In around five years, a complete genome sequence will be readily affordable for most citizens of wealthy industrialised nations – even those of us on a researcher’s salary. At the same time we will have access to vast amounts of data about the effects of individual genetic variants on human variation and disease risk. Storing, processing and using genetic data to make effective health decisions will become an immense challenge both to healthcare providers and to individual consumers.
The revolution has already begun: right now, “personal genomics” companies such as 23andMe, deCODEme and Navigenics offer to scan your genome for hundreds of thousands of common sites of variation, and to generate predictions about your risk of common diseases such as diabetes and arthritis. A horde of smaller companies also offer “boutique” genetic testing services for anything from hair loss to bipolar disorder. Some of these tests are valuable, while for others the scientific evidence is weak and the predictive value vanishingly small – but for the typical consumer it is difficult to discern the genuine offerings from the scams.
Genetic Future’s primary mission is to cut through the hype and bullshit associated with the brave new world of human genomics. I report on the latest findings from genome-wide association studies and large-scale sequencing projects investigating the genetic underpinnings of common disease, putting their results in their broader scientific context.
I also review the scientific basis and useability of products offered by commercial genetic testing companies. I’ll be dissecting the studies used by these companies to justify their expensive tests, and describing in plain language how useful such tests are likely to be to consumers.
To readers that have followed me from the old site: you can expect more of the same, but now with advertising!
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