Genetic Engineering 16

1. DNA is obtained from the bone marrow cells of patients with two types of leukemia.

2. The DNA is exposed to biochips containing all known human genes.

3. High-speed computer programs examine the biochips and identify any SNPs, or single nucleotide polymorphisms.

4. The SNP profiles from each type of leukemia patient are examined. Leukemia 1 exhibits a different SNP than leukemia 2. Thus, the two types of leukemia are associated with two different gene changes. Figure 16

Biochips can help in identifying precise forms of cancer.

is flushed over a SNP biochip, the sequences that light up will instantly reveal your SNP profile. The genetic characteristics that make you you, genes that might affect your health, your behavior, your future potentialall are there to be read by anyone clever enough to interpret the profile.

To what extent are you your genes? Scientists fight about this question, and no one really knows the answer. It is clear that much of what each of us is like is strongly affected by our genetic makeup. Researchers have proven beyond any real dispute that intelligence and major personality traits like aggressiveness and inquisitiveness are about 80% heritable (that is, 80% of the variation in these traits reflects variation in genes).

Your SNP profile will reflect all of this variation, a table of contents of your chromosomes, a molecular window to who you are. When millions of such snp profiles have been gathered over the coming years, computers will be able to identify other individuals with profiles like yours, and, by examining health records, standard personality tests, and the like, correlate parts of your profile with particular traits. Even behavioral characteristics involving many genes, which until now have been thought too complex to ever analyze, cannot resist a determined assault by a computer comparing SNP profiles.

A biochip is a discrete collection of gene fragments on a stamp-sized chip that can be used to screen for the presence of particular gene variants. Biochips allow rapid screening of gene profiles, a tool that promises to have a revolutionary impact on medicine and society.

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