Believe it or not, genomic signs do exist, but they lack the nifty monikers of animals, elements, constellations, etc., that we associate with the Zodiac. Unlike astrological signs, however, each genomic sign is largely unique to its individual (except for identical twins that share basically the same genome). Each sign, (written in two ways both forward and backward) contains about three billion letters, which does make pronunciation difficult.

How would you use a genomic sign? Genomes, like horoscopes, suggest one’s risk of some outcome in the course of life. It is true that a handful of people have benefitted enormously from knowing their genome. But only a handful. If you think about how external factors affect our biology, the majority of genetic research applies only to certain demographics (Begley, 2019), our limited understanding of our biology, and how we actually could be made up of multiple genomes), gauging the best health or medical decision from a DNA sequence could be just as accurate as the guidance offered by the stars.

How seriously do people take their genetic horoscopes? A recent survey of healthy people found that although many participants shared the risk information from genomic test results with their healthcare provider, 60% were skeptical of its accuracy (Zoltick et al., 2019). In the end, less than 10% of participants actually made lifestyle adjustments based on the information from the genetic tests.

What kind of information would really make people sit up, take notice and change their ways to try to prevent a bad outcome? It appears that genomics does not provide such information now and, may not even in the future. Would insights that reflected a real-time assessment of a person’s physiology – i.e., their actual health status and where they are headed – be sufficient to drive change? We are soon going to find out. It will be interesting to see what the future has in store.

 

References

Begley, S. (2019, March 11) Buffalo gave us spicy wings and the ‘book of life.’ Here’s why that’s undermining personalized medicine. STAT. Retrieved on March 12, 2019 from https://www.statnews.com/2019/03/11/human-reference-genome-shortcomings/.

Zoltick, E. S., Linderman, M. D., McGinniss, M. A., Ramos, E., Ball, M. P., Church, G. M., . . . PeopleSeq, C. (2019). Predispositional genome sequencing in healthy adults: design, participant characteristics, and early outcomes of the PeopleSeq Consortium. Genome Med, 11(1), 10. doi:10.1186/s13073-019-0619-9