Weekly Poll: will you have your own genome sequenced?
: the events described here have not happened. Yet.
We are a few years into the future. Whole human genomes can be sequenced relatively cheaply and accurately. Direct to Consumer Genomics companies offer true genomic analyses now, not just marker analyses. They BLAST*
your sequence against known genotype & disease databases, looking for known genotypic associations. Furthermore, individuals who are "bioinformatics savvy" can analyze their own genome. We hear of the first life-saving BLAST: a person found an association between one of his SNPs and pancreatic cancer, and managed to undergo a life-saving operation in time. We also hear, tragically, of the first BLAST related murder: a molecular biologist killed her infant child and herself after she discovered on her own she and her son are both destined to have Huntington's chorea
. Another, similar suicide took place, but in that second case the person misdiagnosed himself. In a few US states as well as in Italy, the police have successfully subpoenaed DNA sequences from DTC genomics companies. In Singapore, a mandatory database of the genome of all citizens has been announced.
Credit: Adrian Cousins, Wellcome Images
Worldwide, calls for legislation abound that would limit individuals' access to their own genomic data. At the same time, a loose coalition of political activists, scientists and journalists advocate a "Genomic Freedom Movement" to legislate a governmental and insurance company "hands off" policy. Finally, insurance companies (not just health), financial companies and employers are all interested in the new field of "genomic personality studies", or "Tarot card genomics" as those studies are called by their opponents. With the advent of many complete human genomes, there has been an explosion of studies that tie personality traits, life-expectancy, lifestyle, earning power, accident prone-ness and even sexual prowess to genomic data. These studies, some of questionable quality, are gaining strong public attention. Cosmopolitan
has just published "Is He Right for You?: how to Get his Genome and What you can Learn From It". A whole industry of "compatibility genomics" for couples to be married is flourishing. The Leubavitcher Hassidim are maintaining a "shidduch
" genomic database for eligible singles.
The future of genomic data, who can access it and for what reasons seems murky at best. Under those conditions will you have your own genome sequenced? Note that there is no company that will give up that data (you can have your DNA sequence file, but they wish to keep it too, although they promise complete anonymity and privacy).
So will you have your genome sequenced?
(*) BLAST is used, as a generic name for any sequence based database searching software. We may have something else that rules the roost 5 years from now.