Tag Archives: genome

The Human Genre Project: mapping the genome with fiction

genesHere’s Ken MacLeod announcing a rather interesting science fiction project:

A while ago I was staring at a poster of the human genome produced by the US Dept of Energy, and I remembered Michael Swanwick’s Periodic Table of Science Fiction. Cue lightbulb moment.

Why not set up a website that displayed short pieces – stories, flash fictions, poems, and reflections – inspired by genes or genomics, and arranged them (as far as possible – I soon found myself applying for an artistic licence) according to the chromosome that carries the gene that inspired the piece?


Now, thanks to enthusiastic work from Emma Capewell and Claire Alexander at the Genomics Forum, and the creative skills of web designer Damien Noonan, The Human Genre Project has gone live. It’s early days yet, but it looks good and it’s just waiting to be filled up with new writing. If you have something you think might sit well behind one of those colourful chromosomes, here’s how to contribute.

That’s a very cool project – I’m half-tempted to put something together and submit it  myself, though I have no doubt plenty of better writers will beat me to it. Maybe you’ll be one of them? [image by mtowber]

Entering the age of personal genomics

Richard Powers writes an elegant article in The Guardian on becoming one of the few people who have thus far had their entire genome sequenced. In his case by a company called Knome.

I can tell you that you have the ‘novelty seeking’ gene,” Conde says. He’s referring to a study that associates a longer version of the DRD4 gene on chromosome 11, involved in the brain’s dopamine system, with people who need higher levels of stimulation. “You have three genetic variants associated with aspects of intelligence,” he continues. Reassuring.

Just like that, I slip into the era of personal genomics. Now I know exactly what I’ve been dealt, and if I don’t take appropriate actions, the onus is on me.

But what actions? I enter my very own war on terror, monitoring lots of ambiguous chatter that is impossible to understand without more context, that I can respond to only indirectly, that I can’t defeat but can at best hold at bay – a standing low-grade condition of Orange alert that demands perpetual increased surveillance.

But beyond my list of health risks, I’ve also learned something extraordinary: 8% of my genetic material contains variations most closely related to the Yoruba population of Nigeria. I’ve become another person, someone else than I thought I was, giving blood in Wellesley, last spring.

As the genome sequencing gets cheaper I imagine it will become something we’ll all get done as a matter of course.

[image from mtowber on flickr]

Craig Venter invents artificial life?


I’ve posted about developments in synthetic life before, here and here. It now appears the human genome pioneer Craig Venter has invented an artificial life form:

Craig Venter, the controversial DNA researcher involved in the race to decipher the human genetic code, has built a synthetic chromosome out of laboratory chemicals and is poised to announce the creation of the first new artificial life form on Earth.

The announcement, which is expected within weeks and could come as early as Monday at the annual meeting of his scientific institute in San Diego, California, will herald a giant leap forward in the development of designer genomes. It is certain to provoke heated debate about the ethics of creating new species and could unlock the door to new energy sources and techniques to combat global warming.