Discovering your DNA sequence is cheap and easy, and that genetic knowledge could change – even save – your life
A decade ago, researchers completed what was one of the greatest scientific achievements of our time when they decoded the last of the three billion letters that make up the human genome. Since then, the cost of sequencing has dropped dramatically – from $3bn for the first human genome to a few thousand dollars today.
Inexpensive sequencing created a whole new industry, enabling individuals to access their own genetic information. You may never have thought about what’s in your genome, but one day soon you will, and it will be an important part of your healthcare.
Far sooner than anyone would have thought possible, the real-world benefits of genetic science and access to the data itself are available to people the world over. Today, genetics is not just for scientists. Each of us can now explore our own DNA. I co-founded the personal genetics testing company 23andMe in 2006 with the mission of enabling people to get access to their DNA and create the software tools so they can understand it.
I am asked regularly, “Why would you ever want your genetic information?”
Learning about your genetics enables you to optimize your health. It will take us decades to understand all 3bn base pairs in the human genome, but today we already know what thousands of important genetic differences mean for individuals.
We know that genes affect your risk for conditions like cystic fibrosis and breast cancer, and we know how your genes affect your responses to drugs like Warfarin. As genetic testing becomes more affordable, more people can benefit from understanding their genetics and use that understanding to improve their health, help them prevent the harmful side-effects of some drugs and potentially avoid preventable deaths.