Genetics versus genomics: not “how many genes” but “what is the question”

How many genes does it take to make a genome, at least when you are purchasing the information? What about paying for epigenitic information? Will I care WHAT genetic information I get so long as it answers my question:

Who’s the daddy?

Will I get cancer?

Will my patient’s cancer go away with a certain treatment option?

Hsien-Hsien Lei, PhD over at Eye on DNA brings this up as good discussion based on her comment to my post on not being able to buy your genome yet:

“There are actually quite a number of companies offering information on our genomes.

1) Nutrigenomics – Sciona, Suragen
2) Medical genetics – DNA Direct, Opaldia (UK), Navigenics
3) Genetic genealogy –, Family Tree DNA, 23andMe
4) Paternity and relationship testing – DNA Diagnostics Center, Genetic Testing Labs
5) DNA Art

And the list goes on….”

Perhaps in future posts I can detail some of the biology behind what each service sells from growing list. Just one note at this point, which is why in my mind there is a major difference between the above companies and the companies of 23andme and Navigenics: the quantity of information available about your genetic blueprint is much much greater with the new companies (your whole genome versus a few well defined genes that do something predictable). Once you have your genome sequence, and new discoveries are made about how the genome operates, you could update what you know about yourself (in theory)!

Like good science, it is going to be defining the question that is important for the consumer of genetics and genomics! Which is why it is fun to speculate what each company will be peddling because it will come in the form of an answer!




4 comments so far

  1. Steven Murphy MD on

    But how will the answer be given. And will you be able to understand it?

  2. Hsien Lei on

    I have no doubt Navigenics and 23andMe will give their customers information that will be highly interesting, if not practically useful at this point in time. However, as costs go down they won’t be the only ones offering genome-wide arrays to their customers (whole genome sequencing is very unlikely to be in either of their offerings). The question is what SNPs will they include?

  3. Greg Lennon on

    Helping a community of folks who know a lot about their own genomes, and are therefore interested in sharing news of DNA-based medical discoveries on an ongoing basis into the future, is definitely something we believe in, Laura!

  4. Marie Godfrey on

    Should the ordinary citizen care about genetics and genomics? What’s the difference between the two, anyway? Check out my recent post at and see what you think. Comments welcome.

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