Hsien-Hsien Lei, PhD, Biotech Consultant and Publisher of EyeOnDNA.com
The genome revolution is upon us. New reports of gene-disease associations pepper the news each day. DNA technology is advancing so fast there are rumors that sequencing a person's entire DNA sequence will eventually cost no more than $1,000. Are you ready to take advantage of all that DNA can offer? Here are top 10 ways DNA technology will change your life.
10. DNA makes you hip.
Pop culture references to DNA are rife. If you want to be "in," learn how to mention DNA in casual conversation. For some pointers, read my weekly series - In Your DNA.
9. DNA is an artistic influence.
DNA has inspired artists in many mediums, including knitters, quilters, sculptors, and painters . You can also have your DNA pattern made into home deco prints or your actual DNA embedded into necklaces. For other fun ideas, check out my list of cool things to do with your DNA.
8. DNA brings you closer to your family.
Genealogy is one of the most popular hobbies in the US. And to trace their family ancestry, more people are increasingly turning to genetic testing. Many companies will help amateur genealogists match their genetic sequence with others in the database so it's possible to find long lost cousins and other family members using nothing more than DNA. And, of course, paternity, maternity, and other family relationship tests can prove the bonds that bind.
7. DNA is a lucrative career choice.
Prospects for careers that involve DNA analysis are excellent. For anyone considering a career change or embarking on a new career, some of the jobs with most potential include laboratory technician, especially in forensic services, and genetic counselor.
6. DNA technology inspires other forms of useful tech.
As Jack mentioned in his post about nanotechnology, the concept of DNA and strands of DNA itself are being incorporated into a number of different medical devices, such as DNA sieves, nanoscale films made of DNA and water-soluble polymer, and DNA layers for coating organs to improve transplant success. The elegance of DNA and the way it functions is a neverending source of ideas.
5. Your DNA may soon be collected for government
It probably comes as no surprise that the DNA profiles of criminals are stored in databases such as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) maintained by the FBI. But did you know that in some states and countries, even those people who were not convicted and others who were only convicted of misdemeanors have their DNA samples taken and stored as well? New York State is now considering a proposal to collect DNA from people found guilty of crimes at the misdemeanor level or higher, all prisoners, all parolees, everyone on probation, and registered sex offendors. In the future, everyone's DNA may be collected for a variety of "good" reasons, such as to help with public health efforts, identification in case of missing persons, natural disasters, and terrorist attacks. Quebec, Canada has already begun sampling DNA from the general population.
4. DNA may determine your eligibility for a job or
Although the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) passed the House in April 2007, not all countries believe that employers and insurance companies should be prohibited from using genetic information to screen candidates. Police recruits in Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, and the UK may face DNA testing in the effort to stem corruption. I discuss other ways in which genetic information can "help" employers determine the most suitable applicant for the job at Eye on DNA.
3. You can put your DNA to work in the privacy of your own
The genetic testing market is becoming increasingly crowded as a growing number of companies provide direct-to-consumer DNA testing. This trend raised the alarms of the General Accounting Office (GAO) last summer especially in regards to nutrigenomics, a field that uses a person's DNA profile to determine the ideal diet and nutritional supplements. Other types of direct-to-consumer or at-home DNA tests include those used for tracing ancestry or genealogy. And there are also companies that provide medical genetic tests and genetic counseling. (Disclosure: I recently joined DNA Direct as a consultant.)
2. Because parents can preselect certain traits in their
children using preimplanation genetic diagnosis and other DNA
technology, our population demographics will also be
There will never come a day when we can select our future children like fruit from the supermarket. (At least I hope not.) But, parents can already use preimplantation genetic screening (PGD) to select embryos that are free of the genes for diseases such as breast cancer, colon cancer, Down's syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and a whole shopping list of other genetic diseases. There is fear that parents are also able to select the gender of their children by using at-home gender prediction DNA tests as early as six weeks gestation.
1. DNA technology will make it possible for us to receive
personalized medical care that's tailored for us.
The best part about the genome revolution will be the development of personalized medicine - the ability to select medical treatment specific to each individual based on his or her genetic predispositions. For example, there is tremendous waste, inaccuracy, and even danger involved in determine the dosages of some drugs, such as warfarin. A warfarin sensitivity DNA test is already available that tests for variations in the CYP2c9 and VKORC1 genes that determine a person's sensitivity to warfarin via metabolism and anticoagulation processes, respectively. Gene therapy is another goal of personalized medicine. Targeted treatment that focuses on a specific gene mutation could help prevent, alleviate, and even cure diseases.
As you can see from this top 10 list, DNA technology can and does affects our lives in almost every way. Most people's number one concern when it comes to DNA is privacy. People fear Big Brother and a world like the one depicted in Gattaca. When DNA sequencing becomes so cheap and easy to perform that we're all carrying DNA replicators in our pocket, it will be hard to stop anyone from grabbing a strand of hair or a used cup to do a little DNA testing of their own. On the other hand, once everyone understands that we all carry flawed DNA, perhaps it will cease to be a a subject of contention. Approached in a thoughtful way, DNA technology will make our generation and the ones following us healthy, wealthy, and wise.