Why Not Sequence?

George Church argues for better education for the public regarding genome sequencing.

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So little of the genome can

So little of the genome can be interpreted with respect to an individual's own health and their reproductive risks. We can detect carrier status for some Mendelian disorders but the risk for more complex disorders in our children is difficult to determine from our own genomes.

In most cases when a seemingly healthy individual's genome is revealed, there is little that he or she can do that has clinical significance. We already know that we need to have a healthy life style and regular clinical screenings to maximize our health and life expectancy. Knowledge of our genomes (we have many since somatic mutations and other events result in different genomes in different tissues) won't change this at the present time.

Eventually knowledge of our genomes (and epigenomes) will be more revealing but the time has not yet arrived.

Well, no - you can find out

Well, no - you can find out some pharmacogenomic information that is useful, and healthy life style is not exactly the same in all its particulars for everyone. Exercise is more important for some of us, and some of us are better suited to low fat versus low carb, and have higher or lower risks for diabetes; and a generic "healthy life style" is great but knowing more specifics can help. My suprise finding was the SZ alpha 1 antitrypsin variant, and fortunately I am already a non-smoker, but it will be more important to me to avoid second hand smoke and other pollutants as well than I would have thought.

Church's comments reflect his

Church's comments reflect his (and most academician's) disconnect from the general populace. In a recent poll, only a very small percentage of people recognized the words "genomics" or "personalized medicine." Indeed, about the only encounter with genomics in the popular press dealt with a breast removal decision by a well-known personality.

Much as we might like to think otherwise, the issues - many of which are quite serious - we deal with on a daily basis simply don't rise to a noticeable level with the "real" world.

What percentage of the

What percentage of the population has a scientific education? I'd say that would be very small, like less than 1%. And academics think that people can be educated something as complex as genomics. The ever increasing epidemic of obesity and the many related diseases proves people can even be educated about what they put in their mouths.

We simply have to be realistic. The real danger is the demonising of genomics through the use of paranoia and by preaching to people who don't understand we will only add fuel to the fear-mongering.

See, it's easier to scare people than teach them. GMO is a recent and related example of the irrational paranioa (there is rational paranoia, after all just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not going to get you) and nanoteachnology with the 'grey goo' future whatever that was supposed to be.

There's a lot about genomics the strike fear into people like creating second and third class citizens, claiming people are criminals because they have that gene, invading privacy, being denied insurance or a job. There's a huge mountain for genomics to get over before it's accepted and there's no guarantee it will be and it would be very naive and arrogant of science to think otherwise.

Concerned about this very

Concerned about this very same issue, Genetic Alliance, a Washington DC based nonprofit, has developed a web-based educational resource for the public, www.GenesInLife.org.

With sensational movies and science fiction novels as some of the only accessible information on the subject, it's really no wonder that genuine interest and excitement about the field of genetics doesn't extend far past medical and industry professionals. As the technology advances and is more regularly incorporated into our clinical healthcare system, this will hopefully start to change.

That being said however, not all genetics and health related information requires a medical degree to understand. Family health history for example is a very accessible concept and a great way to personalize medicine and healthcare to the individual. You don't need to be aware of high level genetics concepts to understand and collect this valuable information.

Further, individuals and families that have been touched or affected in some way by a diagnosis of a genetic condition can benefit immensely from educative information that is tailored to the public. Most of these individuals are not experts in genetics from the outset but are forced, due to extenuating circumstances, to get involved in the field. Even if we can't catch the attention of the population at-large right this second, there needs to be information and support readily available for these individuals and families.

GenesInLife.org that is dedicated to providing accessible health information to the public. We answer questions such as how and why to collect a family health history, describe the different types of genetics professionals and options for genetic testing, and provide resources for individuals that have recently received a diagnosis of a genetic condition.

Beginning in November, Genes in Life will host a two-month feature on whole genome sequencing with interactive blog posts that will describe this technology and its current and future role in health and healthcare. The website will also feature experts in the field that will provide quick answers to user questions about whole genome sequencing. Visit www.GenesInLife.org to learn more.

George Church, living the

George Church, living the life of the disconnected one sided nerd who thinks he knows about clinical onset of disease and what it means to a normal average joe. Go hype something else George, the train has passed, you are sitting on enough boards. SOme comments here even totally disjointed:

++++My suprise finding was the SZ alpha 1 antitrypsin variant, and fortunately I am already a non-smoker, but it will be more important to me to avoid second hand smoke and other pollutants as well than I would have thought.++++ seriously nutters, you have no clue what then efect in previous time is and oh yeah, some poeple don't even have enough food and water in this world, let alone vaccins, we don't care about your obsessive compulsive relationship with DEATH.

Maybe if scientists were more

Maybe if scientists were more respectful of people's right to choose what information they want about their own healthcare, and when, people would be a bit more trusting of scientists and genomics. Further, the Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) is a nice start, but there is still a LONG way to go before people are legally protected from genetic discrimination [such as life insurance, disability insurance, etc.]. Further, it is unclear at this point how useful much of this genetic information will really be. As a science educator, I completely agree that more science education would be a benefit on MANY levels. Look at the ‘medical mainstream media’ – I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard or read MDs and PhDs talking about someone ‘having the breast cancer gene’ or how bad it can be to “have BRCA1.” [NOT having BRCA1 is embryonic lethal; having mutations in BRCA1 can lead to cancer.] I applaud those who boldly go forth and start to discover some of the many unintended and unforeseen consequences of genomic sequencing in healthcare; however, some of these comments sound a bit like Soap Box Preaching – ‘scientists know best, so do as we say.’ People have a right to choose for themselves. Until scientists can understand basic ethical principles like “respect” and “autonomy,” they have no right dictating to people about their healthcare decisions. It also might be best to keep the GMO debate out of the genomics in healthcare discussion, or you risk confusing general public even more, and alienating people [and many scientists] even further.