Introduction to Genetics

Starting with the Human Genome Project, which began in 1989, much effort has been put into trying to sequence the human genome – the complete map of our genetic information stored in our 23 pairs of chromosomes.  The sum of our genetic information totals over 3 billion base pairs – all of the material needed to create our necessary proteins, and thus allow for all human functions.

The first human genome took over ten years to sequence, but modern technology and computing power has recently allowed for DNA sequencing to be completed in as little as half a day.  As genomics has made a turn towards more advanced technology, we can see how this is the perfect time period for genomics to skyrocket.  But is it a good thing that genomics is so dependent on modern technology?  The human genome is a massive amount of information that must be stored somewhere, and most recently the Cloud is the convenient solution.  Is it safe for individual’s personal and genetic information to be stored on a medium where security is not of utmost importance?  Is it the patient or the companies like 23andMe that perform DNA sequencing who should responsible for the privacy of this genetic information?

What implications may result from the actual act of getting one’s DNA sequenced?  23andMe claims that the information from the human genome can be used to gain insight on your traits, discover risk factors for numerous diseases, and assist your doctor in personalizing your healthcare experience.  But how accurate can companies like these be in correctly identifying all 3 billion base pairs of the human genome?  What are the consequences of getting a couple of base pair sequences incorrect?  Could this provide inaccurate medical information?  Could potential employers or medical insurance companies begin to require that their patients undergo DNA sequencing to see their health risks for the future?  Is it ethical or discriminatory for DNA sequencing to be a requirement across these different situations?  What other dilemmas may arise from genomics and the act of DNA sequencing?  Our group will attempt to delve further into these issues as well as many others.