The ideal image many people had of the genome as a straightforward template that stamps out human beings in a predictable way was, and is, a fantasy. And this is nowhere more evident than in the case of human personality traits and mental illness.
Doctors don't ask for your consent to look over the entire x-ray or make a note of the suspicious lesion. And they certainly don't sit you down before every exam, x-ray or lab test and have a long discussion about all the thousands of possible incidental findings that might show up.
These miraculous discoveries present us with countless dilemmas and are far outpacing our abilities to grasp and address their ethical, legal and social implications. We need more public and professional education and attention to how it is affecting our lives and how it should affect our lives.
Reductionism has its limitations. Is a human being -- one who bristles at injustice, weeps at Pachelbel's Canon, loves her children, is awestruck by beauty, and craves chocolate -- simply the product of Pavlov's conditioned reflexes to stimuli?
This groundbreaking, earth-shaking development in health care of targeted molecular treatments and companion diagnostics will change the treatment you are offered in a way that hasn't occurred since blood typing for transfusion, anesthesia and antibiotics all made surgery really possible.
I see personal genomics more generally evolving rapidly to become a major part of everyday life for Americans and around the globe. At the same time, potential problems associated with it will continue to emerge in parallel and merit serious evaluation.
When one thinks of patents, one generally thinks of mechanical contraptions, the products of a creative genius, such as Thomas Edison. Rarely does one think of human genes. Alas, since 1982 the United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted patents on human genes.
In my first piece on personal genomics, I wrote about how data on one's genome can provide information on one's disease risk. Such personal genomics studies estimate the probability of someone getting a disease.
Creating a drug to target just one regulator may have little impact. But the more we understand the regulatory networks involved in health and disease, the more chance we have of identifying the key vulnerable pinch points in our organ systems.
Holistic health has become inevitable. A piecemeal approach to wellness doesn't fit how your body works. It is no longer "alternative" medicine that concerns itself with broad issues of holistic wellness.
America's obesity epidemic isn't improving because the information about how to reverse it didn't lead to motivation. The government can jiggle the food pyramid, but that won't matter as long as Americans haven't stepped on to the pyramid in the first place.
Currently insurance companies, by and large, pay for targeted carrier status genetic testing if it can be justified and if you are pregnant. But this timing is not optimal and the ancestry guesswork is often wrong. Consumers should have the choice to test before conception.