Those who enjoy speculating on the future of science were once predicting that DNA sequencing will become so cheap and so easy to carry out that everyone would have their own little genome card which could tell their doctors everything they needed to know. This sounds pretty cool and very useful. But a new study has revealed that this probably won’t be of any use at all due to the considerable low genetic risk, even if it does sound incredibly cool.
Genetics were originally expected to play a role by acting as markers for serious diseases like cancer and diabetes, but, sadly, the risks associated with these diseases as being caused by genetics is very low. And this is because most of these diseases are caused by external factors under our control. However, scientists have still maintained that if they find all the markers then the benefits will warrant the creation of inspecting the genome.
Cancer geneticists Bert Vogelstein and Victor Velcelescu carried out their study with their team at the John Hopkins University. Their findings throw cold water on top of this hope as it has discovered that even if all of the markers are found it will make very little difference. By implication, this makes these genome cards pretty pointless.
The study involved the use of thousands of twins across Europe and other areas of the world. They looked at their medical records and looked at the diseases in these twins. The examination involved 24 diseases and using the assumption that each person has an individual genetic risk for each specific disease. They then used this data to evaluate the genetic risk across the population as a whole.
The point is that this whole study demonstrated that the possibility of finding diseases through analysing the genome of a specific individual is certainly a possibility, but it’s a very weak one. And this can only mean that a whole scheme, like the one outlined in the introduction, would be ineffective and not really worth the money.
Yes, it could save some people’s lives, but the resources and the financial cost really wouldn’t be worth the effort. For many diseases, which are caused by external factors, it would probably be better to just work at reducing the risk caused by these external factors instead. For example, an individual could have a genetic predisposition for heart disease, but it would probably be better to just buy a gym membership and adopt a healthy diet instead.
Essentially, this study is nothing new. It doesn’t smash any widely-held beliefs in science and it doesn’t reveal anything revolutionary. Most of us knew that many diseases were caused mainly by external factors already, but with some diseases scientists believed that it could be possible to discover them in advance by analysing the genome. All this study has done is killed any last remaining hopes that a system like this could realistically be implemented in the future.