February 26, 2013

Should you Get Your Genome Sequenced?

Should you get your genome sequenced?

23andMe Sequencing Service

The yes and no arguments for genome sequencing in WSJ

Atul Butte, Stanford argues that healthy people should get their genome sequenced because
  • You may find if you are at risk for certain diseases.
  • To-be parents may find if their child would have genetic risks.
  • Doctors may be able to prescribe targeted drugs for you.
  • It may help genetic researchers potentially gain more knowledge about genes.

Robert Green, Harvard argues for No, do not get your genome sequenced because –

The genome information is till too imprecise to be of use for most people

Remember the “may’s” in the above argument.

And the effective cost of genome sequencing - 
One problem is that medically dangerous genetic mutations are quite rare in healthy individuals, but finding them today would still be enormously expensive. This year an entire genome will cost somewhere around $5,000 to be sequenced, analyzed with bioinformatics and interpreted. And while there is much to find in each genome that can reflect subtle health risks or aid in reproductive planning, we currently estimate that less than 2% of healthy people will have a dangerous and well-recognized DNA mutation that might cause a doctor to initiate surveillance or treatment. That means spending $250,000 to find even one such individual.

And the imperfect information will lead to 
Injecting so much uncertain genetic information into the doctor-patient relationship could create legions of "patients in waiting" leading to unnecessary tests, harmful outcomes and lifelong anxiety. As private software companies compete to provide more genomic "findings" to a medical culture that is trained to search for diagnostic fire when they smell the smoke of disease risk, there are potential benefits. But there is also a real possibility that medical resources will be squandered and patients could be harmed.

Getting genome information of healthy persons is definitely needed and will help grow the knowledge. But, the information is unlikely to be of immediate use to most healthy people.

Genome sequencing services e.g. 23andMe are selling other creative uses of genome information - DNA ancestry tests, paternity tests etc.

Some of the amazing successes due to genome sequencing

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