OK a big move on the path to the $1,000 genome this week. Some researchers from Harvard and Arkansas have come up with a way to drill a hole (pore) into silicon and pull a single strand of DNA through it. While they pull the DNA through the pore, they can measure the base pair types, thus rapidly sequencing the strand. This means we are getting closer to the $1,000 genome. Here is the popular press article.
Here is the real science article for the nerds. I thought it was a very cool read, probably one of the best paper's I have come across in a few years. In a very clear and straight forward process these guys are really pushing the science of genetic sequencing forward by leaps and bounds.
I was explaining to my wife, that our current mechanisms for treating genetic illnesses such as cancer are incredibly crude. Being able to sequence a cancerous cell or mass will allow us to get out of the middle ages in terms of diagnoses and treatment.
Our current knowledge of cancer at both the detection, taxonomic and medical response level, will be seen as barbaric and medieval within 7-10 years. The whole label cancer is as sophisticated as lumping all of the tropical illnesses together and telling a victim they have "tropicitis".
Today's doctor's treat cancer with the same knowledge and tool set that a 14th century naval surgeon treated scurvy. They do their best, but your average practitioners ratio of humility to knowledge is seriously out of whack. Chemotherapy by and large is only slightly better than leeches or the laying on of hands in terms of efficacy and true healing. Let's hope that cheap sequencing combined with advances in functional genomics, pharmacokinetics and patient therapy live up to the average physicians current self belief.