castanyes blaves

Random ramblings about some random stuff, and things; but more stuff than things -- all in a mesmerizing and kaleidoscopic soapbox-like flow of words.



The formation of the Joint Genome Institute was a logical outgrowth of the involvement of the national laboratories in the Human Genome Project and earlier work on human genetics. Decades ago, the U.S. Congress charged the Department of Energy's predecessor agencies (the Atomic Energy Commission and the Energy Research and Development Agency) with studying and analyzing the consequences of human genetic mutations, especially those caused by radiation and the chemical byproducts of nuclear energy production. A particular focus of research has been the attempt to detect tiny genetic mutations among the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and their descendants.

In 1994, DOE expanded its genomic research with the Microbial Genome Initiative to sequence the genomes of bacteria of likely interest in the areas of energy production and use, environmental remediation, and waste reduction. Such microbes live under extreme conditions of temperature and pressure and could be engineered for such practical purposes as waste control and environmental cleanup.

Genomes of Microbes, Too

For the overall genomic effort, sequencing the genomes of microbes has both short-term and long-term benefits. In the short term, researchers such as Jane Lamerdin and her team are studying specific microbes that may be helpful in environmental remediation. Looking to the longer term, we will learn more about the microbial role in the overall "metabolism" of Earth. For an increasing number of microorganisms, microbiologists can proceed from a complete knowledge of an organism's genomic blueprint to its consequent activities and behaviors. "With our information, biologists will have a better understanding of how organisms interact and work together in a given environmental niche," says Lamerdin.

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