Baljit Dhaka


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What is IndiGen?

It is an initiative under which the whole genome sequencing of 1008 Indians from different populations across the country was conducted.

  • The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) undertook and funded this initiative. It cost ?18 crores.
  • The project was commenced in April 2019 and took six months to conclude.

What is the objective behind this program?

The IndiGen program aims to undertake the whole genome sequencing of thousands of individuals representing diverse ethnic groups from India.

  • The objective is to enable genetic epidemiology and develop public health technology applications using population genome data.

What are the epidemiology and health technologies?

WHO defines epidemiology as the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events (including disease), and the application of this study to the control of diseases and other health problems.

  • Health technologies include all the devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures, and systems developed to improve healthcare.

What is whole genome sequencing?

  • A genome is the genetic material of an organism.

  • Whole-genome sequencing is the process of determining the complete DNA sequence, both chromosomal and mitochondrial (chloroplast in plants), of an organism's genome at a single time.
  • Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA bases in the genome.
  • A Human Genome.

(Picture Credits: Britannica)

Has such exercise been conducted before?

  • Globally, many countries have undertaken genome sequencing of a sample of their citizens to determine unique genetic traits, susceptibility (and resilience) to disease. This is the first time that such a large sample of Indians will be recruited for a detailed study.
  • It is being seen as a precursor to a larger program to sequence 10,000 Indian genomes.

What are the benefits of this exercise for common Indians?

  • More than 6% of live births in India have some congenital disorder and around 7 crore Indians suffer from genetic disorders.

  • It will make genetic tests cost-effective, which will help individuals find out their chances of developing a genetic disorder so that they can make lifestyle changes or seek medical assistance.
  • It will enable carrier screening and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) of expectant couples. They will help identify genetic defects within individuals and embryos respectively and prevent certain genetic diseases or disorders from being passed on to the child.

  • It will also enable the efficient diagnosis of heritable cancers.

  • Some communities are more susceptible to certain disorders. For instance, the Vysya community of Andhra Pradesh is susceptible to certain anesthetics. This can help provide better medical assistance to such communities.
  • Pharmacogenetic tests can be carried out to find out how genes affect the body's response to certain medicines, thus can be used to prevent severe drug reactions in individuals.

What are the additional benefits of this exercise?

  • Many of them belonged to the rural background, so it will help information about genomics reach even the villages.
  • Most of the youths selected for the exercise being college students pursuing a degree in life sciences or biology will help educate a generation of students about the usefulness of genomics and lead to the advancement of biomedical science in India.

Can people still apply to be a part of this exercise?

  • Individuals will then be selected based on the merit of the scientific question that the individual plans to ask based on data generated by mapping.
  • Those mapped will get a card and access to an app that will allow them and doctors to access their information.
  • Those wanting to get their entire genome mapped can apply online on IndiGen official website.