Your own genetic map is within reach

How would you like to get your own personal genome -- a collection of all the genes you inherited from your father and mother, which make you who you are - all for less than one of those new Intel iMacs?

A new project at Harvard Medical School called the Personal Genome Project (PGP) is getting underway, possibly driving the cost of acquiring one's own personal genetic map down to $1,000 by 2014, reports the Mercury News.

An offshooot of the Humune Genome Project, the massive government effort to sequence all 3 billion bits of human DNA, the PGP is the privately financed enterprise of George Church, 50, a leading genome expert at Harvard Medical School.

"The goal is to reduce costs to the point at which the genomes of individual humans could be sequenced as part of routine health care,'' Church wrote in the journal Nature Reviews Genetics.

At this point, Church is the only volunteer for the program, but he predicts the project with gain a lot of momentum very quickly once people recognize that the benefits of the project outweigh the costs. "Eventually PGP may require millions of volunteers,'' he said.

Church envisons a public government database where scientists and anyone else can see them. He acknowledged that such extraordinary openness carries risks as well as benefits. To encourage volunteers and allay fears, the project gives volunteers the option of keeping their data private.

"The prospect of this new type of personal information suddenly becoming widely available prompts worries about how it might be misused -- by insurers, employers, friends, neighbors, commercial interests or criminals,'' he acknowledged in the current issue of Scientific American.



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