Human Exceptionalism

Gene Complexity Makes Disease Prediction–and Transhumanism–Very Difficult

A new report shows that predicting for health outcomes and creating genetic fixes for common diseases is very difficult. From the story:

The era of personal genomic medicine may have to wait. The genetic analysis of common disease is turning out to be a lot more complex than expected.

Since the human genome was decoded in 2003, researchers have been developing a powerful method for comparing the genomes of patients and healthy people, with the hope of pinpointing the DNA changes responsible for common diseases. This method, called a genomewide association study, has proved technically successful despite many skeptics’ initial doubts. But it has been disappointing in that the kind of genetic variation it detects has turned out to explain surprisingly little of the genetic links to most diseases…

One issue of debate among researchers is whether, despite the prospect of diminishing returns, to continue with the genomewide studies, which cost many millions of dollars apiece, or switch to a new approach like decoding the entire genomes of individual patients.The unexpected impasse also affects companies that offer personal genomic information and that had assumed they could inform customers of their genetic risk for common diseases, based on researchers’ discoveries…
Unlike the rare diseases caused by a change affecting only one gene, common diseases like cancer and diabetes are caused by a set of several genetic variations in each person. Since these common diseases generally strike later in life, after people have had children, the theory has been that natural selection is powerless to weed them out.

“Weed out:” Now, there’s an interesting term to apply to human beings.

Alas, we see parents already “weeding out” embryos that test positive for adult onset diseases or disabilities, part of the emerging new eugenics. And to see the way the wind is blowing, embryos are being weeded out if genetic testing shows they will have the wrong hair color.And consider this: If it is very hard to figure out the genetic causes of common disease, it will be difficult squared about transhumanist yearned-for enhancement techniques, such as increasing intelligence, stature, or other desired transhumanist morphologists.

I am certainly not against research into genetic causes for diseases. What we do with this information, of course, will be the rub.

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