Socialized personal genomics?

By Razib Khan | February 6, 2012 12:07 am

Norway to bring cancer-gene tests to the clinic:

Norway is set to become the first country to incorporate genome sequencing into its national health-care system. The Scandinavian nation, which has a population of 4.8 million, will use ‘next-generation’ DNA sequencers to trawl for mutations in tumours that might reveal which cancer treatments would be most effective.

The consensus seems to be that ~2000 the main proponents of human genomics oversold the short-term biomedical yield on this line of inquiry. But one rule of thumb is that the consequences of novel technologies are often misunderstood; overestimated in straightforward ways in the short-term, but underestimated in unexpected ways over the long-term. To get a sense, you can reread some of the science fiction of the 1950s inspired by UNIVAC. These mass pushes for nation-wide human genomics projects have a comprehensible headline intent. But I wonder if the real results are going to be something we can’t anticipate.

(Via John Hawks)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Human Genomics, Personal Genomics

Comments (6)

  1. 4runner

    Why are cancer mutations the starting point? Is the cost/benefit ratio really that much higher than, say, screening to make sure that close relatives in often rural, isolated communities don’t get married/have children?

  2. Chad

    Because cancer is where the money is.

  3. Konkvistador

    4runner: I don’t think there is much inbreeding in Norway. Consanguineous marriage rates are pretty low and may have been that way for centuries.

  4. 4runner

    I would be interested in seeing some statistics. A friend of mine is from a truly rural part of Norway (you have to take a train to a bus to a boat to a bus to reach his hometown). In his family of five siblings– two had difficulties with children that were attributed to their spouses from a few towns being distant relatives.

    My friend literally made a conscious decision to only date Asian girls…

  5. Violet

    4runner: Most of the west coast of Norway is going to be like that. (or may be we have the same friend :)). Given such a small population, everyone becomes a distant relative after a few centuries. Even then, wasn’t there a strong church presence, and consequent cultural pre-disposition in Norway to avoid any type of inbreeding?
    I will be interested in the statistics too.

  6. ackbark

    Somebody may develop some kind of recipe for ‘optimal genetic compatibility’ and these databases might then hook you up with your optimal sperm donor.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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