Gene testing and diagnostics will change cultural institutions, values and belief systems. These are some old gene chips to the left. I used to help run a project that played around with these.
A firm called Counsyl is releasing a new chip that tests for 100 genetic related dis-orders. This $700-800 chip will allow couples to determine the likelihood of a common or rare dis-order being passed down.
Counsyl isn't really that big a piece of news for those in the know. There are probably hundreds if not thousands of the 23,000 listed syndromes that will show a genetic pre-cursor and or later deterministic environmental factor.
The cost performance curve of sequencing which shames moore's law, means that a multi-hundred million dollar sequencing project in 2002 is now about $4,000. Nature Article: The changing economics of DNA synthesis.
You, your spouse, kids etc. will most likely be able to be sequenced for less than a $1,000 in 2-3 years. If you want to understand how fast this world is looming, check out the Carlson curves on the right hand side of Rob Carlsons page, they are the Moore's law of genetics. There will be an ecosystem of multi-billion dollar service providers in this space in 5-7 years.
I bet that in 10 years sequencing of the flora in the gut will be as common as in-vivo protein analysis. Trivia point: for every one "human cell" in your body there are 10 bacteria, they are just significantly smaller. We are all walking and talking microbial ecosystems.
Counsyl has put 100 diagnostic tests on a chip. In a few months, quarters etc. you will most likely see firms put thousands of tests on a chip while the price point stays about the same. The information flood will be huge, the social impact even larger.
The true impact of any technology is the deeper philosophical situations that are opened up. Rapid transport, steamships, trains, jets all shrank the world and made us all more neighborly or warly. The internet mixed up our ideas and concepts of culture and boundaries, etc.
Genes let us ask: who am I? where did I come from? How long will I be here and what will my offspring be like. The answers will be crude and very fuzzy ripe for mis-interpretation and mischief. Genetics is accurate, phenotypic outcomes are fuzzy as they depend on lots of variables.
Quiztime involving the simple 100 test from Counsyl:
- When should a couple take a genetic test, before/after marriage, dating, never etc.?
- If you don't take the test and something occurs with your child, would you still feel OK about your choice?
- What are the social implications for access to the test. Should it be made available to everyone?
- At what age should someone be aware of their genetic risk or opportunity profile (adulthood), sexual maturity?
- If you take the test, does you have an obligation to share information with siblings who don't take the test but may be considering having a child and at risk?
The genee (sic) is coming out of the bottle folks and is faster than you can imagine. Forget hacking your i-pad to support flash, and think about hacking your genes. more on genes here just scroll down.