The 1000 Genomes Project: new opportunities for research and social challenges

Genome Med. 2010 Jan 21;2(1):3. doi: 10.1186/gm124.


The 1000 Genomes Project, an international collaboration, is sequencing the whole genome of approximately 2,000 individuals from different worldwide populations. The central goal of this project is to describe most of the genetic variation that occurs at a population frequency greater than 1%. The results of this project will allow scientists to identify genetic variation at an unprecedented degree of resolution and will also help improve the imputation methods for determining unobserved genetic variants that are not represented on current genotyping arrays. By identifying novel or rare functional genetic variants, researchers will be able to pinpoint disease-causing genes in genomic regions initially identified by association studies. This level of detailed sequence information will also improve our knowledge of the evolutionary processes and the genomic patterns that have shaped the human species as we know it today. The new data will also lay the foundation for future clinical applications, such as prediction of disease susceptibility and drug response. However, the forthcoming availability of whole genome sequences at affordable prices will raise ethical concerns and pose potential threats to individual privacy. Nevertheless, we believe that these potential risks are outweighed by the benefits in terms of diagnosis and research, so long as rigorous safeguards are kept in place through legislation that prevents discrimination on the basis of the results of genetic testing.

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