I Had My Whole Genome Sequenced — And so Should you

Have you ever wondered about the genetic material that makes you, well, you? Have you wished to see a full blueprint of your DNA?

I have. On Monday, October 5 in Baltimore, I had the unusual opportunity to see it for the first time. My wife and I, along with 38 other attendees at the “Understand your Genome” symposium, had our genome, or complete set of DNA, sequenced. For $2,900, one blood draw and a two-month waiting period, it was done. All 3 billion base pairs became accessible. It is hard to believe that just over two decades ago, it took 10 years and $2.7 billion to sequence the first genome!

My wife and I are both scientists by training. During my doctoral graduate studies, a central part of my research relied on genomics technologies as my colleagues and I tried to identify whether a specific gene was implicated in schizophrenia. We focused on a protein involved in neuronal plasticity, and looked at a small handful of single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. These small variations are part of what make us unique. Each of our genomes has 3-4 millions of them, and many have been characterized. They can be associated with anything from eye color to cancer risk; this is important knowledge and when given the chance, we wanted to know ours.

Sifting through the genome app on an iPad, I was disappointed to realize that my genome is fairly boring. Surely, I thought going into it, I will learn something critical, something that will affect my behavior. But that was not the case. Of course, I did learn a few interesting nuggets about myself, like my ability to metabolize various drugs, my lack of ApoE4 variants that would put —> Read More