|From Nature Feb. 2011|
The scenario presented above is just a snap-shot of where some scientists believe genomics will take us in the future, although we may never see this in our lifetimes. A recent article in the journal Nature entitled "Charting a course for genomic medicine from base pairs to bedside" by Green & Guyer outlined their take on the future of and associated challenges that genomics will face.
The field of genomics has been one of the fastest growing in science in the last few decades. Many species' genomes have been mapped, and links have been found between many diseases and genetic coding. The current technology is improving, but costs too much and can take too much time to catalog a given specimen's genome.
The article states the focus of genomics is to understand human biology and the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of human disease (genomics in agriculture are outside the scope of their work). A great opportunity that arises is the ability to treat a disease without a thorough understanding of it. For example, different cancer therapies may be selected based on the genomic profile of the tumor in question, without a full understand of how the tumor works. To gain the full benefits that genomics will someday provide, Green & Guyer believe the next step must be the genome cataloging of tens (even hundreds) of thousands of different people. With this, diseases may be correlated to genetic variations in humans that either create the disease or make the human more susceptible to the disease.
The largest step in creating this huge database of human genomes is the development of cheaper and faster equipment. Once a genome can be analyzed quickly and economically, the amount of genetic information available will skyrocket. Legal issues will be associated with the availability of this personal information, but they probably will be handled in a similar fashion as medical records are handled today.
In sum, a community effort is needed to make technology better and to create a large database of genetic information. Once available, individual scientists will be able to take this information and pursue hypothesis-driven research to advance the field of medicine and better the health of millions.