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Capturing Variance

Despite the sheer amount of information packed into the human genome, much of it is the same from person to person as BGI's CEO Ye Yin tells Wired UK. Only 0.5 percent of the genome varies between individuals, though those differences can be marked.

"You can grow as tall as Yao Ming, or as short as Chandra Bahadur Dangi," Yin says. "There are maybe only a few base pairs difference in certain genes [but] genes determine many variable obvious phenotypes. For example, double or single eyelids, whether you can bend your thumbs back or not, if you can roll your tongue, even how much alcohol you can drink." 

If all these differences could be genetically mapped, he tells Wired UK that healthcare would be in for a "big data revolution." As some health related traits are more common among certain populations, Yin adds that genetic data could highlight population health risks and local health issues.

He also notes that gathering genetic data on the microbiome will also be a key part of understanding human health. "It's another genome in our body – even called a second breed," he says. "If you feel hungry, maybe it's your bacteria that feels hungry, not you. They're saying 'you must give us some cultures we want.'"

And that, Yin says, underscores that there's only so much that genomics can resolve as it sometimes comes back around to human behavior.