Articles Videos — 31 July 2014

Using good humor and eloquence, Richard Resnick explains that the world as we know it is about to change.

In his words, “The prospect of using the genome as a universal diagnostic is upon us today.” Already, the impact of the genomic revolution on the field of medicine has been profound.

The speed and effectiveness of treatments might lead people to live 20 years longer than normal, or more.

 

The rapidity and cost effectiveness at which we will be able to sequence a human genome will make it a first-line treatment. In 10 years, the effectiveness of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to treat cancer will be compared to bloodletting. Even patients with mental disorders, traditionally the most difficult diseases to treat, will be checked for genetic mutations in genes responsible for neurotransmitter production. Already this has led to several effective treatments.

A set of twins born with cerebral palsy-like symptoms had their genomes sequenced and compared to a normal genome. Their doctor discovered a mutation in a gene responsible for the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin. With a regular dose of serotonin precursor, the twins are effectively normal. Another child has had over 100 surgeries in a vain attempt to fix a digestive problem causing him severe pain. After having his genome sequenced, a single point mutation is found in a single gene. After a single bone-marrow transplant treatment, the child is cured. These are just two examples of the many given by Richard, and hundreds more undoubtedly exist.

The speed and effectiveness of treatments might lead people to live 20 years longer than normal, or more. This will further stress the planet’s resources, given that there will be many more humans living on it. Though he doesn’t mention it directly, synthetic biology will play a pivotal symbiotic role in allowing our species to survive this upheaval. GMOs will be absolutely essential, because the need to raise the food carrying capacity of the planet will be necessary to ensure the survival of a species as the genomic revolution takes hold.

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Dan Lipworth

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