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The life sciences have begun a new revolution. This revolution is equally as dramatic as the one in the 1950s when James Watson and Francis Crick deciphered the nucleotide structure of genetic material. In 1995, researchers determined the entire nucleotide sequence of the genome of an organism—a bacterium. Only six years later, in February of this year, scientists announced the complete sequence of the human species. In the meantime, researchers revealed the genomes of several other organisms—yeast, a plant, and many bacteria. From this small sample of species, it is clear that organisms share a far larger proportion of genetic material than scientists previously believed. More profoundly, humans, too, share many genes with other organisms: 99.5 percent with chimpanzees, our closest living relatives; 90 percent with mice; and a significant number even with plants and yeast. The practical use of this wealth of genetic information—the field of genomics—is a common language by which information gleaned from one species can flow to others. Discoveries in model systems (yeast, fruit flies, mice, dogs, and plants) will uncover information that is directly applicable for human medicine.

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© 2002 by the Office of the Vice Provost for Research [OVPR], Cornell University