Modérer la révolution génétique

LOUVAIN – Nous n'en sommes peut-être pas pleinement conscients, mais les générations futures vont sûrement tenir notre époque pour véritablement historique. Jamais auparavant l'humanité n'a si bien compris le fonctionnement des cellules, des tissus et des organes, les mécanismes moléculaires précis de l'évolution, ainsi que le lieu d'origine de notre espèce et la façon dont notre elle s'est dispersée à travers le monde.

La technologie nous permet de démêler les processus et les mécanismes cellulaires et sous-cellulaires, d'identifier les causes des maladies et de développer des traitements plus spécifiques et plus efficaces, de déterminer ce qui est biologiquement lié à nous et à quel degré se combinent les connaissances de la biologie, de l'informatique, de la technologie de l'information et des sciences des matériaux. Comme on aurait pu s'y attendre, une telle révolution dans la connaissance doit également avoir un impact social significatif, qui exige de répondre à des questions considérées jusqu'à présent comme relevant de la pure science-fiction.

Il est techniquement possible aujourd'hui de séquencer les 2,4 mètres d'ADN présents dans le noyau de chaque cellule de notre corps en seulement quelques jours. Et alors même que la vitesse d'un séquençage fiable continue d'augmenter, le prix du séquençage a chuté précipitamment et va bientôt coûter seulement quelques centaines de dollars. Une fois connue la fonction de chaque fragment d'ADN, rien n'empêchera plus un séquençage de routine.

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