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Happy 10th Anniversary, Human Genome!

On June 26, 2000, the human draft genome was announced by US President Bill Clinton and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, marking an important and long-awaited milestone in scientific history. As the 10th anniversary approaches (traditional gifts include things made of tin or aluminum, in case you were wondering), most people are firmly split into two camps. There are those that ask, 'When are we going to start seeing some of the miracles we were promised?' And there are those that answer, 'Don't worry, they're coming.'

The Guardian's Johnjoe McFadden says when the draft genome was first announced, there were great expectations for finding the cause of diseases such as cancer and heart disease. But 10 years later, he says, "these expectations have not been fulfilled. The project that promised so much has, so far, delivered very little." It turns out genes are a lot more complicated than we think, he adds, and we should now look to systems biology to help us figure out the "tangle of interactions" formed by genes. And an editorial at the New York Times says the "sobering realization" is setting in that, despite the many advances science has made, reaping benefits from genomics is going to be a "long, slow slog."

But others say that the genomics revolution is just starting, and that the advent of personalized medicine and individual genetic testing will prove that spending all that time and money decoding the human genome was worth it. Writing for The Economist, Geoffrey Carr says "biological science is poised on the edge of something wonderful." As technology improves and researchers begin building enormous databases of information, as data from long-term studies start to accumulate and scientists begin to understand the relationship between genotypes and phenotypes, Carr says, "it will explain the history of life. And it will reveal, in pitiless detail, exactly what it is to be human."

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