, for a fraction of the price that such exercises used to cost.
/ Source: Reuters

Scientists have sequenced the entire gene maps of two men, one Chinese and the other African, for a fraction of the price that such exercises used to cost.

Two teams of scientists published their findings in separate articles in the science journal Nature.

The Chinese project cost US$500,000, down from what had cost hundreds of millions of dollars when the sequencing of the first human genome was completed in 2004.

"We can sequence a genome in less than a week for under a million (U.S. dollars), the cost is going down. Maybe a year later, when we are sequencing the 50th person, the cost would be even lower," said Li Zhuo of the Beijing Genomics Institute in China's southern city of Shenzhen.

Genomics companies are fighting to bring down costs and hope to offer people a complete analysis of their genetic information in future.

They say such information can help doctors make more accurate diagnoses and recommend treatment regimens that are more suited to the genetic makeup of the patient.

Another team of scientists, led by David Bentley of Illumina Cambridge Ltd, sequenced the gene map of the African man and described the process as "low cost."

The Chinese scientists plan to sequence the genomes of 100 other Chinese individuals in the next few years and are looking for volunteers.

They hope to find out if those participants have similar gene variations which may be linked to certain illnesses to which ethnic Chinese appear more vulnerable, such as cancer of the liver, face, mouth and throat.

"We have only one genome (now). But when we have genetic data of more people, we will be able to say whether any (particular gene) is linked to certain (diseases) ... which are rare in other races," said Zhuo.