Mar 082012

The New York Times is reporting that individualized human genome testing could in the near future fall to less than $1,000. Dozens of Silicon Valley firms are now in a race to make this happen.

According to the NY Times, “The promise is that low-cost gene sequencing will lead to a new era of personalized medicine, yielding new approaches for treating cancers and other serious diseases. The arrival of such cures has been glacial, however, although the human genome was originally sequenced more than a decade ago.

“Now that is changing, in large part because of the same semiconductor industry manufacturing trends that opened up consumer devices like the PC and the smartphone: exponential increases in processing power and transistor density are accompanied by costs that fall at an accelerating rate.”

This future medical technology that will soon appear less than 5 years from now opens up both positive and negative implications. On the positive side are personalized medicine, nanorobots for surgery and other person-specific treatments.

On the flipside, however are the negative implications in which Ezra Klein points out in his Washington Post article. According to Klein, “In 2008, Congress overwhelmingly passed, and President George W. Bush signed, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. Ron Paul was the lone dissenter. The legislation bars insurers from denying coverage or raising premiums on individuals who show a genetic predisposition toward particular diseases. And in doing, it armed a time bomb beneath the health-care industry.”

So, what this means is that while doctors and surgeons are providing us higher levels of medical treatment, the insurance companies and corporations could be using the data to discriminate against individuals with pre-existing conditions or worse the mathematical potential to have certain ailments based upon these genome tests.

What do you think – is the glass half empty or half full on this one?

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