Check Your Owner’s Manual

Some diseases and conditions are hereditary; if you know your family’s health history, you know that you have a higher risk of developing them. But even with that knowledge, you could be at risk for something and not be aware of it. One way to find out is to have your genes mapped. The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, mapped the 20,000 to 25,000 genes that make up our DNA. But this includes all of the variations; each of us has a unique genetic sequence that can reveal whether we have the gene known to cause a certain condition or whether that gene has mutated. If you find out early enough that you carry the gene for a certain type of cancer, for example, you would know what to look for if it develops. Or if you’re thinking about having a child, you’ll already know whether there’s a chance of passing something on.

As of this writing, getting your individual genetic code mapped costs around $3,000 and it takes about a week. That’s not exactly accessible for most people, and insurance doesn’t cover it. However, advances in technology are driving both the length of time it takes and the cost down — the current goal is $1,000, which is about the cost of an MRI today. But futurist Michio Kaku believes that soon it will cost about $100 to map your genes and place them on a CD, making it a part of routine medical practice. Your doctor will take a saliva or blood sample and almost instantaneously have a sort of owner’s manual for your body. Known as genomic medicine, this practice would allow doctors to both treat illnesses based on your genes and work to prevent you from getting sick in the first place.

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