French researchers have made an important breakthrough in the international effort to map and decode the human genome. The genome consists of about 100,000 separate genes that make a human being. Decoding, or "sequencing", the genes promises a fuller understanding of and possible therapies for more than 3000 human genetic diseases. The French researchers have developed a new technique for handling long stretches of DNA, the chemical building blocks from which genes are made. This breakthrough means, according to team leader Professor Daniel Cohen, that the international Human Genome Project (HUGO) will now be completed before the year 2000, instead of around 2006 as previously expected. The French team works at the Genethon, a brand-new, ultra-modern laboratory funded by a French charity which has an annual "Telethon" appeal for money on French television. Cohen believes the unusual funding for his laboratory helped his team make their discovery.