Latimer: Human genome bank online will be a game changer

Google plans to store entire copies of the human genome online.

For several years I have expressed my excitement about the possibilities for medicine that will undoubtedly be unleashed as we more fully explore and understand our genetics.

It seems that every new paper or bit of information is moving us closer and closer to an eventual ability to create much more targeted treatments for many conditions based on the individual’s genetic blueprint.

I still believe this ability will be a game changer for many areas of medicine.

And so it is with enthusiasm I have been reading about the latest genetic information project Google is undertaking.

Google plans to store entire copies of the human genome online.

The project is called Google Genomics and medical institutions are coming on board.

To date, Google has 3,500 genomes on its servers and has been dealing with space issues as to how to store such a vast amount of information.

Just one complete genome takes up about 100 gigabits of space, but when that is multiplied by billions it becomes a very large storage issue.

Some have been skeptical of the whole project because of this storage problem—but given the speed at which technology has advanced in the past two or three decades, I don’t think this will be an issue for long.

Even Google has pointed out that when the Genome project began it took 15 years and $3 billion for the first human genome sequence. Today it can be done in a day for about $1,000.

Google’s long-term goal is to have all of this genetic information online for scientists to access and search as one centralized database.

I think this is a great opportunity for scientific collaboration and will in all likelihood launch our understanding and research forward very quickly.

Aside from the practical obstacles faced in developing this project, there are a few privacy questions to answer as well.

When we have the capability of storing every person’s genetic identity online, we will undoubtedly encounter situations when a person is unexpectedly found to have a rare disease but has not asked for that information.

Or when comparing genetic information, we will likely find family connections such as siblings the individual was not aware of or searching for.  Not to mention insurance companies and other corporate interests that would love to use information for business purposes.

These may present new ethical questions for the gatekeepers of all of this genetic information.

=Still, I think the benefits of this project will far outweigh the pitfalls and I think we will be able to come up with the creative solutions needed.

Until then, we can imagine the future of medicine as our understanding and treatment benefits from the ability to analyze and compare such vast amounts of information.


Just Posted

Rail trail connection drives ahead

Coldstream connects Vernon to Lake Country

West Kelowna’s music in the park will rock this Friday

This Friday’s Music in the Park will feature rock and country group… Continue reading

Extreme fire danger in the Okanagan-Shuswap

The fire danger rating hits extreme or high in areas of the Okanagan- Shuswap

Get Moonstruck at Kelowna theatre event

New Vintage Theatre will honour actor Nicolas Cage on July 21

Busy day for Central Okanagan Search And Rescue

Two calls and wildfire training kept COSAR volunteers hopping Sunday

Course veterans seize victory in Peach City Classic

The first place titles in this year’s triathlon belonged to returning competitors.

Indigenous housing providers worried Liberal proposals could put families on the streets

Indigenous housing providers raise alarms about future of federal funding deals

Incredible sight in Okanagan night sky

Vernon resident Martin Impey caputure the new moon in conjunction with the planet Venus

B.C. baseball team offers funeral prize pack

Wednesday’s West Coast League game in Victoria features draw for end-of-life package

Black Press Media journalists win big at Canadian community newspaper awards

Newsrooms earn recognition for editorial and photography excellence

Penticton boundary extension official

City boundaries expanded to edge of Skaha Bluffs Provincial park

Unbeaten streak halted, but Sun Devils clinch

Kelowna Sun Devils lose first games of the 18U AAA season but wrap up top spot

Riptide, CVUSC paved the way for varsity soccer players

Chloe Gummer has become a leader at VIU

B.C. woman disappointed after family asked for ID at townhouse complex pool

Surrey woman says it’s not the first time she has experienced racial profiling at the complex

Most Read