Leroy Hood on the Future

Leroy Hood, tireless generator of good quotes (among other things):

My prediction is that within 10 years, we will have a predictive medicine that will have two separate components.

No. 1, it will have the ability to sequence every human’s genome for
less than $1,000. We will be able to make predictive health histories for each individual from the varying genes that come from that
sequencing.

Perhaps a better term than predictive health histories is
health futures.  Is it me, or does having health sandwiched between predictive and history feel claustrophobic?

No. 2, we will have a little hand-held nanotechnology device that
will prick your finger and make a thousand measurements and by
wireless, send that to a server. It will analyze all your past records.

It will say, "Nothing’s changed. You’re fine. Do it again in six
months." Or it will say, "Go see your oncologist or go see your
rheumatologist" or whoever might be appropriate.  Your physician would get an e-mail, too.

There’s more from Leroy:

Take into account that your genome and mine differ by 6 million
nucleotides…

We have to treat you differently than we treat me and everybody
else. How we create an era of highly personalized medicine will depend
entirely on new diagnostic, therapeutic and ultimately, these
preventive techniques.

What we’ll do is feed your genome sequence into a grid network of
computers that will do many different kinds of analyses simultaneously.
You’ll get a summary sheet that says here are the things and here are
the probabilities that you’ll likely have to worry about in the future…

Oh yeah, and this is good too..

It takes five years for people to get anything. The first few times
they hear it, they can think of a thousand reasons why it’s wrong.
Then, after they’ve heard it a few more times, it starts to sound more
logical.

If you’re a missionary, you’ve got to be patient with your
congregation. We are at the very beginning stages of thinking about
this.

Read the whole piece in the SeattlePI.

Venter: Personal Genomics not Enough

It has been said that the four letters of DNA are not A-T-G-C, but H-Y-P-E.  During a recent panel discussion sponsered by FasterCures, Venter reminded the audience that a sequence alone is not enough:

[Venter] cautioned against getting carried away with the exponential growth in
our understanding of genomics. While we may have the technology to
sequence everyone’s genome, we have no idea yet how to interpret and
use that information. Not every disease will be cured by mapping its
genome; genetic research must be integrated with the rest of the
scientific community if we’re to realize the promise of genomics. He
stressed the importance of building multi-disciplinary teams of
researchers driven to solve a specific problem.

Innovative Medical Research: New Approaches for New Outcomes. Getty Center, April 17, 2005.

The Genographic Project

Migration_pattern_1My father spent several years tracing our family’s history back several hundred years.  Beyond that the paper trail begins to break down.  The most distant information he was able to find dates to the 15th century.  Not bad.  But I can beat it. For $100 National Geographic will put my family on the map of human migration patterns and tell me about my earliest human ancestors.  Its called the The Genographic Project and is being supported by National Geographic, IBM, and the Waitt Family Foundation.  Geneticist/Anthropologist Spencer Wells is the lead investigator of the project. 

Resources:

My Genographic Project results

The Genographic Project Homepage

Spencer Wells, The Journey Of Man: A Genetic Odyssey. Random House, 2004.

Salvatore Salamone ‘Genographic Project’ to Track Human Migration, Bio-IT World, April 13 2005.

Carl Zimmer, Humanity’s Map, The Loom, April 13 2005.

DNA project to trace human steps, BBC April 13 2005.


Swedish LifeGene Project

The Swedes have proposed what they are calling the "most comprehensive medical project" since the human genome.  The project has a tentative name, LifeGene, and the goal is to combine "biological information with lifestyle data" from a population of 500,000 people in order to get a "greater understanding of the interplay between heredity,
lifestyle and the environment in relation to the most common diseases."

Another article summarized the project as follows: "This study…uses IT and mobile technology to
enable people to report details of their health and their lifestyle. LifeGene aims to collect biological samples, demographic and
lifestyle information from healthy volunteers, and examine these with
information from Sweden’s unique population-wide registers. These
include a twin register, a cancer register and a cause of death
register. The fact that Sweden has a uniform governmental healthcare
system facilitates access to information about patients and possible
tissue samples."

Links:
CORDIS release
Karolinska Institute release
Stockholm Business Arena write-up discusses LifeGene (in the context of a call for even larger population studies)

Intrasoma Variation

Good news for companies attempting to develop high-throughput genome sequencing technology: the genome sequencing market may be much larger than the size of the human population.  This is to say, we all may need to get our genomes sequenced many times over the course of a lifetime.  At least this is the unproven belief  put forth by Kevin Kelly over at the Edge:

I believe, but cannot prove, that the DNA in your body (and all bodies) varies from part to part…While I have no evidence for my belief right now, it is a provable assertion. It will be shown to be true or false as soon as we have ubiquitous cheap full-genome sequences at discount mall prices. That is, pretty soon. I believe that once we have a constant reading of our individual full DNA (many times over our lives) we will have no end of surprises. I would not be surprised to discover that pet owners accumulate some tiny fragments of their pet’s DNA,which has somehow been laterally transferred via viruses to their own cellular DNA. Or that diary farmers amass noticeable fragments of bovine DNA. Or that the DNA in our limbs somehow drift genetically in a "limby" way, distinct from the variation in the cells in our nervous systems.

siRNA Libraries

"Sometimes the first step to learning a gene’s role is to disable it and see what happens. Now researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have devised a new way of halting gene expression that is both fast and cheap enough to make the technique practical for widespread use. This work will accelerate efforts to find genes that are involved in cancer and the fate of stem cells, or to find genes that make good targets for therapeutic drugs."

Press Release, Gene-Disabling Technique Simplified by Stanford Team. Jan 13 2004.  This group has developed a method for creating siRNA libraries.  Here is a flash animation showing a mechanism for RNA interference or RNAi.  In the animation, the little red pieces labeled "guide sequeces" are short interfering RNA or siRNA.

Genome-Wide Functional Screening

Anne E. Carpenter & David M. Sabatini, Systematic Genome-Wide Screens of Gene Function, Nature Reviews Genetics 5:11-22.

From the abstract:

"By using genome information to create tools for perturbing gene function, it is now possible to undertake systematic genome-wide functional screens that examine the contribution of every gene to a biological process. The directed nature of these experiments contrasts with traditional methods, in which random mutations are induced and the resulting mutants are screened for various phenotypes. The first genome-wide functional screens in Caenorhabditis elegans and Drosophila melanogaster have recently been published, and screens in human cells will soon follow. These high-throughput techniques promise the rapid annotation of genomes with high-quality information about the biological function of each gene."

Primer: Comparative Genomics

Ross C. Hardison, Comparative Genomics, PLOS Biology, November 17, 2003