Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Why sequence your genome?

I just attended a talk by Jasper Rine that started with the topic: Looking for good in the human genome.

He suggested that there should be more efforts towards looking for variants in the human genome positive, actionable, inexpensive solutions, such as changes in diet or exercise.

From the HGV2011 conference, I remember that one of the consulting agencies does this exclusively. They do not analyze or consider variants that do not have actionable solutions.

Although I think research should consider all variants, regardless of our ability to affect the phenotype, I understand and support efforts to publicize the beneficial variants, or those on which the average person can have some impact. Even further, perhaps, is to find variants that are just fun to know. This second aim, while not high on the list of most funding agencies might be the best way to increase public interest in genetics.

Here are variants (serious and fun) that I think would serve to increase public awareness/interest in their own genome (caveat: I'm not sure how much of a genetic component all of these have):
- predispositions to vitamin deficiencies (easily solved by a supplement)
- hair color/consistency
- eye color variants (do you have recessive mutations for blue eyes?)
- toenail/fingernail growth rates
- predisposition to back hair
- number of wisdom teeth
- lactose intolerance (infant, young adult and adult stages - can switch to diary-free)
- gluten intolerance
- second toe longer than first
- height-related genes (two "tall" alleles or just one?)
- allergy susceptibility (environmental and diet)
- how fast is your basal metabolic rate?
- skin elasticity (prone to stretch marks?)
- flexibility (are you more likely to twist yourself into a pretzel?)

Of course, one danger with any genetic analysis is that people might interpret it as limitations, instead of for fun, or as a challenge, or doing something useful with it.

For example, if there were a genetic component to flexibility and I found out I didn't have it, would I push myself as hard at yoga or stretching? I hope so, but part of me might give in with less effort. Then again, I think many people give in without any excuse, so perhaps knowing any genetic components might not have an affect.

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