human genome researchI remember first hearing about the human genome project after seeing it referenced by Pandora Radio, which calls their sophisticated taxonomy of musical information the “music genome project.” The human genome project of course is an entirely different thing. It’s defined as “an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up human DNA, and of identifying and mapping all of the genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional standpoint.”

Whew! If that definition makes about as much sense to you as it does to me (which is to say, not a whole lot), you can rest assured knowing that there are many scientists working hard to learn more about how DNA and genes work every day as part of the project.

Institutions like the New York Genome Center, which receives support from prominent board members like William Ford, CEO of General Atlantic, and Steven Singer of the Life Sciences Group, are helping to transform biomedical research and clinical care with the mission of saving lives, and they’re doing it using human genome research. Reportedly, sequencing the human genome provides a multitude of benefits, including the ability to identify mutations linked to different forms of cancer, which is why it’s so important that places like the NY Genome Center exist.

Earlier this month, The Washington Post published an article that attempted to tackle the incomprehensible amount of data that has resulted from the human genome project. Apparently, the findings and the sheer amount of data is shocking even to scientists. Professor Michael Schatz explains, “Scientists are really shocked at how far genomics has come. Big data scientists in astronomy and particle physics thought genomics had a trivial amount of data. But we’re catching up and probably going to surpass them,” of the massive amount of data that the human genome project has created.

The Washington Post’s Robert Gebelhoff puts it this way: “Right now, all of the human data generated through genomics – including around 250,000 sequences – takes up about a fourth of the size of YouTube’s yearly data production. If the data were combined with all the extra information that comes with sequencing genomes and recorded on typical 4-gigabyte DVDs, Schatz said the result would be a stack about half a mile high.”

Did I mention that this stuff overwhelms me completely? Even so, it is absolutely fascinating, and the thought that somewhere in all of that data there are possible solutions to diseases like cancer is a very promising one indeed. Especially because many scientists believe that this field of research is just beginning to take off.

Learn more about genome sequencing and that massive amount of data it creates in Gebelhoff’s recent report.