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What's brewing at Bradley's lab?



Allan Bradley in New Delhi. Photo: V. Sudershan.

IT STILL is a hazy mental picture but would definitely become actuality. However, do not ask when, for the man at the front does not know himself.

After 50 years of the discovery of the DNA structure at Cambridge, England, Professor Allan Bradley, Director of the Wellcome Trust, Sanger Institute in Cambridge, is still chasing, along with many other scientists, the human cells to crack the genome mystery. But, he is buoyant to the brim.

"We shouldn't expect immediate major breakthroughs but there is no doubt we have embarked on one of the most exciting chapters of the book of life", says the bespectacled scientist. But what he envisions would bring in "sea change" due to success in the genome project is in the field of understanding diseases and taming them. New treatments, customised drugs to individual genetic profiles and earlier diagnosis of disease are expected to be among the many initial benefits of the Human Genome Project.

States Prof. Bradley: "The success of the genome project would alter the understanding and practices of diseases. There is a possibility that the diagnostic uses of it would enable the doctors to intelligently formulate medicine according to individualistic needs". In New Delhi this past week to mark the 50th anniversary of the discovery of the DNA structure at Cambridge, he says besides various types of cancer, there is a strong possibility that in the success of the project likes the answer to HIV virus.

Apart from Delhi, Bradley's travel itinerary included Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Pune where he delivered lectures on "Beyond the Human Genome". Interestingly, Prof Bradley has loads of experiences to share with his Indian counterparts. His institute has played a key role in the sequencing of the human genome, arguably one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of the recent times. Less than three years after finishing the working draft of the three billion letters that consist human DNA and two years earlier than expected, scientists have discovered a set of instructions on how humans develop and function.

The Genome Project has already aided scientists in discovering a mutation that leads to a deadly type of skin cancer and stepped up the search for genes involved in diabetes, leukaemia and childhood eczema. The completed sequence will help scientists to classify the 25,000-30,000 genes in humans, including those involved in complex diseases like cancer and diabetes.

Reportedly, researchers from about 120 countries have downloaded information on the project, which has been freely available on the Internet since June 2000. Is not that itself is some success?

SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY

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