The Human Source Code
While humans are not computers, the metaphor that your genome is your source code is not a bad one. Think of your genome as the codebase.
It dictates the features of your platform — you. These features are called your phenotype. This is the physical representation of your genome — how tall you are, what colour hair you have, it even contributes towards your personality.
Your particular code base is a mix of your parents, 50:50.
So what does it matter if people can read your source code? Well for a start — we don’t know what all the lines of code do, genomics is still in its infancy. Scientists didn’t reverse engineer the first full template Human Genome until the year 2000.
The early research can tell us some definitive things. For example, your genome can tell if you are a carrier for a disease. If your partner is also a carrier and you decide to have children, there is a 50% chance your offspring may be a carrier for the disease, 25% that there is no carrying over, but 25% that they will have the full blown disease.
The good news is that with IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) and a technique called PGD (Preimplantation genetic diagnosis), fertility doctors can make sure that your offspring is the 25% that neither has the disease nor is a carrier. Fantastic, right?!
There are an estimated 19,000–20,000 human protein-coding genes. It was originally thought that this meant there were 20,000 different features in your codebase. We now know that it is much more complicated than that.
The good news is that genomic research is happening on a huge scale, so we are finding out more about what each piece of your codebase means — $70.4B has been granted to scientists to work on genomics in the last 10 years alone. But this also means that today, there are many unknown unknowns in your codebase.
Today, a lot of the genomic diagnosis about how you are going to be, is just an indicator at the moment. This is great if you find out you are genetically at greater risk of heart disease, as you can plan your lifestyle to limit your risks, but what other things do we know already that your genome may be indicating you are at greater risk of?
For each of the questions below, ask yourself, are you comfortable with your employer, or your government knowing this about you?
· How tall you are going to be?
· How fat you are going to be, or whether you are predisposed to obesity?
· Your sexuality?
Would employers risk hiring you if you were at higher risk of depression or heart disease, even if you may never experience any of the symptoms?
Remember, this is not just about you. Not only does your direct family have much of the same genome or source code, we are also discovering how your genome affects your children directly. For example, there are 4 markers that are associated with having babies that are on average 113g lighter. The impact on birth weight is similar to that of a mother smoking 4–5 cigarettes per day in the third trimester of pregnancy. There is also a well-described association between lower birth weight and subsequent type 2 diabetes. So if I have access to your genome and know that your source code has these 4 markers, your kids are at a higher risk of type 2 Diabetes, even if they never have their genome sequenced.
Hopefully, this has helped you understand a little bit more about your genome and why you need to protect it. You have only one biological codebase, and once that is leaked to the world, it is public information.
This is why we have built Genomes.io. To protect and put you in control of your most valuable piece of personal information.
By harnessing whole genome sequencing, SEV and blockchain technologies, we allow individuals to get their genome sequenced securely, learn about their DNA, and most importantly contribute to research, without ever losing privacy or ownership of their data. Even Genomes.io can’t access your data, we simply provide you with the technology to store and control access to it.