Denis Noble, the esteemed British biologist, once wrote that many biological functions are brought together at the level of the cell. The human body is endlessly complex, but did you know that something like the rhythm of the heart or your circadian rhythm is pretty much controlled by your cells?
All these systems depend on properties within the cell, which is absolutely fascinating. This goes to show how important cells are to the body, and even more important is the DNA found in each cell’s nucleus.
In recent decades, scientists have unlocked the power of single cell whole genome sequencing by analyzing DNA. They can determine your risks for cancer or other hereditary diseases just by sequencing your personal DNA.
Read on to find out more about this potentially life-changing technology and how you can harness its power to better your future and the future of your loved ones.
What is the human genome? How is it sequenced?
A genome is the complete set of DNA instructions for each organism. Your body is made up of trillions of cells, each with a complete genome within. Each differentiated cell (like a liver cell versus a pancreas cell) contains the same set of DNA.
Your DNA is like the spaghetti code in software that guides your growth, health, and development. This is not a good metaphor though, as the truth is DNA is vastly complex and scientists are still puzzling out sections of it and what they might possibly do for your body.
DNA is coiled up into structures called chromosomes and these structures are located in the nucleus of each cell. Different areas of chromosomes are read together (or interpreted by proteins) and they form the basis of a “gene”.
The entire human genome is truly appreciable in size; if you were to recite the whole thing, one letter per second for 24 hours a day, it would take you a century before you were able to say the whole thing.
Single cell sequencing technologies can sequence an individual’s DNA to inform pivotal medical areas like oncology, immunology, reproduction, and more.
Let’s revisit history and the 13-year long Human Genome Project. Over 200 labs in the US alone and 18 more countries participated in sequencing all 3.2 billion base pairs of the human genome.
Perhaps their most important find is that between any two individuals, their nucleotide (units of DNA) sequences are 99.9% identical. However, changing just one nucleotide in one gene can be the difference between life-threatening terminal illness and normal functioning.
This is why sequencing DNA is vital for advances in modern medicine. Of course, genetics isn’t the only determiner for the onset of disease, but they can certainly point any medical provider in the right direction.
For many diseases like diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or certain types of cancer, the earlier the diagnosis and subsequent treatment, the better the eventual prognosis.
The Human Genome Project and its contribution to understanding how molecular processes contribute to disease are perhaps one of the greatest scientific innovations yet.
This is why you’re reading. You want to find out about that 0.01% of your own DNA that might put you at risk for hereditary diseases. Maybe you also want to find out how it all works!
In that case, stick with us.
You might be thinking, how is it that it took hundreds or thousands of scientists 13 years to sequence the human genome, and I can get my own DNA sequenced in a short matter of time?
This is because most processes do not sequence the entire genome in one go. They actually sequence multiple parallel segments of only a few hundred base pairs. This is out of 3.2 billion base pairs total.
They then piece the millions of DNA shreds together using an algorithm that overlaps them. This way, they can sequence an individual’s DNA relatively quickly and efficiently.
Essentially, instead of sequencing a long chain, they sequence multiple parallel segments and piece them together using software.
Even though learning about 0.01% of your own DNA gives you some of the answers you might be searching for, think about how many answers you could get if you tested 100% of your whole genome!! While most DNA testing websites only sequence 0.01%, Sequencing analyzes 100% of your genome. The answers you will receive about your ancestry, health and possible hereditary diseases are endless with Sequencing.
It is believed that as long as you discover early on that you are at increased risk of a disease, you can take certain actions to limit the impact of the disease if it does manifest. Just by knowing your genetic predisposition towards a certain disease, you can limit the likelihood that you get the disease.
Diseases like diabetes and its symptoms can be ameliorated by implementing lifestyle changes before they degenerate. By knowing that there are certain foods that spike your blood sugar you are better able to control what is going on in your body and you can greatly improve your health and wellbeing later on if you are at risk.
Studies have shown that cancerous tissue is heterogenous; a person’s tumor varies compared to another person based on different genetics. Single cell genome sequencing is preferable to traditional sequencing because of this, and therefore they are highly useful in researching various tumors. This sequencing technique can reveal the mechanisms behind several types of cancers which are critical to advancing treatment.
How surprised would you be if you were 1% Hispanic? 1% African? By getting an ancestry test, you can know once and for all.
When you order a report, you can choose to have your DNA sequenced or even 100% of your genome. The report will break down your ancestry, health, wellness, and susceptibility to diseases.
This is one of the most useful features of getting your genome sequenced. Recently, geneticists at Yale Medicine saved a girl’s life by suggesting she get her genome sequenced.
This girl was the picture of health and beauty, but she was seriously ill. They couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her. Turns out, it was all in her genes.
She had a very rare disease called familial partial lipodystrophy type 3, wherein your body cannot produce adequate fat tissue. Once researchers found this from her DNA, they were able to give her medication that saved her life.
Getting a DNA test is becoming more common as people are beginning to realize that it can give you the data you need to help you better take care of your body and improve your health. It gives you a road map to what makes your body tick.
Single cell whole genome sequencing has implications in cancer research and for many other medical enigmas.
If you order your genome sequenced you will be given lots of answers, some that might guide your health decisions.
Try one out and discover a whole world invisible to the eye.