For a Fee, Find Out How You Might Die

March 30, 2008 03:42 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
It costs $1,000 to have your genetic material analyzed in a process that can uncover hardwired predispositions to diseases and behavioral problems.

30-Second Summary

The new genome industry will revolutionize health care "the way YouTube revolutionized media," according to geneticist J. Craig Venter, quoted in The Washington Post. "I call it the democratization of the genome."

In 2003, the Human Genome Project completed mapping the human genome, the complete set of genetic material that guides the growth of the human organism. Today, there are over 20 companies that will conduct a partial examination of an individual’s genetic code for a fee.

Mapping an entire code, or genome, is likely to cost around $200,000, reports The Washington Post. But anyone with $1,000 can provide a sample of saliva and discover whether they have a genetic predisposition for a variety of ailments, such as heart disease or glaucoma.

That knowledge can allow people to take preventative steps, perhaps exercising more or reducing their sugar intake. 

However, the tests aren’t all about disease. The Washington Post notes that promises to find clients “DNA-compatible mates who will smell sexier to them, have more orgasms and produce healthier children.” Tests can, reputedly, indicate certain personality traits or an increased likelihood of addiction.

But the personalized genetics industry is young, unproven and controversial. Regulatory oversight is lacking and the science is still patchy in places.

Furthermore, the information supplied raises ethical questions. “Life will become a little more like a game of strategy, where we're always playing the percentages, trying to optimize our outcomes,” writes Thomas Goetz in Wired. That said, he goes on to add, “I can bank on my genes and live in the most optimal way ... and still die of a heart attack.”

Headline Link: ‘Genetic Testing Gets Personal’

Background: Brave new world

Video: 'Genetic Testing Could Increase Lung Cancer Survival Rates'

Related Topic: ‘First Contract Signed to Clone Pet’

Reference: The Human Genome Project


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