'Omic astronauts' blast off into a new genetic era

By Carol Clark | eScienceCommons | June 26, 2013

Genetic data: The good, the bad and the Gattaca. Kristopher Hite, a biochemist in an Emory University biology lab, is also a volunteer with Harvard's Personal Genome Project. His genome is being sequenced and will be added to a public database as part of the project.

Ready or not, the ability to rapidly and cheaply sequence the human genome is set to shape our species, both biologically and socially. Some people are early adopters of the technology, eager to jump into this brave new world.

Kristopher Hite, a bio-chemist and a post-doctoral fellow working in a biology lab at Emory, is among these “omic astronauts.” He is heading into unknown territory, full of potential risks and rewards, by having his genome sequenced and added to the public database of the Personal Genome Project (PGP).

Are we on the road to “Gattaca?” The 1997 film is set in a future where genetic databases are used to bio-engineer “ideal” children and sort out the less ideal members of society. In the above video of a Google + Hangout, Hite discusses some of the potential scenarios of the emerging genetic era with Paul Root Wolpe, a bioethicist and director of the Emory Center for Ethics.

Hite’s interest in the Harvard-based PGP is both scientific and personal. He wants to learn more about his own ancestry while also adding to our general knowledge of genetics.

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