Your Genome Available From A Drugstore Near You?
John Neumann for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
With the growing accessibility of our human genome increasing all the time, the day may not be far off when we carry our personal genome around like we carry a driver’s license now, according to a recent Telegraph report.
Professor Armand Leroi, of Imperial College London, claims that with the falling costs of DNA testing, it will be common for young people to pay to access their entire genetic code within the next five to ten years. This could lead to a new era of eugenics, the manipulation of populations through selective breeding.
Leroi told the Euroscience Open Forum 2012, in Dublin, that the desire to have healthy children will lead more people to request access to view the genome of any prospective partner. This information could then be used with IVF to screen for diseases, future genetic abnormalities, and perhaps even, to lessen the number of undesirable population traits.
While it was unlikely people will have the “luxury” of using the technology to design babies by their intellect or eye color, it is not out of the realm of possibility. Leroi said eugenics were already available, with tens of thousands of unborn babies with Down’s syndrome and other illnesses being aborted every year.
The cost of doing a complete genetic map of a person has fallen from $1 billion more than a decade ago to about $4,000 today; and with more clinics offering the service, the price is dropping quickly.
Addressing a session titled “I human: are new scientific discoveries challenging our identity as a species”, he explains that the cost of genetic sequencing was falling so quickly that “it is going to become very, very accessible, very, very soon”. He told the conference on Thursday, “These processes are very well established in most European countries.”
“Many of the ethical problems that people raise when they speak of neoeugenics are nought once you offer gene selection or mate selection as a eugenic tool. We are actually beginning to identify the genes that make a human.”
Leroi adds, “The search for an essence is a 2,000-year-old myth. What we are left with is a sense of capacity and the role of genes in the way they give us these things. I am certain genome sequencing will be available on the NHS within our lifetimes.”
Philippa Taylor, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, told the Daily Mail: “Our society’s increasing obsession with celebrity status, physical perfection and high intelligence fuels the view that the lives of people with disabilities or genetic diseases are somehow less worth living.”
“We must recognize and resist the eugenic mind set. Our priorities should be to develop treatments and supportive measures for those with genetic disease; not to search them out.”