NPR.org » As Genetic Sequencing Spreads, Excitement, Worries Grow
Published: September 18, 2012Ever since James Watson and Francis Crick cracked the genetic code, scientists have been fascinated by the possibilities of what we might learn from reading our genes.
But the power of DNA has also long raised fears — such as those dramatized in the 1997 sci-fi film Gattaca, which depicted a world where "a minute drop of blood determines where you can work, who you should marry, what you're capable of achieving."
That was science fiction. Just three years later, President Bill Clinton announced that the once-futuristic dream of reading someone's entire genetic code — their genome — had become a reality. It took hundreds of scientists nearly a decade to painstakingly piece together the first real look at the entire human genetic blueprint. It cost $3 billion just to make that rough draft.
Twelve years later, the cost of deciphering a person's genetic instructions has dropped faster than the price of flat-screen TVs. And the sequencing can be done much quicker.