14/5/2015

Panelists offer pros and cons of 'genomic revolution' | Cornell Chronicle
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Panelists offer pros and cons of 'genomic revolution'
By Linda B. Glaser

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information also has
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question, "What constitutes
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Adam Boyko, left, Charles Aquadro, Margaret Smith, Rory Todhunter, Philip
Reilly and Stephen Hilgartner discuss “The Genomic Revolution: How DNA
Information Is Changing Our Lives,” at a Charter Day Weekend Panel April 26.

A panel of experts explored
this and other questions at a Charter Day Weekend panel, “The Genomic Revolution: How DNA
Information Is Changing Our Lives,” moderated by Stephen Hilgartner ’83, Ph.D. ’88, professor of
science and technology studies, April 26.

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“Every one of us should care about our genome,” said Charles Aquadro, director of the Cornell

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Center for Comparative and Population Genomics (3CPG) and professor of molecular biology and

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genetics in the College of Arts and Sciences, “because knowing something about your genome can

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have a big impact on the quality of your life.” For example, because of a genetic variant, more than

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half the world’s population can’t digest milk past the nursing age.

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Genetic testing is already a part of our world, said Aquadro. For example, he noted that all NCAA
athletes – including 10 percent of Cornell students – are required to undergo genetic testing for
sickle cell trait, a result of several training deaths being traced to the disease. But researchers also
have discovered a surprisingly positive side to the sickle cell gene: It conveys protection against

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Currently, the approach to newborn genetic screening is to only test if there is a meaningful
intervention available to help the child, said Dr. Philip Reilly ’69, a partner in Third Rock Ventures.

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“But the rapid improvements in DNA sequencing have set the technological stage for a massive

George Lowery
607-255-2171
gpl5@cornell.edu

increase in carrier testing and prenatal screening.” In 1972, for example, the Jewish community
adopted Tay-Sachs screening for potential marriage partners; since then, Tay-Sachs in that
population has fallen 95 percent.
Reilly asked, “Will we adopt a new eugenics, consumer-driven and technologically enabled? Will
we be seduced by DNA testing, not only to avoid diseases in children but to seek ‘superior’ traits?”

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Joe Schwartz
607-254-6235
bjs54@cornell.edu

Genomic technologies already have led to superior crops that are insect-, herbicide- and virusresistant, said Margaret Smith, Ph.D. ’82, professor of plant breeding and genetics. Genetic
engineering has not, however, led to increased crop yield potential, a trait influenced by the entire
genomic structure of a plant.
Combining genomic knowledge with natural recombination of the built-in genetic code, said
Smith, is the more powerful approach, “to understand better how crops work, and then breed

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has been a boon to researchers.D.14/5/2015 Panelists offer pros and cons of 'genomic revolution' | Cornell Chronicle plants that can sustainably meet future needs and grow more food on less arable land. Glaser is a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences. in selectively breeding animals.  About the Office Contact Us Cornell Chronicle • 312 College Ave. The Cornell Veterinary Biobank contains genetic information about more than 15.edu/stories/2015/04/panelists-offer-pros-and-cons-genomic-revolution 2/2 . we’ve concentrated deleterious [genes].000 animals.cornell. ’92. Adam Boyko. The problem is that. the Maurice R. Ithaca. Ph. Researchers have sequenced almost an entire Neanderthal genome from a finger bone. NY 14850 • 607-255-4206 ©2015 http://news. assistant professor of biomedical sciences. “Most of the diseases and traits which we’ve mapped with these animals have human analogs. Greenberg Professor of Surgery at the College of Veterinary Medicine. horses and chickens.. Linda B.” The concentration of these problematic genes in purebred animals. and Corinne P. noted Rory Todhunter. Not only can we sequence the entire human genome. “We have designer dogs. as well as identifying a new human ancestor using a bone and a tooth.” said Todhunter. however. said DNA sequencing has shown us that humans and chimps share 98 percent of their genetic material. we also can sequence tumors and RNA – and we can sequence the past. information that is proving useful for animal as well as human medicine. he noted. cats.” Humanity has been engaged in a vast genomics project for hundreds of years.

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