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The Economist: Think of a Number, then Double It
Submitted by J.W. Bizzaro; posted on Saturday, July 14, 2001 (1 comment)
Submitter ``When the papers containing the first attempts to sequence the human genome were published earlier this year, some people purported to be shocked. The cause of their shock was the number (or, rather, the lack of number) of genes that it took to carry the blueprint for a human being. One paper, published by the publicly funded Human Genome Consortium (prop. Francis Collins, of America's National Institutes of Health), came up with a figure of 31,000. The other, the product of Celera, a private company (prop. Craig Venter), suggested around 26,000.

``Within the margins of error expected of such cutting-edge research, that sounded like a consensus. The reason that many people were sceptical was that it was little larger than the figures previously arrived at for nematode worms (19,000) and fruitflies (13,600). Surely, these scientists argued, people are a lot more complex than worms and flies. And that should mean that they must have many more genes.

``A paper just published in Genome Biology suggests that the sceptics might be right, after all. Bo Yuan, of Ohio State University, in Columbus, and his colleagues, suspect that the human genome contains not 30,000 genes, but more than twice that figure. Their estimate, arrived at using a different approach from that employed by Celera and the Human Genome Consortium, is 65,000-75,000.''

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Double them all?
Submitted by J.W. Bizzaro; posted on Saturday, July 14, 2001
Submitter If assembled EST's show that the number of human genes is some 60,000, double of what was estimated by other methods, then they may show that the other organisms also have double the number of genes. Perhaps nematodes have 40,000, and fruit flies have 25,000? Then, humans are STILL only "a little more complex than worms and flies"! :-)
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