The logical outcome of gene mapping is nigh. Biotechnology companies are using genetic information to design new drugs that may go beyond merely slowing or stopping a disease process to inducing the regeneration or repair of damaged tissue. Looking past the conventional drug targets of enzymes and gene-coupled receptors, researchers are seeking out molecules in the pathways along which biochemical signals are transferred. In some cases, their work has led to compounds--now in clinical trials or just released by major pharmaceutical companies--aimed at restoring functions damaged by disease or trauma. Potential beneficiaries are patients suffering from a variety of disorders of the metabolic, hematopoietic and central nervous systems, as well as various forms of cancer.

The groundwork for these advances has been laid over recent years by genetic mapping--the arrangement of mutable sites on a chromosome as deduced from genetic recombination experiments. This mapping has revealed remarkable similarities, or conservation,...

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