“Imagine walking around with your own DNA sequence saved as a file in your Blackberry,” explains Dr. Stephen Scherer. “We’re not far from that right now. This is a remarkable time in the history of genetic research. It would be a new paradigm in medicine — personalized genomics.”
Dr. Scherer is the Director of the Centre for Applied Genomics at the University of Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. He’s coming to Charlottetown this Thursday, October 1, to deliver the 2009 Gairdner Lecture at UPEI.
“DNA is the ultimate form of information,” says Dr. Scherer. “All at once, it tells us about your past, present, and future. Contained within this sequence is your genetic history — it’s like taking all of your ancestors with you wherever you go. And it contains information about diseases and disorders you may not develop until very late in life. This is powerful information.”
Dr. Scherer says that with this knowledge, we can take preventative steps to help prevent some of these future ailments before we even have them.
“Right now, we don’t know we have one of these conditions until we start showing symptoms. And so we treat the symptoms. What if you knew from birth that you were genetically disposed to develop diabetes? You could make lifestyle choices early in life that could help avoid it.”
Dr. Scherer says the rapid rate of technology and understanding brings with it a number of questions— many of them ethical.
“What if you had your genetic map and it told you something you didn’t want to hear? What if you learned you would develop a disease for which we have no cure or treatment?”
The title of Dr. Scherer’s lecture is “What you are and who you are in the era of genome projects.”
“What you are is your innate being — your genomic sequence,” explains Dr. Scherer. “Who you are is an accumulation of the influences in your life. It’s the relationship between the who and what that makes up the whole person. That’s part of what I’ll be focusing on in my talk.”
The Gairdner Faculty Lecture at UPEI is this Thursday, October 1, in the Regis and Joan Duffy Research Centre Lecture Theatre. It begins at 3 p.m., and is open to the public.
Image created by WEB2DNA.