Special Report: The Genetic Revolution

On DNA Day, we celebrate the achievements that are ushering in the era of personalized genetic medicine

On DNA Day, we celebrate the achievements that are ushering in the era of personalized genetic medicine
Image: Yakobchuk/iStockphoto

Sixty years ago this month, researchers James Watson and Francis Crick described the double helix shape of DNA. This breakthrough allowed geneticists to study how an organism’s physical characteristics are encoded in the DNA molecule, and how living creatures pass down traits to their offspring.

Ten years ago this month, researchers completed sequencing the human genome, putting the roughly 3 billion letters that make up a molecule of human DNA in order. The Human Genome Project took more than a decade and cost about US $3 billion. With this comprehensive map, researchers can more easily study how our genes determine our medical fates.

On April 25, researchers celebrate DNA Day to mark the accomplishments of the past, and to marvel at the progress made since those historic milestones. Today, fast and cheap machines enable scientists to sequence the genomes of thousands of people in research projects devoted to complex diseases like cancer and heart disease. Soon, such whole-genome scans may be a routine part of medicine. IEEE Spectrum explores the new field of personalized genetic medicine with a package of articles, radio pieces, and blog posts. Happy DNA Day!

 

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