First human ‘pangenome’ aims to catalogue genetic diversity

By | May 11, 2023

Nature reports:

More than 20 years after the first draft genome from the landmark Human Genome Project was released, researchers have published a draft human ‘pangenome’ — a snapshot of what is poised to become a new reference for genetic research that captures more of human diversity than has been previously available. Geneticists have welcomed the milestone, while also highlighting key ethical considerations surrounding the effort to make genome research more inclusive.

“This is like going from black-and-white television to 1080p,” says Keolu Fox, a genome scientist at the University of California, San Diego.

“It’s something that we have all been waiting for,” says Aimé Lumaka, a geneticist who holds a joint position at the University of Liège in Belgium and the University of Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “The current reference genome is missing not only part of the genomic information but, most importantly, it’s missing diversity,” he says.

The draft genome, published in Nature on 10 May, was produced by the Human Pangenome Reference Consortium. Launched in 2019, the international project aims to map the entirety of human genetic variation, to create a comprehensive reference against which geneticists will be able to compare other sequences. Such a reference would aid studies investigating potential links between genes and disease.

The draft pangenome follows the 2022 publication of the first complete sequence of the human genome, which filled gaps that had been left by the original Human Genome Project. But unlike the original draft human genome and its successor, both of which were derived mostly from the DNA of just one person, the draft pangenome represents a collection of sequences from a diverse selection of 47 people from around the globe, including individuals from Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. [Continue reading…]