23 December 2009

The genome in Russia is bigger than the genome

Russian Russian genome was deciphered in Russian
Anastasia Kirilenko, Radio LibertyScientists have deciphered the individual genome of a Russian person.

The work was carried out at the Russian scientific center "Kurchatov Institute". Geneticists from other institutes do not know anything about it. In total, eight genomes have been decoded in the world. The correspondent of RS found out how the Russian genome differs from other genomes and why it was important to decipher it.

According to ITAR-TASS, with reference to the head of the genomic direction of the Kurchatov Institute, Academician Konstantin Scriabin, the project to decipher the genome of a Russian person took six months and cost less than similar projects carried out earlier abroad.

The first people who were honored to be "deciphered" were Nobel laureate and one of the discoverers of the structure of DNA James Watson, as well as biologist Craig Venter. Later, the DNA sequences of an Asian and an African were determined. In total, eight individual genomes have been decoded to date. Such studies will clarify the biochemical and other differences between races and are of great importance for medicine.

Mikhail Gelfand, a molecular biologist, geneticist, Doctor of Biological Sciences, Professor, deputy director of the Institute of Information Transmission Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences for Science, told the RS correspondent how the achievement of the Kurchatov Institute is evaluated in the professional environment of geneticists.

– Is the Russian genome different from other genomes? And if so, with what? – The genome of the Russian differs from the already decoded genomes of the average European no more than any two genomes of Europeans differ from each other.

It differs from the Chinese genome in some small details.

– Who exactly was taken as a sample of Russian? It seems that Russians are a multiethnic nation?– The very formulation of the question is not very meaningful.

Russians are a rather mixed nation. Population geneticists have been studying this for a long time. In general, the pathos of the "Russian human genome" is not very clear. There is already an international scientific project to decode thousands of genomes of people of different nationalities. In a year or two, this data will be publicly available. Well, now there will be a thousand and one genomes.

– What is the significance of this discovery?– There is no discovery here.

If what is reported is true, then this is, at best, a technological advance. This means that the devices purchased long ago in the USA for decoding genomes at the Kurchatov Institute have finally started working. The problem is this: the result is a scientific achievement when it is published in some form. I tried to see what is known in the scientific literature about this achievement, and found: nothing. There are no articles about it. It was also not possible to find any traces of this project in the international standard databases, where all the data on the decoding of genomes are received. As a result, only press releases can be discussed.

Amazing things are written in press releases: the decoding of the genome in Russia was cheaper and faster than our foreign colleagues. This, in my opinion, is some kind of cunning, because the devices on which this was done are Western. The achievements of nanotechnology are mentioned. This is wonderful, but these are the achievements of Western nanotechnology. There is nothing wrong with this, but there are three or four companies in the world that produce these devices, and everyone uses them. National pride is hardly appropriate here. Just don't pass it off as your own achievement.

– Were you aware that your colleagues in genetics are working on decoding the Russian genome? – There were rumors about it, of course.

They said that just at the end of the year, the decoding of the Russian genome would be announced. Just because, apparently, the reporting dates are coming. Equipment has been purchased for several billion rubles. I had to report back.

– How typical is such a situation for science when there are no publications in scientific journals, but there are statements for the press? – Absolutely atypical.

That is, it is typical for Russia. And in general, for science, this is nonsense. I do not know of a single case when there would be a press release or public speeches without third-party researchers being able to look at this data themselves. Sequencing, or decoding of genes, is an open activity all over the world. There are so-called "Bermuda rules" that leading groups of researchers adopted many years ago. According to these rules, any results of gene decoding are very quickly transferred to publicly available databases on the Internet.

The genetic portraits referred to in the press release - Indian, Korean, African, European – have indeed been published. I can log into databases on the internet, download this data and analyze it. But the press release says that now it is possible to compare the Russian genome with them - but this is a stretch, because I, as an outside researcher, do not have such an opportunity. This suggests a bad idea: is there something that can be shown?

– What do you suppose, why such secrecy? Maybe the technology can be stolen?– Oh, really!

For forty thousand dollars in the USA, anyone can go and order their genome. And he will also receive a book with a description of his genomic features. These are all open technologies. I guess I have to report back. There are some intermediate results, so it's not scary to announce it. You see, after a while this genome will really be published. And it will be one of many.

– Is the "Russian genome" a scientific achievement? Or, first of all, patriotic? – You know, if you choose from a variety of nationalities that live in Russia, then I would sequence just not the Russian genome, because it adds very little compared to Europeans.

I would decipher the gene of representatives of any Paleoasiatic peoples who live in Eastern Siberia. There are very ancient, very different peoples there. It is their genomes that are of interest from a scientific point of view. Their languages are different, and ethnically they are very far from others. But, apparently, from the point of view of patriotism, "Russian genome" sounds better than "Nganasan genome" (although I don't understand why). But instead of repeating the tasks – after all, there is already an international project to sequence thousands of genomes – we, with these valuable purchased devices, could set our own scientific task, which the international project does not solve.

The devices could be used for research on the problems of genetic diseases. There are a lot of problems in Russia that these devices would help solve. And it would be much better if this money was given not for patriotic promises, but for a specific project that would have scientific value.

– Why was the genome decoded at the Kurchatov Institute? Is the genomic direction in it the most advanced in the country? – Until recently, there was no genomic direction at the Kurchatov Institute at all.

Except for the history of the sixties, when geneticists survived under the wing of the atomic project. After the Institute of Molecular Genetics separated from the Kurchatov Institute, there was no biology there. However, the peculiarities of modern state policy are that the Kurchatov Institute should have everything. It is being made a parallel center of all science. This is accompanied by large PR outliers. There are nanotechnologies (which, however, have been purchased), biotechnologies that are made with the purchased nanotechnologies, a synchrotron that formally works, but results on it are obtained, however, little. There is a supercomputer that was reportedly used to decode the gene.

– Is the world scientific community interested in the Russian genome? – And how could it be interested in it if its results are not available to the world scientific community?

Science does not study press releases. Science studies real data," said Mikhail Gelfand.

According to Lyubov Grabovskaya, the scientific secretary of the Institute of Gene Biology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the genome of a Russian is hardly different from the genome of other people of the Caucasian race. "All this is patriotism, for which large funds are allocated. Ask at the Kurchatov Institute," Grabovskaya advised. According to her, publications in scientific journals of genetics have not yet been seen.

The decoding of the Russian human genome has been completed successfully, and data about it will soon appear in a scientific journal, assured the RS correspondent the head of the genomic direction of the Kurchatov Institute, Academician Konstantin Scriabin:

– It took us about six months, along with calculations. The human genome is three billion letters. We have read about 100 billion letters, that is, it is a genome that has been read many, many times. There are special approaches that say that it is possible to say with great certainty that the genome has been read completely and reliably.

– What is the practical significance of decoding the Russian genome?– Should it be practical?

Oh well. Suppose some country launches a satellite for the first time at the beginning of the XXI century. This can be treated like this: there are thousands of satellites flying around us – just think, another one. And you can treat it differently: there is another country that has completely all the satellite launch technology.

Russia has joined the club of those countries that can do such huge genomic projects to the end. The genome of an African, the genome of a Chinese, two genomes of Europeans and one genome of a Korean were made. Here's what we can compare today. Many cardiovascular medications have different effects on whites and Africans. The more we know about genetic information, how it is related to ailments, the faster we will be able to build a treatment system that is personal for each person.

– What are the future plans of the Kurchatov Institute? Russia is a multiethnic country, maybe you can decipher other nationalities?

– When we took a Russian man, it was absolutely not an attack against other ethnic groups. Before that, we made a genetic map of Russia. We have more than 100 ethnic groups living on the territory of the Russian Federation, and the largest ethnic group in terms of number is the Russian people. The second ethnic group is the Tatars, after that – Ukrainians and so on. Therefore, the largest ethnic group in the territory of the Russian Federation was chosen. I don't want it to be perceived as somehow nationalistic. Maybe the next genome will be from the Tatar ethnic group or from another ethnic group.

– So far, the results of the work of the Kurchatov Institute are known only through press releases, scientific data have not been published in scientific journals. Does a third-party researcher not have access to this data yet?– On the 28th or 29th, the magazine "Act and Nature" is published from the printing house.

This is a new Russian journal, where the first article on the structure of the genome will be published, detailed technical data on how the genome was read. And there is a website where the data obtained as a result of this work will be posted at the beginning of the year. And we are preparing one or two large articles for magazines abroad. There are special rules related to the publication of the previous 8 genomes, and they will be followed with this genome of a Russian person," Konstantin Scriabin said.

As Mikhail Gelfand noted in an interview with the RS correspondent, the journal "Act and Nature" is a new scientific journal and has not yet managed to establish itself as one of the leading ones. Final conclusions about the content of the work of the Kurchatov Institute can be made after the release of the promised publications.

Editor's note: we regret to note that neither K.Scriabin nor M. Gelfand thought to explain slowly and twice to the author of the interview that the name of the new Russian magazine is written in Latin, Asta Naturae :)

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru23.12.2009

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