Genome Sequencing is a revolutionary medical technology that used to be prohibitively expensive but has gotten exponentially cheaper as of late.
It now costs less than $500 for a single test, which is pretty amazing compared to the cost of over $10 million for a single test in 2006. Moreover, specialists at Illumina, the world’s foremost sequencing company, predict it will cost $100 or less before long.
The treatment is also going to take less than an hour.
The low cost and time investment mean Genome sequencing will soon be an eminently affordable procedure.
In this post, we will help you prepare for the increased availability of Genome sequencing. We will fill you in on precisely what it is and how it can be used to improve your health and help you live longer.
What is genome sequencing?
A human body’s DNA consists of hundreds of trillions of strands of DNA, contained in cells. Each strand is made up of a series of letter pairs, either A-T or G-C.
Genome sequencing essentially allows doctors to scan all of the DNA at once and list it out on paper, pair by pair. The result is an extremely long sequence of letters that more or less spells out your individual DNA.
The vast majority of a person’s DNA code is made up of a repeating sequence. Maybe your sequence is GTGTCTAGCCCAGTCAGGT, for example, and it repeats in your DNA code over and over again.
The thing is, there are very rare inconsistencies in the code. The inconsistencies represent different health properties.
It is only recently that the medical community has developed specialized computer programs to scan DNA code for these inconsistencies.
This process is referred to as “genome sequencing” or “genomic sequencing.”
Genome sequencing is, of course, extremely complicated, but this massive simplification will give you the gist. For a slightly more in-depth description, watch the TEDEd video near the bottom of this post.
How Can Genome Sequencing Improve Your Health?
The inconsistencies doctors can find in your Genomic Sequencing can uncover a ton of medical difficulties you or even your future children are at risk for. This information can help you find health plans and make life choices that are tailored to your specific DNA.
Dr. Mike Evans, a Genome Sequencing specialist at Reframe Health Lab, breaks the types of information Genome Sequencing provides into five categories:
This category is linked to genes that have been shown to represent a higher risk for certain diseases. If a category one inconsistency shows up in your Genome Sequencing, you can immediately pursue preventative treatments for that condition.
For example, there is a certain inconsistency that shows the client is a very high risk for ovarian cancer. Someone who gets this test result back can arrange more frequent checks or even surgery to head off cancer they are more likely to get in the future.
Category 2 is similar to category 1, but the diseases it deals with are ones most people are already at risk for. For instance, a category two inconsistency might show you are at a 13% risk to develop type II diabetes rather than the typical 10%. There is not too much you can do with that information.
Evans says the best way to negate category two risks is to improve your diet, exercise, and get plenty of sleep, but everyone should do that anyway.
These inconsistencies are tied to genetic diseases, either one that is already present or ones that will develop in the future. Unfortunately, there are no effective cures or preventative measures for these diseases. Of course, knowing what course your life will take in the future is helpful in terms of preparations.
Early Onset Brain Diseases
These are tied to mental diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Like category three diseases, these do not have a cure but may be useful to know about.
Diseases You will Pass On
Category 5 inconsistencies are tied to diseases that do not afflict you but which you may pass on to your children. Some examples are sickle cell anemia and fragile X syndrome. If both prospective parents have had Genome Sequencing done, and both had the same category five inconsistency, it is highly likely that a child will have whatever disease it indicated.
You may notice a theme of the diseases Genome Sequencing can predict is that most are incurable once they actually take hold. That is one reason Genome Sequencing is so important; because it allows you to stop medical problems (or at least prepare for them) before they start.
Part of this preparation is obtaining medicines or making lifestyle changes that will lower the risk of whatever was found. Another option is seeking out anti-aging measures like epigenetic testing to buy yourself more time.
Genome Sequencing is a fantastic technology that is just now becoming affordable for most people. It is immensely powerful, and not pursuing it when you can seem almost to be a waste.
IF YOU OR ANY OF YOUR LOVED ONES HAS EXPERIENCE WITH GENOME SEQUENCING, WE’D LOVE TO HEAR ABOUT IT IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW!