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Whats not in the source code ? November 20, 2007

Posted by Sharath Rao in humor, india, science.
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Look at this piece of news.

The exploration of the human genome has long been relegated to elite scientists in research laboratories. But that is about to change. An infant industry is capitalizing on the plunging cost of genetic testing technology to offer any individual unprecedented — and unmediated — entree to their own DNA.

For as little as $1,000 and a saliva sample, customers will be able to learn what is known so far about how the billions of bits in their biological code shape who they are. Three companies have already announced plans to market such services, one yesterday.

Great ! The next time someone wants to know why I started balding at 19 and am all but done with it at 26, ( “Was it the swimming pool water”, “May be KREC hostel water”, “I am sure it was the Boston Winter”), I might be able to give them an entire subsequence of A, T, G, C for an explanation. (Geneticists out there – does this make sense ?)

Jokes apart, this is precious stuff. Sure, the science is at still at the early stages and so is the technology – I reckon within 2 years the costs of the above indulgence may come down by 20-30%. And I am going to go get it !  What kind of stuff do you find there anyway ?

Like other testers of 23andMe’s service, my first impulse was to look up the bits of genetic code associated with the diseases that scare me the most.

But in the bar charts that showed good genes in green and bad ones in red, I found a perverse sense of accomplishment. My risk of breast cancer was no higher than average, as was my chance of developing Alzheimer’s. I was 23 percent less likely to get Type 2 diabetes than most people. And my chance of being paralyzed by multiple sclerosis, almost nil. I was three times more likely than the average person to get Crohn’s disease, but my odds were still less than one in a hundred.

Seriousness apart (!), the great practitioners of the system of arranged marriages will keep up with the times in a rather queer manner – I presume we in India will soon start circulating and matching DNA substrings instead of the horoscopes for prospective alliances causing a recession in the astrology market.

Of course, astrologers may well be able to predict this recession and take corrective steps. 🙂

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