DNA in the Digital Age

Sequencing the entire human genome has advanced from a 13 year, multi-institutional project, completed in 2001, to a simple automated procedure taking less than 24 hours to complete. Over the past 15 years, costs of sequencing the human genome have dropped from a $3 billion-dollar budget for the original human genome project to $99 for an individual using an Ancestry.com kit. With the large decrease in cost and time necessary to complete the sequencing, it is no surprise that having your entire genome sequenced is a rising trend in the Western world, particularly in a melting pot like America. Currently, genomic sequencing is used for personalized medical treatment, prenatal testing, and personal curiosity (ancestry/ethnicity testing). In the future, full genome sequencing may also become a standard for hospitals with newborn babies as well as in the field of forensic science. What information is contained in your genome? What can you learn about yourself by having your genome sequenced? What private information can other people learn from obtaining your genomic sequence? This course will initially focus on answering scientific questions, like what is DNA? How is it inherited? What information does it contain? The latter part of the course will discuss implications of having whole genome sequencing readily available to most the population. For what purposes can DNA sequencing be used? What does this mean for the field of forensics? What other aspects of life could be affected by whole genome sequencing? What does this mean for the level of privacy granted to individuals? Can genomic sequencing open the door for a new form of discrimination? With the rapid rise of technology, will privacy protections and regulations be able to keep up in the digital age?