In each of our beginnings was our personal genome, created when we were less than a single cell and with us every moment since. Our genome has helped define what we have, and haven’t, done with our lives. This precise DNA barcode, because of its enormous length and complexity, distinguishes each of us not only from the other eight billion people alive today on the planet, but also from each and every other of the twenty-something billion human beings who have ever lived since the dawn of humanity two hundred thousand years ago. Indeed, distinguishing each of us from every other living organism, whether flora, fauna, virus, or archebacteria for the past four billion years. What could be more personal than that?
Even when it’s hot outside, we don’t walk around naked. People are typically squeamish about public nudity because they don’t want every detail of their reproductive anatomy put out on display for all the world to see, and prudence prevails. But this particular modesty only runs skin deep. What is more profoundly revealing than being naked in a crowd? Today, certainly one answer to this question, mechanistically more than skin deep and down to the core of our very being, is the sequence of our very own genome. However, even if we generally don’t like getting naked in public, we will when there’s a good reason to do so. One place people typically do this is their doctor’s office. We bare ourselves despite that slightly awkward feeling we have waiting there, exposed on the usually cold examining table, to allow our doctor to see our most intimate parts because we know this can help keep us healthy and so it’s worth the discomfort. Conversely, hiding some of these parts and refusing a doctor’s examination could cause a lot of pain, or worse, in the end. This is essentially the same reason why people decide to share this intimacy in silico by giving their personal genome information to their doctor. Such information provides a tool to help navigate us to a healthy one hundred and fifty years or so of life. This is not astrology: this is bona fide biological science. But what does it all
add up to?
Biografía del autor
Jon R. Luoma‘s writing about science and the environment has appeared in National Geographic, GQ, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, and Audubon, where he was a longtime contributing editor. He is the author of three previous nonfiction books: The Hidden Forest, A Crowded Ark, and Troubled Skies, Troubled Waters.