personal genomics controversy

A Single Nucleotide Polymorphism is a change of a nucleotide at a single base-pair location on DNA. Created using Inkscape v0.45.1.

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There are a number of companies (23andMe, deCODEme, Navigenics) that offer a service of scanning your genome, using microarray technology, for numerous (500,000 – 1,000,000) single nucleotide polymorphims (SNPs). SNPs, (snips), are one (not the only) source of variation in our genomes that make us all unique individuals, and offers us some hints of diseases we might be prone to, but broader philosophical questions about why and how we are all different – including our core personality (though the research has not reached this level yet).

There is a fair bit of controversy as California has recently ruled that these companies can not sell their service without a doctor’s order. Attila, at PIMM, also has some thoughts on this story.

What do you think – should individuals have the right to the information of their genome without going through a doctor? Does the average citizen need ‘counseling’ regarding their genome or should they be able to freely explore their genome? Should this be a right?

Here is a good video introduction to the technology (from the founders of 23andMe) and this new field of personal health, which is the wave of the future (link via PIMM).

5 comments for “personal genomics controversy

  1. June 25, 2008 at 11:01 pm

    This Stacy girl is in HR? She’s terrible.

  2. Carmen
    June 26, 2008 at 3:25 am

    Somehow this reminds me of one of the Greek gods’ stories – Pandora’s box. Knowing my own genes is like knowing my own future, like how likely am I going to such and such disease-this theme was in the movie….I forgot which one.

    In Canada, I think you’re not supposed to know the sex of your fetus/baby until it/he/she is born, and the rationale behind it, I’m not sure, but something along the line of concern about abortion. If I were to know how likely I’m going to die of what disease, will I go kill myself? Hm…..

    Oh well. I think that if the technology is available, I should have the say of whether to go about ‘ freely explore my genome’. Then the problem becomes how to protect such information from other people.

  3. Ward
    June 26, 2008 at 10:48 am


    thanks for you comment. Knowing your genes will not exactly tell you your future – just give you some probability hints.

    I agree we have to worry about protecting the individuals DNA, and other health information. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) has just been passed into law in the USA, which does offer protection of your genetic information. Hopefully other countries will follow with similar regulations.