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]

2 thoughts on “Entering the age of personal genomics”

  1. I think it would be quite educational for BNP supporters over here in the UK to have this done, just so we could bury that ‘pure British’ bullshit once and for all. Imagine the chagrin when they found they were 15% Bangladeshi or a third Polish! 🙂

  2. More of this all around, please. Traditionally, in the U.S., if you have even “a drop of black blood,” you’re considered African-American. Let’s see, some of my relatives came from Sicily, so what are the odds…

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