Posted by Bill Sandweg on 07 June 2021.
An organism’s genome controls its destiny. This is as true for the human genome as it is for the genome of the Covid-2 coronavirus. It was less than 20 years ago that scientists first sequenced the human genome. The project took nearly 15 years and cost over $2 billion. Today, due to tremendous strides in computing power and other technical advancement, genomes can be sequenced in a matter of hours and for only $100.00.
The Covid-2 pandemic has been both a curse and a blessing. The curse part is obvious. The blessing part is less obvious to the general public. The vaccines, which are being administered around the world, were developed in record time and have an extremely high degree of effectiveness. Researchers were able to achieve these results using the sequenced genome of the virus. In the “old days,” researchers working on a vaccine for a virus had to have a sample of the virus with which to work. For Covid-2, the labs used only the genome; they never had and did not need actual virus to create a vaccine. The lessons they learned and the capabilities they developed in this quest for a vaccine will be invaluable in many other areas going forward.
Researchers involved in genomic sequencing think its potential is almost beyond understanding. It has already begun to spark a revolution in many fields of human endeavor. More are on the way.
Cheap genomic sequencing will allow each individual to have his or her genome sequenced. This will allow doctors to identify genomic mutations which have the potential to cause illness in the future.
The name given to this concept is “personalized medicine.” It is the opposite of “one size fits all” medicine. For example, a medication which works for some patients does not work for others. Genomic sequencing may be able to tell in advance which patients will benefit from a particular medication and which will not. The medication can then be given only to those likely to receive a benefit.
Crispr technology, which involves changing and substituting genes, may allow defective genes to be replaced with healthier ones.
We are apparently close to machines which can detect the presence of many cancers from a single drop of blood.
As new viral outbreaks occur, we can detect them in real time, monitor spread and develop treatments and vaccines.
Further afield, advocates suggest that genomic sequencing may revolutionize food safety. Animals and plants can be sequenced and, using the genomic information, illnesses can be avoided and new breeds of organism can be created.
Fasten your seatbelts. Every revolutionary technology creates upset. That is why it is called revolutionary in the first place. We may not always like the changes that are brought about by genomic sequencing.