We are not ready for the coming genetic revolution

When 15 years ago, scientists have mapped the genetic information of people (the genome), they promised to change the world. Optimists expect the epoch in which gone all genetic diseases. Pessimists feared the spread of genetic discrimination. Both were wrong. The reason is simple: our genome is very complex. The ability to find specific differences in the genome - is only a small part of understanding how to actually run a genetic variation, giving rise to all the features that we see. Unfortunately, few realize how complex genetics. And as more and more products and services begin to use genetic data, there is a danger that this misunderstanding will cause people to make very bad decisions.

We are not ready for the coming genetic revolution

At school we were taught that brown eyes determines the dominant gene, and the blue - recessive. In reality, there is no human traits that are passed from generation to generation so the right way. Most of the features, including eye color, developed under the influence of multiple genes, each of which makes a small contribution.

Moreover, each gene contributes to a variety of features - this concept is called pleiotropy. For example, genetic variants associated with autism, have also been associated with schizophrenia. When the gene is related to one basis in a positive way (for example, produces a healthy heart), and the other negative (increasing the risk of macular degeneration in the eyes), it is called antagonistic pleiotropy. With increasing computing power, the scientists were able to identify many individual molecular differences in the DNA of specific human characteristics, including behavioral traits, such as a love of learning and personality disorder. Each of these genetic variants explain only a small variation in the population. But when all of these options are added together, they account for more and more differences we see between people. And given the shortage of genetic knowledge, many things are not clear.

For example, we could sequence the DNA of a newborn baby, calculate its polygenic component to achieve the performance and use it to predict with some degree of accuracy, how much good it will do well in school. Genetic information can be the strongest and most accurate forecaster of strengths and weaknesses of the child. Using genetic data would allow us to more effectively personalize education and dedicated resources for children who are most in need.

But this will work only if parents, teachers and zakonodely will be enough to understand the genetics to correctly use the information. Genetic effects can be prevented or improved by changing the human environment, including providing it with opportunities and choice in education. There is also an opinion that certain genetic indicators can lead to a system in which children will be forever divided into classes according to their DNA and did not receive adequate support their real abilities.

Improved medical knowledge

In the medical context, people often follow the advice on the subject of genetics, received from a doctor or other professional. But even with this support, people with a good knowledge of the genetic, derive greater benefits and be able to make more informed decisions about their own health, family planning and family health. People now confuse proposal to hold an expensive genetic testing and treatment of cancer based on genetic information. Understanding the genetics would help them avoid treatment that is not necessary in their particular case.

Today, the human genome can be edited directly using CRISPR method. Despite the fact that such methods of genetic modification is strongly regulated, the relative simplicity of CRISPR means that biohakery already have this tool in the armament and edit their own genomes, for example, to gain muscle or HIV treatment.

We are not ready for the coming genetic revolution

biohakerov These services are likely to become ever more affordable and offers more often (even illegal). But, as we found out, learning about pleiotropy, a change in one gene in a positive way can have disastrous unintended consequences. Even a small understanding of this could save the future of biohakerov expensive or perhaps even a fatal error.

We are becoming more vulnerable to the potential genetic misinformation, because we do not have experts with whom you can consult. For example, a UK company Marmite, producing food spreads recently launched a promotional campaign offering to conduct a genetic test to see you love or hate Marmite, just 89 pounds. Despite the wit and gaiety of the campaign, it has a few problems. Firstly, preference pates Marmite, like any other complex trait determined by a complex interaction between genes and the environment, and is not given at birth. At best, such a test will tell you if you have a penchant for the products of such a plan, and it will be very inaccurate. Secondly, in the campaign shows a young man who "recognizes" his father that he loves Marmite. This is an obvious analogy with the sexual orientation can enhance the outdated and dangerous notion of "gay genes" or even the idea that there could be any one gene for complex traits.

Knowledge - the best tool of the genetic revolution. We must be ready.