The Wichitan

Human Genome Project panel leaves professor stunned

Dylan Hall

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Jonathan Price, associate professor of geosciences, has been researching and teaching geoscience for more than two decades. He has conducted several intricate geoscience experiments and released several prominent scientific books. However, the ramifications of Monday’s faculty forum panel which presented the Human Genome Project, left him completely intrigued and stunned.

“The panel was extremely good at covering a number of different aspects that I don’t think most people had even thought of. It’s alarming how common the technique of understanding the entire geno for a human being is now,” Price said.

Price said the number of people who came to the panel surprised him.

“There were definitely more people than I anticipated. The Faculty Forum has traditionally attracted numbers between 50 to 60 people, however for this particular forum we were at capacity — we had a turn out of about 70 people, which may be due to the specific topic of this panel,” Price said.

The panel included a variety of professors specializing in their respective fields of study, which included nursing, philosophy, kinesiology, computer science, biology and education. 

“The panelists did a beautiful job of summarizing their own perspectives from their own fields. This is a very complex topic, each panelist could have easily spoken for one hour’s worth of information but each of them figured out the nut of vital information they needed to pass onto the crowd within five to seven minutes,” Price said.

 Because the topic is so complex, it brought forward a number of concerns which Price said he believes need to be addressed.

“We now have the ability to take information and create DNA that records that information, we can also use this information to alter the genetic make-up of human beings, we are exploring where we draw the lines in curing diseases, taking away pain or even extending life,” Price said.

Price also addressed concerns the audience had pertaining to the availability of these possibilities.

“The biggest concern the audience at the panel had was whether or not these services would be broadly available or not. This is this something only first world countries are going to be able to enjoy first because of the expense, knowledge base and the facilities available to do this,” Price said.

One particular facet which stood out to Price and ended up being one of the highlights of the panel was a discovery related to athletes and the problems encountered with doping.

“On the horizon, if not already here, is the idea that you can tweak someone’s genes to make them a better athlete – this is a worry because there is no real way to detect that, so philosophically we must ask where are the lines, when do we tweak things so much that we have changed the nature of humanity itself,” Price said. 

According to Price, another idea which affects all of us is the possibility to discover your own geno for a reasonable cost.

“A few years ago scientists managed to break the $1,000 barrier for the analysis of your geno, now we are closing in on being able to discover your geno’s data and its influence on you for just $100, I think that’s truly fascinating,” Price said. 

Price said he believes this particular panel was very exciting because of the profound impact it has on everyone in the world.

“This impacts all of us. It’s huge. There are some benefits and some concerns with this topic, however I think it’s the same kind of step forward in science as the landing on the moon,” Price said.

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Human Genome Project panel leaves professor stunned