The first sequence of an animal genome is essentially complete
Funded by the Medical Research Council and America's National Institutes of Health, the Sanger Centre and the Genome Sequencing Centre at St Louis have completed a 15-year project to sequence the complete genome of the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans.
Containing less than a thousand cells and 1mm in length, C.elegans seems very different from us but is actually built using remarkably similar principles. Like us it develops from embryo to adult, has a gut, nerves, muscles, skin, and around 40 per cent of its genes are closely related to ours.
By comparing worm and human sequence, it is possible to identify the related genes, and can then use the worm to examine their function. From these studies conclusions can be drawn about genetic causes of disease and disorders.
This completed gene sequence gives scientists and health practitioners world-wide valuable information to aid the study of the human body in health as well as in illness and may for example lead to new treatments for disease.
The press conference was held at the Royal Society.
"This is an exciting day for British science. The first complete genomic sequence of a complex organism - an animal, with which the human body can be compared, promises to open a new chapter in the understanding of human health and disease."
Professor George Radda, MRC Chief Executive
"The completion of this project is a terrific scientific achievement. Not only is it an example of international partnership and co-operation with strong British involvement, but a world scientific first - the first multicellular animal to be completely sequenced. This research will ultimately contribute towards interpretation of other genomes, including the human, and help to ensure that we revolutionise healthcare."
Lord Sainsbury, Minister for Science