Click to viewWith new SMRT DNA sequencing — and that's Single-Molecule Real-Time, not cutespeak for "smart" — it might soon be possible to get the complete details of your own genome for the price of an iPod. At long last, you'll be able to prove to the world that you truly are a beautiful and unique snowflake. That, however, is only the tip of the iceberg as far as DNA sequencing fun is concerned: What more could you do with intimate information about all 3 billion of your DNA base pairs?
- Preserve your DNA sequence on a CD. To store the data contained in the strands of your DNA, you'd need about 750 megabytes; that's just a little larger than the average compact disc. And if you forget about introns, non-coding RNA, regulatory sequences, and the as-yet-mysterious "junk DNA," you'll see that only between 20,000 and 25,000 human genes code for the proteins that make you who you are. That might even fit on a thumb drive.
- Tell your doctor exactly what medication you need. As Discover Magazine reported, SMRT DNA sequencing means that super-personal medical care is not too far away:
As DNA sequencing becomes faster and more affordable, it should allow the building of a more complete database of genetic information. "Once we can build that sort of database for the human organism, it helps us much better understand disease, how to diagnose disease, how better to treat disease," says Richard Wilson, the director of the Genome Sequencing Center at Washington University in St. Louis. With that information, he says, personalized medicine will become commonplace. Visits to the doctor could then produce treatments tailored not just to your lifestyle and family history, but also to your genetic profile.
- Befriend a fruit fly version of yourself. Creepily enough, humans and fruit flies share about 60% of their genes. Once you've got a full map of your genes, why not find a fruit fly whose genes make it 60% exactly like you? And don't stop there — you can also turn your comparative genomics approach to the honey bee, the African elephant, and the Platypus.
- Commission a wall poster that fully encompasses your identity. You might already have the Human Genome Landmarks poster, which maps out all the traits associated with the 22 autosomal chromosome pairs in your body — and that controversial gender one, too. Now, with a SMRT sequence of your specific genome, that poster can get up-close, personal, in your face, and all through your body.
- Send your DNA sequence into space. Okay, so maybe you're not famous enough to have a sample of yourself added to the Immortality Drive. But you can still make sure aliens will recognize you from a light-year away; just scrawl down the configuration of your base pairs on a long piece of paper, roll it up, and stick it into that rocket your aunt gave you last holiday season. If you can get your DNA details through the atmosphere, they'll drift practically forever in the vacuum surrounding the stars, just waiting to be discovered by some sexy weird-eared extraterrestrial friend.
- Go to parties in a necklace you know no one else will be wearing. Though it's advertised for pets, Perpetua's life jewel pendant could be a great way to honor humans as well. This bit of jewelry can "purify" your DNA "into a fine, silky web that captures a luminescent color tincture of your choice." Sounds like the indispensable accessory I've always wanted.
- Meet your children before they're born. "Mommy, What Will I Look Like?" may not have worked for Lindsay Bluth, but it sure can for you. Line up your DNA sequence next to that of your long-term significant other (or your favorite celebrity), and know immediately if your children will be attractive and non-alcoholism-prone. But remember — Ethan Hawke kicked ass in Gattaca, and his heart-disease-y astronaut was conceived in a hurry in the back of a car.
- Figure out your ideal diet. If you can't lose weight just by avoiding carbs, perhaps there's a genetic reason for your troubles. The emerging field of nutrigenomics might have an answer for you, especially if you show up at an expert's door with your entire genetic sequence.
- Become a killer Acrophobia challenger. This multiplayer acronym game was one of the best things about being online in the '90s, and it's long past time for Acrophobia to make a comeback. See if the other players can come up with any brilliant and hilarious expansions for the super-long string of Gs, As, Cs, and Ts that is your genetic code. You'll be testing their thesaurus prowess for sure.
- Perform a search across Earth to find people just like you. We're already storing a wealth of information about genomes in databases like GenBank and the International HapMap Project. Once people can easily procure their own DNA sequences, it seems like just a hop, skip, and a jump to the Facebook or MySpace where your genome is your personal profile. Instead of searching for people in your high school graduating class, you could search for people whose chromosomal details match your own — I wonder how high up Sarah Palin would be on Tina Fey's similarity list. There probably isn't a gene for comedy, is there?
Gattaca image from SciFlicks.