Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Leave No Gene Unturned

Not long has passed since scientists acquired the ability to map out the human genome. Since then people have been finding ways to put this costly procedure to good use. While some people have used this strategy to discover what genes determine what outcomes in an individual, some have are trying to implement a strategy that would try to pin point what genes cause certain heritable diseases. Imagine being able to find out exactly where in a person’s genome is the cause for giving rise to some of the harmful, inherited illnesses known to man.

In a recent Science article, some geneticists have stepped forward to have their own genomes in hopes of locating the sight from which their own personal illnesses have risen. As a result of searching James Lupski’s and his family’s genes, they were able to hone in on certain genes that were known for causing certain neurological diseases. They were even able to find a mutation that had not been reported before.

A lot of these advances bring many questions to mind. Though it would be beneficial to know in advance whether your genes are prone to transmit mutations or not, when will this be available to the average person. The article itself states that an average mapping cost around 50,000 dollars. Also, is there anyway to reverse any mutations found in your gametes as to reverse any harm before it can be done to your offspring? It would be one thing to be able to find the cause for certain diseases; it would be another to be able to correct the damage done and eradicating illness everywhere. Although I know we are far from it, the fact that such technology is in its crawling stages is astounding.

Posted by Charly Almonte (7)


  1. It's great to know that through extensive research, researchers are finding more ways to benefit our health such as within this article. Detecting such minute problems is an amazing task. Although detecting such genetic problems is costly, it does give people some hope for a resolution to a certain disease. I also hope that in the near future genetic mapping will be available to the public at a more affordable price.

    Posted by Vinh Tran

  2. probing around the genome is a fickle thing. Some people will want to know every possible gene that may lead to a disease, others will not want to live having to worry about something like that. This mindset raises a question (one that you already stated): even though we can see all the places where there are mutations, can we do anything about it? And to top it off it is obscenely expensive. Gene therapy is a working process though, so we will have to wait and see. It would be great to one day be able to change a gene that causes hereditary problems, but we won't know the outcome of that said event either. If we do get to that point where we can fix genes at a molecular level, then where will ethics lie? This new procedure seems to leave a lot of questions in its wake

  3. This is some outstanding technology that is coming about. I do think this would be great technology to help people detect whether or not they may pass on a deadly genetic mutation to their children in hope of not passing such a gene on. It would be helpful if the cost was lower so that those who wished could get tested. The only problems I have is that people would abuse the system and get tested just because and want to try and change genes which may result in problems with other ones. Who says fixing one thing may not mess up another. Where do you draw the line to who should be tested and what cause might their results have?
    -Valerie Silva-