Wednesday 3 February 2010

Working in Montréal today --Careful Where You Spit

Good morning all,
I'm in a bit of a pickle, you've become a tough crowd.  Last week I made the severe mistake of not including the expected verbage in my morning communicae which resulted in a bit of an email flame.  I followed up with a posting-in-penance of a do-it-yourself guide to radiation and a Gieger counter aparati which was met with equal outrage as it was both too concise and yet not concise enough simultaneously.
Yesterday Mel and I were speaking of a service that Mel had become aware, where for $750 USD two prospective parent's DNA will be sequenced and analyzed for 400 or so specific markers associated with, or indicating a predisposition to, 100 or so conditions, illnesses, maladies that could be passed to offspring.
As the conversation progressed, it occurred to me that although I was certainly aware of the breakthroughs in DNA research starting with the double helix research paper 55 years ago following through to the human genome project culminating 5 years ago, I didn't actually know that much (or anything) on the sequencing methods.
So last night I read a bit.  And this morning a bit more too.  One very exciting article described nucleic acid labeling, I'll share:
In microarray experiments DNA or RNA is labeled with either Cy3 or Cy5 that has been synthesized to carry an N-hydroxysuccinimidyl ester (NHS-ester) reactive group. Since, NHS-esters react readily only with aliphatic amine groups, which nucleic acids lack, nucleotides have to be modified with aminoallyl groups. This is done through incorporating aminoallyl-modified nucleotides during synthesis reactions. A good ratio is a label every 60 bases such that the labels are not too close to each other, thus resulting in quenching effects.
Yeah, Word up!
If I dared to post that my email inbox would fill with everything from death threats to a cancelled prom date -no one wants to date a nerd; of course I would also get some post from some pedantic that nucleic acid labelling is unnecessary when using the cloned marker method -uh yeah, everyone knows that thanks.
So instead how about just some food for thought.
One may wish to consider carefully with what group or enterprise one shares samples of his DNA.  Since 2003 an industry has started where sequencing your DNA for profit in exchange for some service is the norm.
Screening for predisposition to illness, or searching for your family tree, a quick web search will locate Ybase, the Sorenson Database and the Genographic Project among a dozen others.  All ready to accept a sample of your DNA.
But then what?  Now that your DNA data is stored in a database who may be interested in perusing the contents -how readily available might your genome sequence become on the net.  I am not limiting the question to the Orwellian, where one must be mindful of the intrusive eye of the gov't and the corporations, but of also your neighbor's prying eyes.
Will we in the near future be worrying about identity theft with a new angle?  genome theft as much as we worry about credit identity theft today; one can always get a new credit card number.
Be careful with whom you share your spit and have a good day.
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld -- Envoyé de mon sans fil portatif BlackBerry