- What's in Our Genes?
- July 2002
- Dear Friends
We have learned a lot about the genetic makeup of human beings through the Human Genome Project. We now know that humans have approximately 35,000 genes that produce some 100,000 proteins. It is these proteins that control the structure and function of all the organ systems that involve human life. Soon the identification of genetic abnormalities will identify disease in its incipient stages and will tell which patients will respond to drugs and which ones may have drug toxicity. An understanding of genetic and environmental interactions will be enhanced. This explosion of knowledge is largely a result of research support from the National Institutes of Health, along with substantial support from private sources.
The National Institutes of Health budget for research was $28 million in 1946. By 1958, the year I graduated from medical school, it had risen to $150 million. By 1955, $11 billion was devoted to biomedical research. It is estimated that $27 billion will be spent on biomedical research in 2003. There are now 11 National Institutes of Health, including the National Institute on Aging.
I see a day where molecular biology will explain the mechanisms of COPD, along with other troublesome diseases. Genetic studies will be the focus of disease prevention and strategies for early diagnosis and treatment. It will guide therapies for the future. Thus, what's in our genes will determine how we live and breath tomorrow.
I will be in touch next month.
- Thomas Petty, MD