“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.