Photo: Karen Young Kreeger

EXCITING ERA: TIGR's Craig Venter says efforts to unravel the information being gathered will last "into the next century."

While the list of genome projects grows, research focus is shifting from structure to function. So even as automated DNA sequencers crank out bases and powerful software overlaps pieces of genomes (contigs) to establish gene orders, investigators are searching and comparing those sequences among species, an approach called comparative genomics. This strategy is rapidly revealing the interrelatedness of life. "We are seeing an absolute continuum [of genes] from species to species, yet we haven't found any two genomes to be alike yet," reports Venter.

Comparative genomics yields new knowledge as well as practical applications. "The organisms that are alive today are the result of evolution. They've solved many different problems, such as parasite resistance. If we can find their solutions by looking into their genomes, we can...

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