Pakistan is the World’s Sixth Country to Map a Human Genome
Pakistan has become the world’s sixth country and the first Muslim state to map the genome of the first Pakistani individual. The complete genome mapping was done jointly by the Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine & Drug Research (PCMD) at Karachi University and Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI) in China.The details were revealed to the Pakistani media by Prof. Dr.M. Iqbal Choudhary, Director International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), Karachi University and Dr. Kamran Azim of ICCBS at a press conference at PCMD.
Highlighting the importance of the project, Dr. Choudhary said Pakistan had officially entered into the world of genome mapping and the details of the work would be published soon in a research journal. He disclosed that eminent Pakistani chemist and former chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC), Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman was the first Muslim and Pakistani whose complete genome was mapped by Dr. Kamran Azim.
“The important work will pave the way for research on heredity diseases, evolution and the over all genetic make up of Pakistanis which now hold a unique genetic pattern as a nation. In the past many people like Dr. Watson and others urged scientists not to reveal their genome publicly but Dr. Rehman has never put any restrictions for his genome draft,” Choudhary added.
The whole process cost US$ 40,000 and was equally contributed by PCMD and BGI.
The blood samples of Dr. Atta ur Rehman were sent to BGI where his genome was sequenced by state of the art gene sequencing machines, however, the technical and research work was mainly done by Dr. Azim.
Genome: The Book of Life
In his marvelous book, Genome, Matt Ridley wrote:
“Imagine that the genome is a book. There are 23 chapters, called chromosomes. Each chapter contains several thousand stories, called genes. Each story is made up of paragraphs called exons, which are interrupted by advertisements called introns. Each paragraph is made up of words called codons. Each word written in letters are called bases, which are Cytosine, Guanine, Adenine, Thiamine or shortly A,G,T,C.”
The remarkable achievement of the first genome mapping of any Pakistani is just like opening the software or book of life of a nation.
Later, in his presentation, Dr. Kamran Azim said the project would help improve the diagnosis of diseases and also help trace back mutations in genetics of the Pakistani nation. Both Dr. Azim and Dr. Choudhary emphasised to establish a national genomic center and Dr. Choudhary said that the center should be established at the PCMD premises because of the knowledge and infrastructure that exists at the center. [Originally published on DAWN in 2011]