The medical industry is virtually on the verge of a major shift, as a new branch of genomics, known as Personal Genomics, is becoming increasingly popular among both consumers and companies. Though remotely related to traditional population genomics, Personal Genomics is basically an analysis of individual genomes or the mapping of individual DNA. It is done by using some sophisticated bio-informatics tools for pinpointing those diseases, which are closely associated with loci and gene. One of the main reasons to the increased interest among consumers, is the disease risk prediction capability based on genetic markers.
Just few years ago, such medical information was only available to doctors and scientists, but the situation has changed a lot courtesy some genomics firms, who are making a bold attempt in this sphere by offering medical information to the masses. The consumer-genomics industry is now in its nascence stage and therefore and offers the genomics firm ample space to grow and thrive. This is reason why some genomics firms are upbeat about the future prospect of this industry. 23andMe is one such genomics firm, which is helping people to have a clear and closer understanding of the roles that are being played by various genes in our lives. They offer a $399 mail order kit which contains everything a patient needs to take their own saliva sample. The patient then mails the sample to 23andMe who carry out micro array analysis on it.
deCODE Genetics is another familiar name in the field of personal genomics. This genomics research firm is conducting an ambitious project to create a massive DNA database of the entire population of Iceland. The chief architect of this project is Kári Stefánsson. DeCODE Genetics began offering personalized DNA testing through its deCODEme website two years ago. A customer mails in a sample taken from the inside of his cheek, and the service calculates the subject’s genetic risk for disease — cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, heart disease. As a step toward the personal genome, the company has announced that its deCODEme service is available for $985 to anyone who wishes to send a cheek swab to learn details about disease risk and ancestry. This service was launched in November 2007 and thereby became the first web-based service to offer a comprehensive genome scan and an online analysis of an individual’s DNA.
Though personal genomics has contributed greatly in the sphere of predictive medicine, it has been targeted and lambasted by those people who are skeptical about its achievements and its future impacts. Besides that, it involves some sensitive and ethical issues that need to be heeded with care before proceeding further with this plan. The issue of genetic discrimination and the cost are two other crucial factors that are making it difficult for the genomics firms to further their research in this field. However, things are not as bleak as they appear. Unconventional ideas or concepts have always been and will always be criticized but a better understanding of personal genomics may dispel the doubts and might pave the way for better and brighter future for humankind as a whole.