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Genomics and Public Health: Potential Benefits Depend on Linking Genetic and Environmental Data in Designing Research, Developing Applications, And Forging Public Policies.

Issues in Science and Technology 2005, Spring, 21, 3

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Breakthroughs in biology are changing our world. Just as chemistry and physics had broad ramifications in the preceding centuries, the New Biology unleashed by the Human Genome Project and associated developments will send ripples through many aspects of 21st-century life and will be influential in improving the health of the public. The public health sciences will be essential for interpreting the health significance of genetic variation and the gene/environment interactions at the core of most diseases and biological phenomena. The combination of genomics and public health sciences will be critical to achieve the vision of predictive, personalized, preventive health care and community health services (Table 1). Public and media interest was intense when President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair jointly announced accelerated progress by the public- and private-sector sequencing programs in June 2000. The details of those "blueprints" for the 25,000 to 30,000 genes of the human genome sequence were published in February 2001. These genes, through a variety of pathways, produce an even larger number of proteins, which then undergo numerous structural modifications critical to their functions; thus, the "proteome" is much more numerous and complex than the genome.