The past several years have seen an explosive growth in our understanding of the organization and structure of mammalian genomes, and refinements of existing techniques for genetic analysis, physical mapping, and large-fragment cloning techniques may well be enough to continue the momentum of that explosion for some time to come. Although refinement of existing techniques will certainly be necessary, the development of new and better cloning techniques may, perhaps, no longer be our most urgent need. The most important challenge that we face at present may in fact be that of finding efficient ways to share existing resources and information rapidly and equitably throughout the scientific community so that progress can continue unimpeded, and to catalog, correlate, and interpret the wealth of new data that is so rapidly accumulating. New strategies aimed at whole-genome mapping (Coulson et al. 1986, 1988; Michiels et al. 1987; Brenner and Livak 1989; Carrano et al. 1989; Lehrach et al. 1991) and sequencing (Church and Keifer-Higgins 1988; Bains and Smith 1988; Drmanac et al. 1989; Strzoska et al. 1991) may someday make the current method of long-range walking and physical mapping nearly passe. For example, since most of the relatively small nematode genome is now stored as ordered sets of cosmid and YAC clones (Coulson et al. 1986, 1988), a "walk" between a mapped marker and an uncloned gene can be accomplished rapidly, through a request for the appropriate series of clones from the ordered library. Vigorous drives by many laboratories to produce ordered clone libraries for murine and human chromosomes (Lehrach et al. 1991) may transform the process of cloning mammalian genes into a relatively trivial matter within the foreseeable future. The remarkable number of positional-cloning successes that have been reported in recent years may indicate that most of the best-defined, simply inherited mouse mutations and human hereditary disorders will have already been cloned by that time. When that is accomplished, the true challenging task will just begin: we must learn to decipher the complex biological programs encoded by our large and ever-growing storehouse of cloned, mapped and sequenced genes, before we can begin to understand what might be held in the vast "silent" mass of mammalian genomes.
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