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Scientists Complete Sequencing of Chromosome 21

Aired May 8, 2000 - 1:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Another major advance is being reported in the Human Genome Project. A second chromosome has been fully sequenced.

CNN's Eileen O'Connor tells us information from this chromosome could be instrumental down the road in fighting several genetic diseases.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

EILEEN O'CONNOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Scientists from Japan and Germany involved in the Human Genome Project announced their latest achievement: the mapping of Chromosome 21, one of the smallest with only 225 active genes. But of the 46 chromosomes in the human body, scientists already know the genes found here play a role in some of man's most devastating diseases, like Down's Syndrome, where there's a third copy of Chromosome 21. Research as to its causes, says the project leaders, may now be greatly accelerated.

Dr. Roger Reeves, a genetic and Down's Syndrome researcher, says by looking at the difference of the genes of those with Down's Syndrome and those without, they can identify exactly which genes cause the developmental problems associated with the disease.

DR. ROGER REEVES, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIV. MED. INST.: We now have a list of all the possible candidates and, more importantly, we can exclude the other genes in the genome that are not now any longer possible contributors to this. So it really allows us to focus our work in a very, very effective and important way.

O'CONNOR: Genes on this chromosome are also being linked to Alzheimer's, Lou Gehrig's Disease and some cancers, including childhood leukemia. But researchers with the Human Genome Project say the significance of sequencing yet another chromosome goes beyond its role in a few diseases, revising our very view of human life.

ROBERT WATERSTON, WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: We are going to have in front of us what parts of our appearance and our behavior and our health are due to genes and their variations.

O'CONNOR (on camera): Profound information, scientists call it, potentially life-saving; but also, in the wrong hands, life- threatening. That is why scientists also say the time to talk about the ethical consequences of knowing all there is to know about our genetic makeup is now.

Eileen O'Connor, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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