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How Formaspace Helped Sequence the Human Genome

06-17-2016 12:43 PM CET | Health & Medicine

Press release from: Formaspace

Sequencing Human Genome

Sequencing Human Genome

Since the Human Genome was decoded in the early 2000s, we take a lot of things for granted that would have been considered science fiction just a few generations earlier. Consider the following:

• We now consider it normal to collect DNA samples as evidence at a crime scene to implicate (or exonerate) suspects. Taking this further, residents of upscale New York City co-ops have even gone as far as testing doggie poo to nab the dog owners who don't clean up after their pets.
• We can take a swab sample (often in the comfort of our own home) to determine which viruses we have been exposed to during our lifetime, identify diseases which our individual genes might make us more likely to develop, or get insight into our ancestral genetic racial heritage. We can even get our own dogs tested to determine their breed backgrounds.
• Doctors can now provide personalized medicine (pharmacogenomics) at leading healthcare institutions, like MD Anderson Cancer Center, which tests patients for their unique genetic makeup in order to provide 'precision medicine' cancer treatments. Eventually, the "Moon Shot", or the cure-all for cancer, could also be readily available.
• Public health officials and investigators can identify strain variations of disease pathogens, ranging from MRSA and HIV to Anthrax, making it possible in many cases to determine the source of a disease outbreak.

How did laboratory scientists break the code of the Human Genome?
Let's roll the clock back to the immediate post-World War II period. Cambridge University graduate Frederick Sanger began his career studying insulin protein at the National Institute for Medical Research in London. This work led the Nobel Committee to award Sanger a Nobel Prize for successfully sequencing insulin and determining conclusively that amino acid proteins had a defined, regular sequence.

While Sanger had been studying insulin in London, British scientist Francis Crick and American researcher James D. Watson proposed a novel solution to explain the structure of DNA - two strands of DNA coiled together to form a double helix.

Importantly, they theorized that genetic information flowed in one direction - from DNA to RNA, then from RNA to proteins. (Previously many scientists, including Sanger, thought proteins - not DNA - were the source of genetic information.)

An experiment comparing regular hemoglobin with hemoglobin affected by sickle-cell anemia confirmed the new DNA replication hypothesis.

Sanger eventually joined Crick and Watson at Cambridge, where he studied how DNA makes proteins using messenger RNA (mRNA) and transfer RNA (tRNA) at the new Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB).

Meanwhile other researchers around the world were making progress. Robert Holley's team at Cornell was the first the sequence alanine transfer RNA (tRNA) from yeast; it contained 77 nucleotides.

The first DNA sequencing breakthrough came from researchers Wu and Kaiser, who used DNA polymerase to sequence a small fragment of lambda bacteriophage DNA; making it the first time DNA had been sequenced.

The number of identified DNA sequences began to grow and grow.
By 1977, Sanger identified the first complete genome of an organism, the phi X 174 bacteriophage, containing 5,386 nucleotides.

Sanger and Coulson published their gene sequencing technique in 1977 - today known as "Sanger's Method" - which uses dideoxynucleotides to control the DNA polymerase reactions.

Meanwhile, Allan Maxam and Walter Gilbert had developed their own technique that could sequence double-stranded DNA, making it a superior method despite the use of highly toxic chemicals.


Formaspace advances the spirit of discovery and creation through the design and manufacture of custom technical furniture, accessories, and services. We develop elegant, practical, flexible solutions for customers in laboratory, technical, and industrial environments.

1100 E. Howard Lane, Suite 400 Austin, TX 78753

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