Is sequencing your personal genome a curse or a blessing? A recent radio broadcast from NPR news summarises two scientist’s opinions and their practical experiences with genome sequencing (listen to the radio broadcast below).
World renowned scientist James Watson, from the famous Watson & Crick team that discovered the DNA structure, recently sequenced his own genome. His discovery didn’t earn him the next Nobel prize for science, but he found out that he belongs to the elite few people whose body is more sensitive to ß-blockers. Now James Watson finally realized why it was so difficult for him to balance his blood pressure. It definitely paid off for Watson to sequence his own genome since he could significantly reduce his weekly ß -blocker intake. But despite this “health-changing” experience, he forbid his colleagues to reveal any information about his likelihood to develop Alzheimer. He said, “since you cannot cure it why would you like to know about it?”
The second candidate to share his experience after he personally sequenced his genome is Stanford geneticist Michale Snyder. His genome sequencing revealed that he was at high risk to develop Type 2 diabetes. A few months after his discovery, Synder got the disease that his genome anticipated. Was this a coincidence or fate? For Snyder, knowledge about his genome gave him a head start against the disease. By completely transforming his diet and participating in various sport activities, he overcame his Type 2 diabetes.
From my perspective, both examples show that knowledge about our genetic information can be useful in preventing and treating diseases. It boils down to how much experience exist to reliably interpret the data.