The Genomics Revolution: move over blood type, here comes your genotype

My vision of a possible "gene spill" as we move forward in the genomics area.
My vision of a possible “gene spill” as we move forward in the genomics area.

As I am writing this, a revolution in medicine and science is building up steam around the world called Genomics.

Let me clue you in so you do not miss the boat on this dramatic change coming in our lives.

Genomics means the study of genomes. A genome is the complete sequence of an organism’s DNA, whether it is a human or pond scum (or even a scummy human).

The original sequencing of a human genome took many years and more than $3 billion, but things have dramatically changed in a relatively short period of years.

In fact, the technology has advanced so far that it is no exaggeration to say that sequencing an entire human genome is now a relatively straightforward thing for scientists to do.

The largest genomic sequencing organizing in the world, Beijing Genomics Institute (BGI, 华大基因), can sequence an amazing 1,600 complete human genomes a day.

You read that right.  More than a thousand complete human genomes a day compared to one genome taking years in the past. We are talking about a million-fold amplification of the technological power and it is still increasing.

And the way things are moving, in just a few years, it will become possible for all of us– including you no matter who you are– to get your entire genome sequenced. This will open the door to understanding your health in a fundamentally new way.

Doctors can see the Genomics Revolution on their horizon…it’s going to change medicine. A great example of how amazing BGI is can be seen in the fact that BGI has, in an amazingly short period of time, already sequenced the entire genome of the specific strain of E Coli from Germany that made so many people sick shedding important light on this health crisis and allowing for its detection around the world.

BGI has signed a preliminary agreement to partner with UC Davis, right here where my lab is located and where I am a member of the UCD Genome Center,  to establish a collaborative presence in the U.S.  Assuming all the details get ironed out this BGI/UCD partnership may be one of only two in the entire U.S.

I think this team effort will achieve amazing things and I am excited to push forward on Stem Cell Genomics.

OK, you get it that I’m excited about Genomics, but why should you care about Genomics?

You need to know about the Genomics Revolution because it is not one that you can easily choose to opt out of. To do so,  would sort of be like choosing to not use electricity because Genomics is going to become a key part of all of our lives whether you like it to be or not.

Perhaps another analogy for trying to sidestep Genomics, would be choosing not to let yourself and your doctor know your blood type.  If you need a transfusion, you and your doctor will just have to guess what your blood type might be and start pumping it in, hoping for the best. Right now in a lot of ways doctors are making educated guesses as to how to treat us patients more generally. By knowing our Genomic information, our genotype– the information tucked away in our genomes, they could be making far more educated choices about treatments and we could be making far more informed decisions about our health. So in the same way you need to know your blood type, you and your doctor need to know your Genotype (your Genomic Sequences).

Whether you are a physician, a stem cell researcher, or pretty much anybody, Genomics will change your life. Get ready!


4 thoughts on “The Genomics Revolution: move over blood type, here comes your genotype”

  1. Thanks for your response. I have been attempting to educate myself on stem cells and their potential, and have found your blog very informative and educational.

  2. Hi Susan,
    I think that’s a very good question.
    Yes, genotype matching would almost certainly improve compatibility of a transplant to a recipient. The harder part is finding a donor who has a similar genotype. In theory, that’s where iPS cells might come in very handy as you could produce blood cells, for example, from your own skin and then give them back to yourself as a transplant.

  3. This was a very interesting read. I have a question, my apologies if it a naive question. In regards to genomics is it possible that stem cells whether embryonic, fetal or adult is it possible that certain cells could match up more closely to one recipient then another. Similar to blood types? Thanks for taking the time to read this.

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