The Atlantic

The Genes That Never Go Out of Style

Fifteen years after the Human Genome Project, scientists are still mostly studying genes that have already been well studied.
Source: Carlo Allegri / Reuters

Back in 2000, a group of mildly inebriated geneticists set up a lighthearted sweepstakes to guess how many genes the human genome would turn out to contain once it was fully sequenced. More than 460 bets were placed, and the lowest guess of 25,947 eventually won when the Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. Fifteen years later, the exact number of human genes is still being debated, with estimates ranging from 19,000 to 22,000. And regardless of the true count, it’s clear that many of these genes are largely unknown.

Since 2003, several researchers have noticed that scientists that are already well studied, and the genes that become popular . Even among genes, it seems, the rich get richer. This trend, he found that he can predict how intensely a given gene is studied based on a small number of basic biochemical traits. Most of these, he says, reflect how easy a gene was to investigate in the 1980s and 1990s, rather than how important it is.

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