Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Personal genetics

In the opening scene of a tamil movie called Karuthamma, a teacher who has just been transferred to a village school would meet a farmer. After some initial conversation, the school teacher would ask the farmer about his schooling .
Farmer: oh, I didnt go to school.
Teacher: Why didnt you?
F: Why should I?
T: If you had studied in school, you could have gone to college.
F: so?
T: If you had gone to college, you could have got a govt job.
F: so?
T: If you had a govt job, you will be able to save enough money to buy a house and be happy.
F: Who says I am not happy now!

Something similar took place at seminar at work the other day. VP from a personal genetics company did a good sell on us explaining how we could look at our genes to discover ancestry, at this point she took a moment to mention to the other VP how they are both completely european. Seriously, how boring is that.(and a bit racist too) My Indian genes on the other hand, would be a rainbow.

But the main purpose of this individualized genetic study would be to customize the healthcare to your body . We could also figure out what diseases we are more susceptible so that we can take preventive actions. That was exactly the point on which someone questioned her.
"What can I do anyway just by knowing I am more likely to get Parkinson, Alzhemiers.. "
" Well, you can exercise, watch your diet and reduce your chance of getting the disease."
"But I already know I need to exercise, watch my diet for one disease or the other!".

Seriously, we will be susceptible to one of the hundred diseases anyway. Even otherwise, with the high fat, high stress, low exercise lifestyle of the 20th century would mean I am susceptible disease anyway. The elixir of life seems to be exercise, diet control and so on. So, why bother?

On the other hand, I sound like the IBM chairman who said the world doesnt need more than 5 computers.

Ps: A white american ofcourse raised the question about privacy and wondered who owns the gene map, the company or the individual. They said our genes by themselves arent useful to anybody and only when they collect 100000 gene maps, can they make any conclusions out of it.


  1. What kind of work do you do ? the seminar seems very interesting.

  2. Liked the analogy between Karuthamma and the comment in the seminar..!

  3. Did you have to read the rainbow paper for your work?

    I wonder what would the gene analysis tell for us, with all the genes from the whole world mixed in our gene pool

    The paper was interesting...

  4. Saya,
    Genetics has nothing to do with what I do and I have no idea why this was a seminar was held.
    I love that dialogue, almost seems like he is laughing at all our wild goose chase lives.
    Nope, the rainbow was read out of curiousity.

  5. A white american....hehe. Of course he did.

    They told me I had high cholestrol. I jogged for a while and now it's back to the kebab place. So difficult.

  6. Saya,
    thx, will follow suit soon, though my blogroll is jinxed, so don't jinx it more by not blogging.:)

    I tell you, they have a paranoia gene.
    if not the bad cholestrol, it is lack of good cholestrol, something wrong with the whole business, not us ofcourse.