For the first time ever, Danish scientists have collected all the information from each of 30 people and mapped their genomes through GenomeDenmark, a research project dedicated to mapping the Danish genome.
“We’ve pieced together their genome entirely from scratch — this only has been done on very few people across the globe,” explains Simon Rasmussen, associate professor at Denmark’s Technical University.
Mapping the population’s entire genome, says Rasmussen, will be a useful tool for gene researchers who can use it to develop better treatments or prevent diseases.
GenomeDenmark is in the process of building the Danish reference genome based on a map of the genomes of 150 individuals — the mapping of the first 30 was recently published in Nature Communications. The study has been recognized for its level of detail and thoroughness.
Mapping a genome is like assembling a gigantic jigsaw puzzle. Millions of tiny pieces of DNA must be put together correctly. It is normal practice to use a template of the human race’s genome in order to assemble the pieces of the puzzle — a template resulting from decades of work by the Human Genome Project.
But the scientists in the Danish genome project have analyzed their pieces of DNA so thoroughly that they have been able to assemble the genome of each individual without using the template.
Gene researchers can use the Danish reference genome if they are looking for special genetic variants characteristic for a disease — for example diabetes, says Rasmussen.
In that case, it would only be useful to look for the genes that could cause diabetes in a specific part of the genome, and the Danish reference genome would be more precise than what would be possible with an international reference genome.