Monday, January 7, 2008


via RogersMJ

There is a company in Silicon Valley now who for $1000 will take a (rather large) sample of your spit, splice out your DNA, map your genome, then tell you based on a rather large library of things we have defined as _bad_stuff_ any conditions you are predisposed to. Just imagine knowing that you did inherit that heart disease gene from your maternal side, or that colon cancer gene from your paternal side. The medicinal impact of such information is huge. You would know to adjust your diet now to minimize your chance of getting heart disease, or imagine now how long it will be before we start seeing preventive treatments that start attacking the stuff before it even gets off the ground. They say if you catch cancer early enough it’s easier to beat…what about when you know 5, 10, or 30 years before it manifests itself that there’s a 70% chance you’ll develop it?

They can also (supposedly) with relatively good accuracy tell you where your ancestral lineage is from (if your kin came from Anglo-Saxon, or Indian, or Mediterranean or whatever). You can also do the coolest social networking ever and link up with your family to build a family tree at the genomic level, mapping genetic mutations through however many generations you can account for, etc. For instance: when comparing siblings, you can see among your brothers and sisters who inherited what from your parents and just how much do you have in common with your look-alike brother…

This is all done remotely; you FedEx them a sample of your saliva and after a time they send you a link to a website with a secure login where you can see all this information. Oh, and while I haven’t read anything explicitly about it, I’m assuming you can be notified if a new condition is identified that affects you. They mention something about being able to log in when new research comes out to see how you are affected, so I’m going on the assumption that there is some kind of notification in place, but even if not, its still pretty damned cool.

$1000 is a lot of money, but holy crap, for the amount of knowledge you can unlock about yourself, the only question left is about morality, not money. If you’re deeply religious this probably isn’t going to be your thing (I can hear the far right drumming the war/law machine now to squash this genetic advancement like they did with stem cell research). Now they’re not going to tell you if you’re going to die next week or anything, but there is some fear associated with this; knowing too much about oneself may “take the fun out of life” a little. Personally the science geek in me can’t wait until I can afford it. But by the time I pay down my student loans enough for that to happen you’ll probably be able to go check it at WalMart with some machine in the corner of the pharmacy department for a quarter.

--Cool Hand Mo

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