NOVA’s “Cracking Your Genetic Code” (with video)

Watch Cracking Your Genetic Code on PBS. See more from NOVA.

I was finally able to watch the new NOVA program called Cracking Your Genetic Code last night. I thought it was well done overall. It’s available for viewing online at the link below, or you can probably still catch it on a DVR in the US if you look for this episode.

It is largely about the current state of personal genome sequence data. They cover both medical and “recreational” genomics aspects. They interview people who had positive and negative news from their gene tests. A key point that they make is that your information is not just yours–there are potential consequences to your family of what you unearth. They described the difference between actionable and non-actionable information. There is some coverage of privacy concerns.

The researchers that they have selected to interview were the right ones–and largely the standard crew: Francis Collins, Eric Lander, Rudy Tanzi, and Howard Jacob among them. If you heard about that kid whose life was saved by whole genome sequencing (his name is Nic, and he’s in the story), Howard Jacob’s team was involved with that and they have an interesting program going on to identify medically baffling conditions. They make it clear, though, that this success will not be the outcome for every family battling the unknown. But in addition to the medical mysteries they address the more common problem of cancers, and some of the progress being made there. As well as some of the challenges that remain.

I do software spotting in these shows, and they also used the right software (heh), including the UCSC Genome Browser, KEGG, STRING, and more.

There’s a site associated with it that goes into additional depth on some of the topics associated with this arena. http://hastingshardquestions.org/ . I hope they’ll be getting to that question on an unlikely claim soon…sigh…

Anyway–I’d recommend this show for folks who want to learn more about the state of play of personal genomics at this time. It’s current, it’s appropriate, and it’s informative. None of it will be new to any of the players in the field. But it’s not aimed at us. I think it’s a good introduction.