In 1990, the White House launched a hefty research undertaking called the Human Genome Project intent on sequencing and mapping the human genome. That’s 3.3 billion base pairs. And it succeeded. Because of this project, the entire sequence of human DNA is now available to everyone stored in an open-access internet database.
As a result, you now have your own DNA sequenced for under a hundred bucks in a matter of weeks. (A decade ago, that would have cost over $10 million dollars for one person!)
The Human Genome Project has spurred a number endeavors, notably The Human Connectome Project and the BRAIN Initiative (Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). They endeavor to map neural connections of the brain, which are as unique to each individual as fingerprints.
Due to these recent strides of process in genetics and neurobiology, we are now beginning to see the unfathomable complexity and distinction each person carries. (We now know that even identical twins do share exactly the same DNA; it is altered by environmental factors, a phenomenon known as epigenetic modifications.)
By extension, we are learning that medicine is not a one-size-fits-all solution. For example, everyone metabolizes drugs in distinct, individual ways because our liver enzymes are encoded by unique genetic material. That means the same amount of a substance may affect two individuals in very different ways. (See extensive and poor metabolizers for more information.)
Does this seem like a lot of information? It is. We are swimming in a tsunami of new data, studies, and information every single day. But what most of it seems to be saying is: you are unfathomably unique. Many articles in this blog will be about exploring ways to use our physiological, genetic, and neurobiological idiosyncrasies to our advantage.
Sources and Links:
NCBI Genbank database http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/nucleotide
Human Connectome Project http://www.humanconnectomeproject.org
White House Fact Sheet about the BRAIN Initiative https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/04/02/fact-sheet-brain-initiative
To learn more about Human Connectome, I suggest reading Connectome: How the Brain’s Wiring Makes Us Who We Are by Dr Sebastian Seung.