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Human Genome News Archive Edition

Human Genome News, March 1991; 2(6)

HUGO Europe Meets in Frankfurt

At the first Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) meeting held in Europe, some 200 scientists from 16 countries assembled December 10-12, 1990, in Frankfurt, Germany, to discuss European genome research. Innovation was seen to be thriving in the broad range of methodological developments and applications presented.

The meeting, marking the first time that a German federal or private institution has contributed to a HUGO activity, was largely supported by the Federal Ministry of Research and Technology; the German Society for Chemical Equipment, Chemical Engineering, and Biotechnology (DECHEMA); and the European Community (EC).

The program of 38 oral and 49 poster presentations was planned to bring together scientists in medicine, molecular biology, and informatics and to foster interaction with national and European policymakers. Trends and strategies in genome research were the subjects of round-table discussions.

Several speakers reported attempts to create easily accessible data centers with internationally accepted data transfer standards; computer experts stated that future systems will have to be more flexible. Participants were impressed by the speed of degenerate homology searches using a massively parallel Active Memory Technology distributed-array processor with the Needleman-Wunsch-Sellers algorithm, as presented by Andrew Coulson (University of Edinburgh).

A. Goffeau (EC, Brussels) reported on EC funding in European genome research. The coordinated effort of 35 laboratories to sequence yeast chromosome III with standard nonautomated methods is almost complete. Within a 250-kb region, 196 open reading frames have been found: 19 already known; 25 homologous to known genes; 16 probable membrane proteins; and 136 temporary one-membered sets.

Fumihiko Matsuda of Tasuka Honjo's laboratory (Kyoto, Japan) described an impressive large-scale analysis of nine independent yeast contigs involving some 5.5 Mb and 71 VH antibody genes that exhibited quite varied gene density within the contigs, from 21 VH genes in one 380-kb region to 2 VH genes in another region of 1.1 Mb. (VH refers to the immunoglobulin heavy chain variable gene regions.)

A novel inverse polymerase chain reaction protocol from Andre Rosenthal (Medical Research Council, Cambridge) has been effective in short sequencing excursions or walks from any known sequence tagged site (STS) to the next restriction site of choice, currently with a range limited to about 4 kb [A. Rosenthal and D. S. C. Jones, Nucleic Acids Res. 18(10), 3095 (May 25, 1990)]. The chromosomal physical-microdissection techniques of Bernhard Horsthemke (Institute for Human Genetics, Essen) and G. Senger (Institute for Human Genetics, Erlangen) were compared with the laser techniques of Bertrand Jordan (National Institute of Health and Medical Research, Marseilles) and K. O. Greulich (University of Heidelberg), along with examples of subsequent small-fragment cloning. A novel development by Greulich involves optical "pincers" to lift up and isolate the dissected chromosomal segment.

A technical breakthrough by A. Perrin (Pasteur Institute) that holds promise for future practical application is the characterization of an ultrarare-cutter restriction enzyme (18-bp recognition site). It would be valuable in combination with small, transposable elements or retroviruses for introducing unique cut sites into complex genomes [C. Monteilhet et al., Nucleic Acids Res. 18(16), 1407-1413 (March 25, 1990)].

K. H. Grzeschik (University of Marburg), on behalf of those involved in genetic counseling, expressed the preference that STSs be derived from highly polymorphic regions rather than from cDNAs or highly conserved sequences, an approach designed to lead more directly to candidate genes.

Richard Benson (Center for Human Genetics and Biomedical Ethics, Leuven) reviewed ethical questions related to the Human Genome Project. He concluded that, while human genome research is not ethically neutral, a project that can make a unique contribution to the advancement of human health is not merely "something that would be nice to do," but ethically imperative.


Conference organizers

  • Walter Bodmer
    Imperial Cancer Research Fund, London
  • Edwin Southern
    University of Oxford
  • Glauco Tocchini-Valentini
    University of Rome
  • Mark Lathrop
    Centre d'Etude Polymorphisme Humain, Paris
  • Karl-Heinz Grzeschik
    University of Marburg, Germany
  • Albert Driesel
    DECHEMA Institute, Frankfurt
  • John Collins
    National Biotech Research Center (GBF), Braunschweig

Reported by John Collins
National Biotech Research Center, Germany

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Human Genome Program, U.S. Department of Energy, Human Genome News (v2n6).

Human Genome Project 1990–2003

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international 13-year effort, 1990 to 2003. Primary goals were to discover the complete set of human genes and make them accessible for further biological study, and determine the complete sequence of DNA bases in the human genome. See Timeline for more HGP history.

Human Genome News

Published from 1989 until 2002, this newsletter facilitated HGP communication, helped prevent duplication of research effort, and informed persons interested in genome research.