Basic Sciences Division's Dr. Steve Henikoff is among the researchers selected by the National Institutes of Health to investigate functional elements of the human genome. The four-year, $57 million scientific mission aims to understand every part of the genome needed for organisms to develop and thrive.
To study the human genome, Henikoff and researchers from across the country are focusing their efforts on the genomes of the fruit fly and the roundworm, which are much more manageable and provide a model for identifying common genes, proteins and processes that cause human disease.
The National Human Genome Research Institute, which is part of the NIH, recently awarded Henikoff a total of $1.7 million to study the genomes of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster and the roundworm, Caenorhabditis elegans.
The project will build on previous knowledge acquired by the ENCyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE consortium. ENCODE is preparing to create a comprehensive catalogue of all elements in the human genome critical to biological function. By researching relatively smaller genomes like the roundworm and fruit fly, scientists can perfect high-throughput methods needed to analyze the much larger human genome.