Did You Know?

Did you know that the word "genome" is a combination of the words "gene" and "chromosome"?

Did you know that if the genome was a book, it would be the equivalent of 800 dictionaries? It would take a person typing 60 words per minute, eight hours a day, around 50 years to type the human genome. You would need 3 gigabytes of storage space on a computer to hold all of this information, and yet, all of it is contained inside the microscopic nucleus of a cell so tiny that it could easily fit on the head of a pin! Source: Facts About DNA by Dr. Hsien-Hsein Lei, http://www.eyeondna.com/2007/08/20/100-facts-about-dna/

Did you know that the results of phase II of the "haplotype map" of the human genome (HapMap) were published in the October 18, 2007 issue of Nature magazine? Recent research suggests that the variations on human chromosomes are organized into blocks of DNA, which come in a relatively small number of varieties (called haplotypes) and, which are relatively large in size. The knowledge of such a haplotype map would greatly facilitate the identification of genes causing common genetic diseases by lowering the number of SNPs needed to study. The second generation of the haplotype map of the human genome contains three times more genetic markers than the first version unveiled in 2005. In the prestigious magazine Nature, the Consortium explains that the higher resolution of this second version offers a greater ability to detect the genetic variations involved in certain illnesses; studies the structure of human genetic variation and makes it possible to learn how certain environmental factors influence the human genome. This research could result in new methods for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease.

Did you know DNA barcodes use a small fragment of an organism’s DNA – a portion of a single gene – to identify the species to which an organism belongs? They are powerful tools, which can be used to help catalogue biodiversity. DNA barcoding began in Canada, and Canadian scientists continue to lead international work aimed at developing a complete catalogue of the Earth’s life forms. It may one day be possible to scan an organism to discover its complete genetic makeup. It has taken 250 years to catalogue some 15 per cent of the world’s biodiversity. But with many species now under threat, the Canadian Barcode of Life Network seeks to develop comprehensive DNA barcode libraries, in a much faster way, for all the world’s birds and fishes, and then of other animals, fungi, plants and protists (these are often single-celled organisms).

Did you know that knock-out mice are model organisms in which specific genes have been inactivated? As part of the North American Conditional Mouse Mutagenesis (NorCOMM) Project, these model organisms make it possible to understand the role of genetic changes in the development of human diseases. The International Knock-out Mouse Project is a worldwide effort to generate knock-out mutations in every gene in the mouse genome – and is widely considered to be the next most important step following the Human Genome Project.

Did you know that hockey player Jason Blake, who has been diagnosed with cancer, has a reasonable expectation of recovery due to the discovery of a drug that came as a result of research by Genome Canada Project Leader Dr. Tony Pawson of the Simon Lunenfeld Research Institute? Dr. Pawson discovered how stopping cell division can stifle cancer.

Did you know that Canadian scientist Dr. Scherer heads a team of the country’s leading geneticists, developmental pediatricians and genome scientists taking part in a 10-nation project studying autism?

With funding from Genome Canada, the team is working on isolating genes that may make someone susceptible to autism. Once those genes have been identified, physicians will be able to diagnose the condition much earlier and treat it more effectively.

Did you know that genomics is being applied to agriculture in order to produce crops that are bigger, better, more nutritious and more resistant to disease?

Did you know that our genes are remarkably similar to those of other life forms? For example, we share 98 per cent of our genes with chimpanzees and 99 per cent with mice - a striking demonstration of the continuum of life. (Sources: ScienceDaily Oct. 13, 2006 and CNN.com Dec. 4, 2002)

Did you know that our genes represent only 2 per cent of the DNA in our chromosomes? The other 98 per cent is non-coded DNA. Scientists still don’t know the purpose of this non-coding DNA. (Source: Your World, Biotechnology & You (published by the U.S. Biotechnology Institute), Vol. 10, issue No. 2)

Did you know that the concepts of "genes" only dates back to the 19th century and an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel? Mendel used his garden for a now famous series of breeding experiments with pea plants. He orchestrated various matings, placing pollen from one pea plant on the female flower parts of another to determine how different traits are inherited. (What is a Genome?, The Institute for Genomic Research, 2001)

Did you know that April 2008 will mark the 55th anniversary of Dr. James Watson's and Dr. Francis Crick's discovery of the double helix? In March of 1953, after many years of attempting to understand and elucidate the DNA structure they proposed the complementary double-helical configuration. Subsequently, Dr. Watson, Dr. Crick and Dr. Maurice Wilkins received the Nobel Prize in 1962 for "their discoveries of the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material." (The Nobel Prize, www.nobel.se)

Did you know that Canada has played a major role in developing treatments for diabetes? In 1921 Dr. Banting, along with fellow researchers, discovered insulin the most widely used treatment for Type I diabetes. In May 2000 a team of researchers from the University of Alberta announced they had successfully transplanted human pancreatic cells into people living with Type I diabetes, called islet cell transplantation. This type of treatment for people with diabetes can lead to independence of insulin injections and no longer having to watch what they eat. Go Canada! (Canadian Diabetes Association, www.diabetes.ca)

Did you know that a team led by Dr. Lap-Chee Tsui from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto discovered the defective gene and molecular defect responsible for cystic fibrosis in 1989? It is estimated that one in every 2,500 children born in Canada has cystic fibrosis. (Hospital for Sick Children, History of the Research Institute – Discoveries and Achievements, www.sickkids.on.ca & Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, www.cysticfibrosis.ca)

Did you know that Canadian scientists discovered a gene (AR) that protects women against breast cancer? In 2001, a team of Quebec researchers, led by Dr. François Rousseau of the Human and Molecular Genetic Research Department (HMGRD), Hôpital Saint-François d'Assise Research Centre, Centre hospitalier universitaire de Québec (CHUQ), made the major breakthrough identifying certain variants of this gene which provide women with greater protection against breast cancer. (Canadian Genetic Diseases Network, www.cgdn.ca)