American movie star Glenn Close has joined an elite list of celebrities who have had their genome sequenced in the name of science.
Close joins the ranks of notable celebrities such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Craig Venter.
Glenn Close, who is known for her movie roles in “Fatal Attraction”, “The Big Chill” and “101 Dalmatians”, said the offer was too good to pass up.
“For me, anything that can move the science forward is worthwhile,” Close said in a telephone interview with Reuters. “It’s pretty well publicized that I have mental health issues in my family.”
Close is a founder of the nonprofit group BringChange2Mind (BC2M), which raises awareness about mental illness, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, both of which have affected her family. BC2M also provides support and information to the mentally ill and their families. She has spoken out about the legacy of mental illness in her own family.
Genome mapping company, Illumina, based in San Diego, which did Close’s genome, is one of many companies that have drastically reduced the cost of producing a map of the human genome. The first human genome cost $3 billion and took more than a decade to complete. Illumina charges $48,000 for the kind of sequencing they did for Close. The company declined to say if they charged her or not.
Scientists believe that within five years technology will be able to bring the cost down to around $1,000, which would be less than the cost of an advanced CT scan.
Scientists hope that genetic mapping of a person’s DNA will someday reveal genetic causes of common diseases or determine a person’s risk for genetic illness or disease. Eventually, they predict human genome mapping will be a routine part of the medical record.
Glenn Close’ husband, David Shaw, the founder and former head of IDEXX Laboratories Inc, had the connections to get his wife’s DNA mapped, rather than she getting it done through her own connections as a celebrity.
“Jay Flatley, who is the head of Illumina, called me up,” Close told Reuters. “He said there are very few named women who have gotten this done.” She was excited and proud to be one of the first, she added.
“We are very excited to work with Glenn Close to produce the first named female sequence,” said Jay Flatley, president and CEO of Illumina, in a recent press release. “We are entering a new era in genomic health where information from an individual’s genome will increasingly inform lifestyle decisions and ultimately assist with health management. Ms. Close has been active in health issues, and her participation helps bring attention to the potential benefits of individuals gaining access to their genetic information. With this information, physicians will be able to make better healthcare decisions for their patients in the future.”
Close said she will go over the results with a genetics counselor next month “and find out as much as I want to know.” She said that if something in her genome sparks scientific interest, she will consider making it public.
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