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Genetics research and genome sequencing

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Genetics research and genome sequencing
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The Human Genome Project that sequenced and mapped all the genes in the human body was the culmination of nearly a century of genetics research. It was published in 2003 and we've come a long way in the last decade. Now, almost anyone can get their personal genetic sequence. In this edition of Healthy Living, YNN's Katie Gibas explains.

"Personal genomics is the idea that based on your DNA, based on your genetic code, we can personalize the risk profile of the diseases you may get in your lifetime and also personalize the kind of treatments you might get," said Robert Green, MD, MPH Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medicare School Medical Geneticist.

Green is working on the MedSeq Project.

The goal is to see if using the genome in everyday medicine is going to change the way the doctor manages your care.

"The main practical application of genomic medicine is if you have a rare disease that's completely mysterious and it appears to have a heritable component, you can use whole genome sequencing to try to find out what is the mutation behind that, and then you can develop a treatment for that based on that mutation," he said.

While there is great potential with personal genomics, there are a lot of ethical questions that need to be addressed.

"There's a lot that we don't know. And there's a lot that still can't really be explained. And I think our struggle is trying to understand that grey area and to find a way to apply that in a way that makes clinical sense," said Catharine Wang, PHD, Boston University School of Public Health Behavioral Scientist.

One major ethical question is what to do with the information.

"It's this assumption that more information is better. But it's just more and we underestimate how quickly we'll get overwhelmed with this information. Genetics is only one piece of this puzzle. And we need to be mindful of that and realize that there are all of these other things that factor in when thinking about our overall health," Wang went on to say.

Green says within five years, genome sequencing will be a regular but optional part of care in your primary care doctor's office. Within a decade, he says it will likely be as common as getting your blood pressure tested.

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