As species go, humans are not particularly diverse. In this month's cover story, the University of Pennsylvania's Sarah Tishkoff tells GT that chimpanzees are about three times more diverse than people are, and that humans lost a lot of their diversity as they passed through a population bottleneck as they migrated out of Africa. And yet, people exhibit surprising differences in terms of their susceptibility to disease, ability to digest lactase, and more. This month's cover story looks into how large-scale genomic studies, data sets, and tools are being put to use to better understand just how different, and similar, people really are.
Also this month, Christie Rizk reports on strategies that researchers are developing to diagnose cancer before it has a chance to progress. She says that researchers are increasingly turning to the immune system as a diagnostic tool, identifying antigens and glycans that indicate when something has gone wrong in the body. Others, meanwhile, are turning to the metabolome as an indicator of changes that occur to the metabolism due to the onset of cancer. Christie notes, however, that there is always the specter of over-diagnosis to contend with. Elsewhere, Matthew Dublin reports on the state of biobanks as they try to modernize and keep up with the demands of newer technologies. In addition, he says that some biobanks are drawing up best practice guidelines to maximize sample quality.
For this month's ethics column, Matt also takes a look at an interesting situation: A US Department of Defense advisory panel has recommended that the department begin to explore performing genetic research on military personnel. As Matt reports, some bioethicists have raised questions about whether military research participants can give true informed consent when the research is being conducted by their employer and whether there are any genetic discrimination protections for service members. It's an intriguing read.