Tempering the Genetic Revolution

Today, it is technically possible to sequence the 2.4 meters of DNA – present in the nucleus of every cell of our body – in only a few days. But more research is needed before we can understand the results of sequencing correctly and apply this knowledge appropriately in risk calculations.

LEUVEN – We may not be fully aware of it, but future generations will likely consider our era truly historic. Never before has mankind been able to understand the functioning of cells, tissues, and organs, the precise molecular mechanisms of evolution, and where and how our species originated and spread throughout the world.

The technology that allows us to unravel cellular and subcellular processes and mechanisms, identify the causes of diseases and develop more specific and effective treatments, and determine who is biologically related to us and to what degree combines knowledge from biology, computer sciences, information technology, and material sciences. As might be expected, such a revolution in knowledge must also have a significant societal impact, requiring answers to questions that, until recently, were considered pure science fiction.

Today, it is technically possible to sequence the 2.4 meters of DNA – present in the nucleus of every cell of our body – in only a few days. And, just as the speed of reliable sequencing continues to increase, the price of sequencing has dropped precipitously, and will soon amount to just a few hundred dollars. Once the function of every fragment of DNA is known, nothing will stand in the way of routine sequencing.

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