How much useful information can genetic testing provide about disease?

| | May 26, 2015
This article or excerpt is included in the GLP’s daily curated selection of ideologically diverse news, opinion and analysis of biotechnology innovation.

Reading a genome sequence is like consulting an oracle in many ways—the messages must be interpreted carefully and often in the absence of a clear, or even complete, message. What actions should we take based on the word of the genomic oracle? How sure can we be? How much information can we currently glean? In the short term: perhaps not too much.

Some genes speak loud and clear, most don’t—certainly not yet given our limited knowledge of the language of DNA. The classic textbook example of a very clear message is encoded in the gene that causes the disease sickle cell anaemia. Sickle cell anaemia is caused by a single amino acid mutation in the haemoglobin gene found on chromosome 1. This causes a normally hydrophilic amino acid, glutamic acid, to be replaced with the hydrophobic amino acid, valine. The result is a sickle-shaped cell with a rigid membrane. The sickle cells are not elastic enough to allow the oxygen carrying red blood cells to flow easily through the smallest blood vessels, and this causes blockages.

Some genes only suggest the probability of certain outcomes. Take, for example, the ApoE gene, the strongest genetic determinant of Alzheimer’s disease and the gene that James Watson and Steven Pinker hid from themselves. Most genetic messages are strongly context-dependent. Predictions must be viewed through a maze of complex interactions of genes, environmental factors, random events, and historical contingencies. Many genes interact so heavily with external factors we can’t yet understand the consequences of possessing them.

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion and analysis. Read full, original post: Cancer’s terrifying genetic superpowers revealed

Outbreak
Outbreak Daily Digest
Biotech Facts & Fallacies
Talking Biotech
Genetics Unzipped
a a b b a f ac a

Video: Death by COVID: The projected grim toll in historical context

The latest statistics, as of July 10, show COVID-19-related deaths in U.S. are just under 1,000 per day nationally, which is ...
mag insects image superjumbo v

Disaster interrupted: Which farming system better preserves insect populations: Organic or conventional?

A three-year run of fragmentary Armageddon-like studies had primed the journalism pumps and settled the media framing about the future ...
dead bee desolate city

Are we facing an ‘Insect Apocalypse’ caused by ‘intensive, industrial’ farming and agricultural chemicals? The media say yes; Science says ‘no’

The media call it the “Insect Apocalypse”. In the past three years, the phrase has become an accepted truth of ...
types of oak trees

Infographic: Power of evolution? How oak trees came to dominate North American forests

Over the course of some 56 million years, oaks, which all belong to the genus Quercus, evolved from a single undifferentiated ...
biotechnology worker x

Can GMOs rescue threatened plants and crops?

Some scientists and ecologists argue that humans are in the midst of an "extinction crisis" — the sixth wave of ...
food globe x

Are GMOs necessary to feed the world?

Experts estimate that agricultural production needs to roughly double in the coming decades. How can that be achieved? ...
eating gmo corn on the cob x

Are GMOs safe?

In 2015, 15 scientists and activists issued a statement, "No Scientific consensus on GMO safety," in the journal Environmental Sciences ...
Screen Shot at PM

Charles Benbrook: Agricultural economist and consultant for the organic industry and anti-biotechnology advocacy groups

Independent scientists rip Benbrook's co-authored commentary in New England Journal calling for reassessment of dangers of all GMO crops and herbicides ...
Screen Shot at PM

ETC Group: ‘Extreme’ biotechnology critic campaigns against synthetic biology and other forms of ‘extreme genetic engineering’

The ETC Group is an international environmental non-governmental organization (NGO) based in Canada whose stated purpose is to monitor "the impact of emerging technologies and ...
Share via
News on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.
Optional. Mail on special occasions.
Send this to a friend