As the cost of DNA sequencing plummets, we’re fast approaching a point when decoding a human genome could cost $100 — about as much as the average American’s weekly grocery store run.
The ever-lower cost is helping to drive fast-moving changes in sequencing. Health systems are preparing to test programs that could lead to the use of whole-genome screening in millions of newborns. By next year, some startup entrepreneurs plan to begin offering genetic reports that you can pull up on your smartphone — and they think it’s inevitable that we’ll all one day have this information at our fingertips. And the firms that produce sequencers see an expanding market for their efforts to read DNA quickly, accurately, and affordably.
But while DNA is often called the “book of life,” making sense of what you’re reading and using that information is a whole other story. Geneticists and other experts caution that even if a $100 genome is within reach, we’re not ready to jump head-first into sequencing everyone. For one thing, the cost of sequencing doesn’t include what it costs to analyze the DNA data and counsel patients about what the results mean for them. We have yet to figure out how to protect the privacy of genetic information, how sequencing infants can impact them later in life, and a host of other issues.
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