For more than two years, Stanford University geneticist Michael Snyder donated his living body to science. He and fellow researchers examined his DNA, RNA, proteins and metabolites, creating an incredibly detailed profile of his personal "omics." They watched in real time and at the molecular level as viruses attacked his cells, and they figured out, to their shock, that he was prone to developing type 2 diabetes.
In the nine years since the Humane Genome Project wrapped up, gene sequencing has gotten faster and cheaper at a pace rivaling the computer industry. Now a technology company in the UK has another breakthrough, taking a cue from the computer industry itself: A cluster of fast individual compute nodes, so easily scalable that the company made a USB-powered disposable version.
The goal is to democratize sequencing and eliminate the still-heady costs associated with genetic analysis, making DNA and protein sequencing as commonplace as an exam with a tongue depressor.
First universities started using RFID chips to track students' attendance. Now they want their DNA. The University of California-Berkeley, that bastion of hippiedom and experimentation, is replacing its summer reading list with a call for incoming students to voluntarily provide DNA samples.
Walgreen's is ready to plunge headlong into the brave new world of personal genomics retailing, becoming the first retailer to stock store shelves with genetic-testing kits that can test for a person's likelihood of developing a range of genetic ailments, from Alzheimers to breast cancer to obesity. The FDA, however, isn't so thrilled.