Posts tagged ‘genome’

Personal Genome Project

Private companies offering to decode your genome for a price generally reaching thousand dollars exist and become famous nowadays. What is less known, is the Personal Genome Project, which is more a scientific project than a business project. The aim is to get “a critical mass of interested users, tools for obtaining and interpreting genome information, and supportive policy, research, and service communities.” In other words, the PGP offers you to decode your genome for free. There are obviously counterparts to that. Your data will be used by scientists to perform research on it:

We believe individuals from the general public have a vital role to play in making personal genomes useful. We are recruiting volunteers who are willing to share their genome sequence and many types of personal information with the research community and the general public, so that together we will be better able to advance our understanding of genetic and environmental contributions to human traits and to improve our ability to diagnose, treat, and prevent illness.

Although this is an interesting project, with ethical considerations and almost philanthropist purpose, we draw the attention of our readers on several points:

  • First of all, PGP do not guarantee anonymity.
  • PGP not only needs your DNA, but your medical records too and will ask for many details (allergies, immunizations, medical history, medications, physical traits and measurements, diet, ancestry, lifestyle, and environmental exposures). Participants will be asked to periodically update and add to this information.
  • No result is guaranteed
  • PGP will make use of your data for a period of 25 years.

People who want to get their own genome decoded still have the choice: a free decoding solution with no guarantee of results or privacy, or more expensive solutions with at least a high level of privacy and some results. The advantage of PGP still may be that with this 0$ offer, a large cohort of patients could be constituted. And the strength of genomic studies always relies in the number of samples available.

July 1, 2008 at 11:47 am 1 comment

THE genome vs. MY genome

As said in a previous post, the human genome has been sequenced in 2001. Remember the genome is the sequence of nucleotide defining most physical characteristics of an individual. Since then, everyone is talking about “the” human genome. Now a little riddle:

If there is one human genome, how come personal genomics companies now offer to analyze your personal genome?

Is it swindle? Do they sell every time the same information? Of course they don’t. And if you subscribed to their services, you probably paid for valuable information.

In fact the human genome must be seen rather as a map indicating the probabilities of seeing each nucleotide (A, C, G and T) at each location of the genome of an individual. So for example, at a given place in your genome, the nucleotide “A” may be observed. However, maybe at this place the expected nucleotide is “G” in 95% of human beings. This may reveal a specific trait of your genome. 

This is related to SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphism) which surely will be covered in another post. Keep reading! 


June 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm Leave a comment

A bit of history and background

Why personalized medicine and all the -omics technologies are so hot nowadays? Why wasn’t it the case 10 years ago? And by the way… what is it?

Mankind has always been fighting for his own health. Classical medicine was developed centuries ago and is still now every day enhanced by new discoveries. Interest has also been cast into psychology since a few decades, healing people from another point of view. But it is only within the last 10 or 15 years that revolutionary techniques related to the (human) genome allow considering a radical change in the way healthcares are considered.

Everyone should now have access to information about his own genome!

But what is in fact a genome?

Your genome is the blueprint of your body. It is unique and defines your characteristics such as your eyes color, your hair type, etc. It is coded by a giant molecule known as DNA. It is generally two-stranded and compounded of small parts called “nucleotides”. Those can be of four types, named in short A, C, G and T. DNA is folded into chromosomes.

Some sequences of nucleotides have a special importance and form genes. Those specific parts of the genome are read by the cells machinery. Following the instructions described by the genes, special molecules are produced. Those are the proteins. The proteins serves as messengers inside and between cells, as basic cell building blocs and as operators of specific metabolic reactions. 


Now let’s get back to history and understand why personal genomics are only available now.

In 1958, Fred Sanger (working at Cambridge) proposed the first protein sequencing techniques. Sequencing is discovering the list of components of a biological object. In 1978, he proposed a DNA sequencing technique. He was awarded two Nobel Prizes for those two works. The first genome sequenced was the one of a virus. But virus have generally small genomes.

In 1995, a complete DNA sequence of a free-living organism (in opposition to virus) has been reported. This organism was a bacterium (H. influenza) and was sequenced by Craig Venter and his group (The Institute for Genomic Research, TIGR, still active in genomic and bioinformatic research). This year of ’95 was the very beginning of what is now called the post-genomic era. Other achievements followed. But it is only in 2001 that the full DNA sequence of H. Sapiens (this is us) has been completed.

The knowledge of the human genome isn’t thus even ten years old! However, this event generated such an excitement in the scientific community that strong efforts have been put in this research area. A decade later, we know enjoy high-throughput technologies such as microarrays, and all the armada of genome-wide chips. The time is now come for everyone to learn about his own genome!

Do you know what you’re made of? 


June 17, 2008 at 3:51 pm 2 comments


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