The “Human Pangenome” project and the threats associated with human eDNA

Scientists from the University of California Santa Cruz have published a new compilation of the human genome. It’s a project called “Human Pangenome” because the research effort involved genetic information collected from people worldwide. It could prove helpful during work to identify the genetic causes of diseases, improve our understanding of how genetic variation is linked to health and disease, improve genetic testing and help develop new drugs. The pangenome includes material from 24 people of African descent, 16 from the Americas and the Caribbean, six from Asia and one from Europe. “Human origins are extremely complex, and we are all related by a common history. Using humanity’s vast genetic tree benefits everyone,” says Ira Hall, director of the Yale Center for Genomic Health Hall.

Experts from the University of Florida analysed samples taken from the environment in the US and Ireland, including from oceans, rivers, sand from isolated beaches, places far away and close to human habitats, and hospital rooms. They found high-quality human DNA – also known as eDNA (environmental DNA) – enough to determine the genetic origins of nearby populations and identify mutations associated with diseases. It raises ethical and privacy concerns as the DNA obtained in this way can be used to collect genetic information without the consent of its owner. Tracking people based on their DNA circulating in the environment also seems possible.

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