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The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) Provides Data Describing the Function of the Human Genome

The ENCODE Project was planned as a follow-up to the Human Genome Project. The Human Genome Project sequenced the DNA that makes up the human genome; the ENCODE Project seeks to interpret this sequence. Coinciding with the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) organized the launching of the ENCODE Project, as a worldwide effort involving more than 30 research groups and 400 scientists. The approximately 20,000 genes that provide instructions for making proteins account for only about 1% of the human genome. Researchers embarked on the ENCODE Project to figure out the purpose of the remaining 99% of the genome. Scientists discovered that more than 80 percent of this non-gene component of the genome, which was once considered “junk DNA,” actually has a role in regulating the activity of particular genes (gene expression).

Researchers think that changes in the regulation of gene activity may disrupt protein production and cell processes and result in disease. A goal of the ENCODE Project is to link variations in the expression of certain genes to the development of disease. The ENCODE Project has given researchers insight into how the human genome functions. As researchers learn more about the regulation of gene activity and how genes are expressed, the scientific community will be able to better understand how the entire genome can affect human health.

NHGRI recently announced updated results of the ENCODE project in a press release. Further detailed information about the findings are available from the ENCODE project portal. Published research findings are also available through the new web site, Nature Encode Explorer, which provides public access to scientific information collected from the ENCODE Project.

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