Programme 7: Genetics
Where will Ireland be making a real impact in 10 years time? What are the 'hot spots' of Irish scientific research and... who are the investigators of the future?
Without doubt one of the key areas will be in genetics. Since the discovery of the structure of DNA revolutionised the field in the 1960s the search for further information on our genome began apace. In 2001 they finally succeeded in one of the greatest achievements of modern science - The human genome project. The only Irish Scientist asked to participate was Professor Ken Wolfe of TCD.
By analysing the evolution of genes across different species over billions of years, Wolfe aims to understand how new genes begin and why. A major breakthrough came initially in 1997 when he proved beyond doubt that there was a duplication of the entire genome in yeast and more significantly in 2001 when he showed that this duplication had occurred twice in the evolution of human genes. Gaining deeper insights into the formation of genes will help us gauge the consequences of future manipulation or intervention within genetics. Now scientists like Peter Humphreys are concentrating on the identification of genes and their links to function in the body and more importantly to disease and disability- in this case blindness. We will examine the ethical issues surrounding the possession of knowledge which might indicate likelihood of life expectancy etc and the concept of 'blacklisted genes' like that which indicates clearly if someone will develop the fatal 'Huntington's Disease'.
Featuring: Ken Wolfe, SFI, Peter Humphreys, Tim O'Brien
Interviews: Dr Ewan Birney, European Bio Informatics Institute, Cambridge University,
Dr. Siobhan O'Sullivan, The Irish Bio Ethics Council