Wednesday, March 10, 2010

I don't understand much in this NYTimes article about new efforts to trace the genetic source of many diseases now that we have the entire human genome mapped. I should have taken Biology in school, even though I still wonder if that would have helped - I'm pretty science-challenged.
Geneticists said the new research showed it was now possible to sequence the entire genome of a patient at reasonable cost and with sufficient accuracy to be of practical use to medical researchers. One subject’s genome cost just $50,000 to decode.

“We are finally about to turn the corner, and I suspect that in the next few years human genetics will finally begin to systematically deliver clinically meaningful findings,” said David B. Goldstein, a Duke University geneticist who has criticized the current approach to identifying genetic causes of common diseases.
What don't I understand? For one thing why does it take so long and cost so much? I guess I thought of genome-mapping as kinda like a super-comprehensive DNA test. Just need a bigger computer and there you go: Bob's your uncle. But clearly I'm way wrong. We've only managed to map 12 people ever? No wonder it hasn't yielded more information.

But add to that a couple of apparently flawed assumptions about how mutation works in common multi-gene diseases like cancer, and it sounds more and more like genetic scientists have been headed the wrong way - a slow, expensive way to boot. Hopefully those things are changing.

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