Sebastian Kraves: The era of personal DNA testing is here-3

This may seem like an extreme place for DNA analysis, but let’s move on to an even more extreme environment: outer space. Let’s talk about DNA analysis in space. When astronauts live aboard the International Space Station, they’re orbiting the planet 250 miles high. They’re traveling at 17,000 miles per hour. Picture that — you’re seeing 15 sunsets and sunrises every day. You’re also living in microgravity, floating. And under these conditions, our bodies can do funky things. One of these things is that our immune systems get suppressed, making astronauts more prone to infection.

A 16-year-old girl, a high school student from New York, Anna-Sophia Boguraev, wondered whether changes to the DNA of astronauts could be related to this immune suppression, and through a science competition called “Genes In Space,” Anna-Sophia designed an experiment to test this hypothesis using a personal DNA machine aboard the International Space Station. Here we see Anna-Sophia on April 8, 2016, in Cape Canaveral, watching her experiment launch to the International Space Station. That cloud of smoke is the rocket that brought Anna-Sophia’s experiment to the International Space Station, where, three days later, astronaut Tim Peake carried out her experiment — in microgravity. Personal DNA machines are now aboard the International Space Station, where they can help monitor living conditions and protect the lives of astronauts.

A 16-year-old designing a DNA experiment to protect the lives of astronauts may seem like a rarity, the mark of a child genius. Well, to me, it signals something bigger: that DNA technology is finally within the reach of every one of you.

A few years ago, a college student armed with a personal computer could code an app, an app that is now a social network with more than one billion users. Could we be moving into a world of one personal DNA machine in every home?

I know families who are already living in this reality. The Daniels family, for example, set up a DNA lab in the basement of their suburban Chicago home. This is not a family made of PhD scientists. This is a family like any other. They just like to spend time together doing fun, creative things. By day, Brian is an executive at a private equity firm. At night and on weekends, he experiments with DNA alongside his kids, ages seven and nine, as a way to explore the living world. Last time I called them, they were checking out homegrown produce from the backyard garden. They were testing tomatoes that they had picked, taking the flesh of their skin, putting it in a test tube, mixing it with chemicals to extract DNA and then using their home DNA copier to test those tomatoes for genetically engineered traits.

For the Daniels family, the personal DNA machine is like the chemistry set for the 21st century. Most of us may not yet be diagnosing genetic conditions in our kitchen sinks or doing at-home paternity testing.

But we’ve definitely reached a point in history where every one of you could actually get hands-on with DNA in your kitchen. You could copy, paste and analyze DNA and extract meaningful information from it. And it’s at times like this that profound transformation is bound to happen; moments when a transformative, powerful technology that was before limited to a select few in the ivory tower, finally becomes within the reach of every one of us, from farmers to schoolchildren. Think about the moment when phones stopped being plugged into the wall by cords, or when computers left the mainframe and entered your home or your office.

The ripples of the personal DNA revolution may be hard to predict, but one thing is certain: revolutions don’t go backwards, and DNA technology is already spreading faster than our imagination.

So if you’re curious, get up close and personal with DNA — today. It is in our DNA to be curious.

Thank you.

Om Namah Shivay

***Write ” Om Namah Shivay ” if you ask for God’s blessing on your life today. Please Like, Tag and Share to bless others!


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