December 22, 2010
Researchers Separate Chromosomes For Sequencing

An article in Technology Review reports on advances made in separating chromosomes so they can be individually sequenced.

Now two teams have devised ways to determine these groupings—known as the haplotype—in an individual. Stephen Quake and collaborators at Stanford University developed a way to physically separate the chromosome pairs and sequence each strand of DNA individually. Jay Shendure and colleagues at the University of Washington in Seattle sequenced DNA from single chromosomes in specially selected pools and used this information to piece together the genome. Both projects were published this week in Nature Biotechnology.

If each chromosome in a cell can be separated out and individually sequenced then one could do the same to parents and children. With that information it will be easy to figure out exactly which chromosomes each child inherited.

This gets especially interesting when thinking about reproduction. If each person can know which genetic variants they have on which chromosome then couples could think about the ramifications of all the possible combinations of their chromosomes they could give to their offspring.

We still need the technical means to choose chromosomes to assemble the more desired chromosomes from each parent into an embryonic cell to start a pregnancy. Given that capability the rate of human evolution will accelerate by orders of magnitude.

The rate of sequencing of full human genomes is rising by orders of magnitude. We need a flood of genetic data needed to figure out what all the genetic variants mean. That flood is starting to happen.

In the last year, the number of sequenced, published genomes has shot up from two or three to approximately nine, with another 40 or so genomes sequenced but not yet published. "While the numbers are still small numbers, we are starting to put this research into the real disease context and get something out of it," says Jay Shendure, a geneticist at the University of Washington in Seattle, and a TR35 winner in 2006.

Given an in-depth understanding of the human genome and the means to choose chromosomes for offspring human evolution will accelerate by orders of magnitude. It is only a matter of when, not if. The knowledge is coming over the next 10-20 years. The technology for choosing between embryos with in vitro fertilization will enable some acceleration of evolution. But the ability to choose chromosomes will bump up the rate of evolution by orders of magnitude more.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 December 22 08:12 AM  Biotech Manipulations

Phillep Harding said at December 22, 2010 11:15 AM:

The next stage should involve chimpanzees, not humans. Yes, the human raw material is more easily obtained, but using human material is going to cause funding problems.

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