Complete DNA sequencing commercially available - The Money Times

Complete DNA sequencing commercially available - The Money Times: "

Personal genome sequencing will be possible at the commercial level with DeCode Genetics and 23andMe announcing start of this service.

Companies will scan about a million and 600,000 sites across the genome and assess a person’s risk for common diseases, along with providing information about ancestry, physical traits, and the ability to compare genes with friends and family.

DeCode Genetics will start "DeCodeMe" service for $985 for the personal genotyping product a person. The second company 23andMe will charge $999 per genome.

"We will include all the common diseases, including Alzheimer's," said Kari Stefansson, DeCode chief executive. "If, as a competent adult, you choose to look at your risk of developing Alzheimer's, that is your prerogative. But no one will force you to look at your Alzheimer's risk if you do not want to."

Till now, complete genome was only sequenced for research purposes and to study the causes of various diseases. Among the few people who got their DNA sequenced was James Watson, who gave the double helix model for DNA along with Crick.

Personalized DNA sequence will give analysts specific data for predicting the reasons for various common diseases and in case there are any mutations, they will be detected easily. This can be useful in treating certain diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's disease etc as the defected gene sequence can be compared to that of healthy individual’s DNA.

The service will be provided in North America and Europe. The person who wants to have his DNA sequenced will send a cheek swab to DeCode. After a few weeks he can access his DNA sequence on the website. The information will be protected by a password.

Although this service offers a lot of benefits but at the same time there are many concerns over this. The main issue is that of privacy. If the information gets into the hands of some negative elements, they can use it as their own DNA and thus wrong person will be implicated.

"If you want to commit a crime, there is nothing we can do to stop you," Dr Stefansson said.

One main concern is that the technology is still not so well developed. This can lead to discrepancies in the tests by different companies. It will be very bad for the person if he/she get the wrong news. People might suffer mentally if for example they know that they have a gene which will finally lead to cancer.

Scientists also feel that the knowledge of the genetic variations leading to diseases is still limited. So, it won’t be of much use to go through such a process. Craig Venter, the DNA sequencing pioneer who has analysed his whole genome in great detail, said he had found little useful information about his own health.

Dr Stefansson still feels that there is benefit of doing this. He said there is a strong scientific foundation behind this, which people can use to alter their own lifestyle in response to genetic risks. This can be used for enjoyment also, he said. "You have the opportunity to engage in a fun and interesting exchange when you compare your results to those of your friends."

Still there is a lot of work to be done in this field. There should be proper attention given to the privacy of this data. Appropriate laws should be formulated and scientists have to link more and more genetic variations to diseases, so that the data can be effectively used for the benefit of humans.