Cracking the genetic code


FOR MOST of us, news that scientists have mapped the human genome is mystifying yet intriguing.

The scope of the accomplishment of the Human Genome Project, an international consortium, and Celera Genomics, a private Rockville company, is hard to grasp; the process that led to it beyond the comprehension of those who struggled through Biology 101.

But like man's first steps on the moon, the event itself stirs a sense of endless possibilities: In this case, the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the most dreaded diseases.

In the past 50 years, the pace of advances in the biological sciences has accelerated. That speed is now likely to increase, as this archive of man's genetic material is used to explore the complexities of the human body.

Experts predict it will ultimately revolutionize the way medicine is practiced. But as the experts were also quick to acknowledge, many questions remain unanswered.

It may be the more scientists learn about human life, the more awe-inspiring and mysterious it becomes.

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