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The Human Genome Project was one of mankind’s greatest triumphs. But the official gene map that resulted in 2003, known as the “reference genome,” is no longer up to the job.

So say scientists laying plans for a new universal map they say will combine the genomes of hundreds, and eventually thousands, of people to create a true reference that reflects all of humanity.

The problem with the existing gene map is that it represents only one way a person’s genome could look. The new map, called a “graph genome,” or pan-genome, would use mathematics to reflect every possible twist or turn a person’s genome could take as it spirals around 46 chromosomes.

“It’s very new technology. But in less than five years, everyone is going to be using it,” predicts Gabor Marth, a geneticist at the University of Utah.

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