July 18, 2012 -
It’s only a question of time before the price for DNA sequencing will become so cheap that it’s within our grasp.
The genome researchers are saying that because of the commercialization of DNA sequencing, they predict that five years from now, people will be able to determine the exact order of the bases in a strand of DNA by just picking up a kit from local pharmacy.
Daniel MacArthur, a genomics researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital says: “Right now it’s just way too expensive. But that will change fast. When commercialization eventually drives down the price, DNA sequencing could even be a project your kids do in science class.”
But what is so compelling about DNA sequencing that will get people to rush to purchase a DNA kit?
DNA has been sensationalized in crime shows, but DNA sequencing as it is has many uses. A common use is to determine predispositions for genetic diseases. DNA can also be used to trace your ancestry.
“For some people, these non-medical aspects end up proving much more interesting than their disease predictions,” says MacArthur. “But this isn’t just for fun — for people who already have serious diseases, DNA sequencing can profoundly change their diagnosis and treatment.”
DNA sequencing is helpful in detecting rare diseases. Rare Genomics Institute (RGI) is conducting such research. As many insurance policies do not cover DNA sequencing for rare diseases, RGI has set up crowdfunding to raise money online to pay for DNA sequencing for children with rare genetic disorders.
“Researchers don’t tend to study individual people,” says Jimmy Lin, who started RGI. “Often, these children present anatomical problems, like displaced hearts, or delays in development, like talking.”
As in all cases, there is a downside if DNA will be made available at a larger scale. Just like many issues concerning biometrics, genetic privacy needs to be protected especially from insurance companies.
In fact, in 2008, the U.S. Congress passed a law, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), to prohibit insurance companies from using genetic information to determine coverage eligibility.
There is no stopping DNA sequencing as technology has progressed. So in 5 to 10 years time, it could be a routine procedure like having a regular doctor’s checkup.
Would you undergo a DNA sequencing test?