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

Hip dysplasia, Tay-Sachs,




Carl Sagan Institute sets sail to
explore the 'cosmic ocean'

spina bifida: such genetic
mutations can wreak havoc

Biomolecular engineering gift aids
graduate students

on our lives. Technological
advances have made
identifying these and other

Lab of Ornithology wildlife film
explores sagebrush species

harmful genetic variations
possible, but greater

On planes, savory tomato
becomes favored flavor

information also has
resulted in significant
challenges. Parents are
now faced with the


question, "What constitutes
a mutation of sufficient
severity that the fetus is

Lindsay France/University Photography

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.

150 Years of Cornell

Chronicle coverage of the

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


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


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


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


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


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.

Cornell Chronicle

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

George Lowery

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

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



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