February 10, 2009
2019 All Babies Will Get DNA Sequencing At Birth?

DNA sequencing costs are falling so far so fast that in 10 years DNA sequencing of babies will be commonplace at birth. Cuckolds will learn of their plight while standing outside hospital delivery rooms.

Every baby born a decade from now will have its genetic code mapped at birth, the head of the world's leading genome sequencing company has predicted.

A complete DNA read-out for every newborn will be technically feasible and affordable in less than five years, promising a revolution in healthcare, says Jay Flatley, the chief executive of Illumina.

Only social and legal issues are likely to delay the era of “genome sequences”, or genetic profiles, for all. By 2019 it will have become routine to map infants' genes when they are born, Dr Flatley told The Times.

Of course, this won't be commonplace in the poorer countries. But in industrialized countries a complete DNA sequence at birth will come to be seen as prudent for many reasons. Most obvious: Before the father's name gets placed on the birth certificate the hospital will verify just who is dad.

Genetic diseases that cause damage when the wrong foods are consumed will be known about from the start. Also, knowledge of genetic factors that contribute to autism might eventually become useful to help initiate treatment that'll alter the direction of brain development to make the disorder less severe.

Why else get sequenced at birth? To transfer the data to exclusive competitive kindergartens and grade schools which will of course evaluate applications for admission of Jill and Johnnie at least partially based on their genetic potential.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 February 10 12:15 AM  Biotech Advance Rates


Comments
jp straley said at February 10, 2009 7:06 AM:

why not before birth? Indeed, why not before implantation?

Onit said at February 10, 2009 9:18 AM:

I see the cautionary tale of GATTACA is totally lost on this forum....

Mthson said at February 10, 2009 7:26 PM:

I believe the general thesis of GATTACA is that individuals will be denied jobs that they are actually capable of because of genetic testing.

I believe the simple answer is that polls have shown the vast majority of the public are very uncomfortable with genetic testing, and it can be assumed that society will continue to pass legislation barring discrimination based on genetic tests. E.g. as of June 2007, "at least 28 states have passed laws prohibiting insurance companies from using genetic information in issuing insurance or determining rates."1

I believe the more complex answer is that society is currently and has always been based on massive genetic discrimination. The promise inherent in reprogenetics of achieving a genuine equality for the first time in human history is worth our support.

Randall Parker said at February 10, 2009 8:08 PM:

jp,

Cheap DNA sequencing will make IVF with genetic testing and embryo selection way more popular. That test-driven embryo selection will speed up the rate of human evolution by orders of magnitude.

Onit,

What, me worry?

Mthson,

Genetic testing by employers would tend to ensure that people capable of doing a job will get hired for a job they can do.

Discomfort with genetic testing: People don't want the results used to their detriment. But when it becomes possible to choose an ideal diet based on genetic test results then people will jump on it. That's what I want: genetic tests that tell me what to eat and what to avoid.

I also want genetic tests that tell me what medical tests I should get done often in order to catch diseases at early stages.

Genuine equality: Not gonna happen. What'll happen is that some people will jump on embryo selection and eventually offspring genetic engineering sooner than others. This will increase inequality.

Also, those doing the gene selection and genetic engineering won't all make the same decisions. There'll be divergences as different personality and moral value types choose different genes for their offspring. Partisan splits might deepen as a result.

Xenophon Hendrix said at February 11, 2009 3:02 AM:

>Also, those doing the gene selection and genetic engineering won't all make the same decisions. There'll be divergences as different personality and moral value types choose different genes for their offspring.

Yeah, if the computers don't take over and we don't wipe ourselves out, I expect humanity to divide into several difference species.

epobirs said at February 12, 2009 10:12 PM:

Sorry Onit but GATTACA was purposely a bit brain damaged in pursuit of its story. This is a story written after corrective heart surgeries performed on infants had become commonplace but you wouldn't know it from the way it played out. There was also the strange belief that any one set of attributes could be called perfect. It just wasn't believable as any knd of real future, just as a morality play.

In real life, people with plainly obvious defects can compete for jobs if they've valuable skills or talent.

The real question is who won't have their personal genomic assay done when it becomes affordable. I'd expect it to be at the core of anyone's planning for a long and active life. Any detailed health strategy will be considered impossible without that data.

Garson O'Toole said at February 14, 2009 11:55 AM:

Randall Parker discusses the “most obvious” reason of many for obtaining a complete DNA sequence at birth as follows: “Before the father's name gets placed on the birth certificate the hospital will verify just who is dad.”

This is plausible; however, it is possible to inexpensively perform a genetic paternity test now without obtaining a complete DNA sequence. Google advertisements give a price of $79 when the phrase “paternity test” is the search term. How ubiquitous are paternity tests at birth today?

Another interesting rationale that Randall Parker gives for obtaining a full DNA sequence is to provide it to a school “which will of course evaluate applications for admission of Jill and Johnnie at least partially based on their genetic potential.” Yet I suspect that the legal environment will change substantially as the price of DNA-sequencing continues to drop. “DNA Privacy laws” might prevent schools from openly requesting or using this information in some countries.

Since people unavoidable shed DNA from the body there might develop a black market in DNA sequence information. For example, the controversy over politician John Edwards and his supposed “love child” might have been resolved by tests using DNA samples collected surreptitiously.

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