The Plague (Ch. 37) – Bionic Bug Podcast 037

Hey everyone, welcome back to Bionic Bug podcast! You’re listening to episode 37. This is your host Natasha Bajema, fiction author, futurist, and national security expert. I’m recording this episode on January 6, 2019. 

Happy New Year everyone! I hope this year is full of promise. For the past three years, I’ve spent the end of the year reflecting on what I’ve achieved as an Indie author. I also set my publishing goals for the coming year. My first of two posts is entitled “Sowing the Seeds for your Writer’s Journey” and takes a look at how I met my writing goals in 2018. I’ll include the link in the show notes.

We are nearing the end of this podcast with five more episodes left to go. If you enjoy following my writer’s journey and listen to me discuss technology, you’ll be relieved to know that I’m launching a new podcast in March 2019 called “Authors of Mass Destruction”. For this podcast, I’ll be helping authors get the technical details write on WMD and emerging technology. I’ll feature interviews from subject matter experts and authors who write on these issues. We can use fiction to generate awareness among the public about technology issues.

Let’s talk tech. Only one headline for this week:

  • Sequencing the DNA of Newborns Uncovered Hidden Disease Risks and a Whole Lot of Tricky Issues,” published on gizmodo.com on January 3.
  • “In the not-too-distant future, it will be possible to get a complete readout of a person’s genetics with ease, even right after they’re born.”
  • “many children are born with genetic conditions that can’t be found with current screening”
  • What will this mean for the practice of medicine? How will this information change society and change how we think about genetic tinkering?
  • “Doctors and researchers at the Brigham Women’s Hospital and the Boston Children’s Hospital, both in Massachusetts, began a trial in 2015 that would test just how practical and useful sequencing could be if it were regularly done on newborns. They called it the BabySeq Project.”
  • If you want to read more, the study was published in The American Journal of Human Genetics.
  • More than 300 families volunteered for the BabySeq Project; they were randomly assigned to two groups.
  • “Those in the control group would get the same sort of usual care, including standard genetic screening for the newborns and genetic counseling for caretakers with a family history of genetic disease. Newborns in the second group would get all that and also have their DNA sequenced in whole.”
  • 159 babies received genetic sequencing. “15 (9.4 percent) were found to have mutations that raised their risk of health conditions likely to show up before they turned 18.”
  • “None of them were anticipated [to have a risk] based on their family or clinical histories.”
  • “the team was initially allowed to tell the families only about mutations known to raise the risk of childhood genetic conditions. But they could also spot mutations that raised the risk of conditions that would pop up in adulthood.”
  • “Of 85 families who consented to having this information disclosed, three newborns had such mutations. And when the parents of these children were tested, they too were found to have the mutations.”
  • Let’s consider the implications:
    • First, the study shows that DNA mapping at birth is superior to other screening in detecting potential health problems. Having this knowledge from the outset will change behaviors. Many genetic conditions are recessive, meaning that people carry one copy of the gene (not two) and do not develop the condition. Instead, they carry it to future generations.
    • Second, genetic conditions are often inherited. Medical treatment could involve from treating an individual to an entire family
    • Third, in the future, we’ll be receiving customized treatments based on our genetic make-up, called precision medicine.
    • Fourth, such findings about potential health risks in the future could lead to discrimination, higher health premiums and relaxed ethical standards when it comes to gene editing, in particular, germline editing or designer babies
    • I predict that DNA mapping will become standard practice in developed countries when the cost comes down. DNA is not destiny. Knowledge is power.

Let’s turn to Bionic Bug. Last time, Rob convened a meeting at the FBI to discuss the response to Fiddler’s plan. They put all the pieces in place to prevent him from killing thousands of people. Let’s find out what happens next.

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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