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[Answered] What is genome sequencing? Discuss the significance of genome sequencing in recent context of Coronavirus epidemic.

 

Demand of the question

Introduction. What is genome sequencing?

Body. Discuss the significance of genome sequencing.

Conclusion. Way forward.

 

Genome sequencing is a process of determining the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome. Breakthrough in human genome sequencing has potential to benefit mankind especially in healthcare, disease prevention etc.

 

Significance of genome sequencing:

  1. Origin of epidemic: Genome sequencing helps researchers understand the arrangement of the make up of DNA or RNA. Sequencing the genome will help us understand where the certain virus for instance of SARS-CoV-2 came from and how it spread.
  2. Control the spread: Sequencing is useful to know and check if the strain is evolving. By knowing change in genes it can help in preventing its spread. For instance, scientists already know the number of mutations that arise on an average in a month in the case of COVID-19, its incubation period, and the average time between cases in a chain transmission.
  3. Healthcare: Participants of genome-sample collections represent diversity of the country’s population. It will help in following ways:
  4. Personalised Medicine: The first obvious use would be in personalised medicine, anticipating diseases and modulating treatment according to the genome of patients. Several diseases develop through the interplay of the environment with multiple genes, which differ across populations.
  5. Determining gene-disease link: Human genome sequencing is important to establish a link between diseases and the unique genetic make-up of each individual. For instance, cardiovascular disease generally leads to heart attacks in South Asians. If such propensities can be mapped to variations across genomes, it is believed public health interventions can be targeted better.
  6. Better understanding of diseases like cancer: While genes may render some insensitive to certain drugs, genome sequencing has shown that cancer too can be understood from the viewpoint of genetics, rather than being seen as a disease of certain organs.
  7. Drug efficacy: Another advantage of genome sequencing is that information regarding drug efficacy or adverse effects of drug use can be obtained. Drugs developed in the Western world and sold in India are pricey and may not be effective on the Indian gene. Mapping of India’s genetic landscape is critical for next generation medicine.
  8. Agricultural usage: It will enhance India’s scientific capabilities. Next step would be genome sequencing of crops that would help in better understanding of the genetic basis of susceptibility of crops to blights, rusts and pests. It may become possible to deter them genetically, and reduce dependence on chemicals.
  9. Evolutionary studies: Global science would also benefit from genome sequencing, which would provide data useful for the mapping of the spread and migration of a range of life forms in the old World and thus would help in better understanding of human evolution.

 

Way forward:

  1. Training: It is important to train more clinicians for gene data interpretation and rope in more labs for sequencing. Training more physicians to study medical genetics for speedier analysis is needed.
  2. Data security:Given the sensitivity of genomic data, every effort must be made to minimise the likelihood of data breaches and to maintain public trust in institutions that gather, store and use such data. A practical and feasible solution to build such a reliable and safe database is the application of blockchain technology to secure genomic data.
  3. Effective policy: There is a need for a comprehensive and effective policy to guide the use of genomic information, with significant emphasis on protecting the privacy of research subjects. One way to make this possible is through ‘dynamic consent’ by which people who wish to participate in a research project can register themselves and provide consent on an ongoing basis.
  4. Collaborative effort: A collaborative and harmonised effort is needed to balance sharing of genomic data with an individuals’ privacy. A framework must be designed transparent enough to specify the purpose of the collected genomic data and the duration for which it will be stored in the database.

 

Given the benefits of genome sequencing, it will help in better understanding of the human body and processes and will help in treating earlier untreatable diseases. Although there are some issues and challenges, these can be handled and resolved.

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