Genomics Will Let Us Live Livelier
By Karen and Erica
The Atlantic Monthly magazine recently sponsored a conference, Sequencing the Genome, full of brilliant scientists and doctors. Genomics is of great relevance to us--the cohort of baby boomers that are reaching a certain age. We who have survived our 50s may well live three more decades, and to make those decades grand we need what genomics will give us.
Genomics is the study of both human genomes and disease genomes. Here are some of the things we learned about the advances being made, and why we need to keep genomics on track.
First, we are lucky that a great deal of genomic research is focused on the metabolic diseases of the elderly. None of us wants to get Alzheimers, at present incurable, and no-one else wants to look after us if we do. Genomic researchers are targeting a cure. Other diseases that victimize us and everyone else are also on the genomic radar screen. The scientists are close to big advances. We have to cheer them on.
Important as genomics is, however, don't go out and get one of those genetic tests available over the internet and then make assumptions about your fate. This stuff is complicated, each of us responds differently, and you need experts to analyze your genes for you.
Second, big data has speeded everything up. As an example, for the last thirty years scientists have been trying to develop effective a vaccine for malaria. Sixteen thousand children in sub-saharan Africa were just genomically tested to see what works. Testing on this scale is new, and the ability quickly to analyze masses of data from tests like these is also new. That’s really good for people in our demographic. And for those at risk for malaria and other diseases.
Finally, we can be certain that a new Ebola or Zika or flu or other epidemic will emerge in our lifetimes. Probably several. Genomics is providing the basis for developing international protocols that are needed to stop these diseases before they spread.
Keep an eye on science. Keep the National Institutes of Health funded--the scientists can't do this without government support. With that support, the genomics warriors are pretty confident they can do great things, and soon. We hope they are right, because if they are, our futures will change for the better.