Best known for discovering the structure of DNA with his research partner Francis Crick, Nobel laureate Dr. James Watson became the first person to receive his personal genome - a full DNA sequence of all 46 of his chromosomes. He has even agreed to make his entire genome available for researchers to study, except for his apolipoprotein E gene which he does not wish to know as it could provide information about his susceptibility to Alzheimer's disease. "Who wants to know that?" Dr. Watson said.
The sequencing of Dr. Watson's DNA took two months and cost close to a million dollars to complete. But technology companies such as 454 Life Sciences, Illumina and VisiGen Biotechnologies say the price of sequencing a complete human genome has already dropped to $100,000 -- fueled by the race to win the $10 million Archon X Prize for Genomics -- and that a $10,000 price tag is feasible within a few years. This would bring the cost of the personal genome into the realm of possibility for individuals and health care professionals looking for information on possible future health issues or risks - bringing new meaning to the term "checkup."
Your medical family tree can tell you a lot about your genetic predispositions, and genetic tests for certain illnesses and diseases are also readily available. But once personal genomes become affordable, all the facts about your susceptibility to medical conditions can be available to you at the click of a mouse. In the case of something that can be possibly avoided (such as Type II diabetes), or potentially cured with early detection (such as colon cancer), the personal genome could potentially be a lifesaver. But along with that you'll also learn about your predisposition to illnesses such as Huntington's and Alzheimer's, that are currently incurable. Would you want to know?