“Personal Science” Taken to a New Level

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By Sheldon Greaves

Readers will recall a few weeks ago we ran a couple of items on a newly proposed sub-branch of amateur science and its accompanying neologism "personal science", defined as science done for the benefit of the experimenter only, and not intended as part of a project to generate publishable results. Although what follows does not strictly adhere to that definition, it overlaps just enough to call it to mind. From Wired.

Over a 14-month period, ...molecular geneticist [Michael Snyder] at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, analyzed his blood 20 different times to pluck out a wide variety of biochemical data depicting the status of his body’s immune system, metabolism, and gene activity. In today’s issue of Cell, Snyder and a team of 40 other researchers present the results of this extraordinarily detailed look at his body, which they call an integrative personal omics profile (iPOP) because it combines cutting-edge scientific fields such as genomics (study of one’s DNA), metabolomics (study of metabolism), and proteomics (study of proteins). Instead of seeing a snapshot of the body taken during the typical visit to a doctor’s office, iPOP effectively offers an IMAX movie, which in Snyder’s case had the added drama of charting his response to two viral infections and the emergence of type 2 diabetes.

Snyder's work has fascinating implications for "personal" or rather "personalized" medicine specifically tailored to an individual's genome:

Snyder, now 56, says he began the study two years ago because of a slew of technological advances that make it feasible to view the working of the body more intimately than ever before.”The way we’re practicing medicine now seems woefully inadequate,” he says. “When you go to the doctor’s office and they do a blood test, they typically measure no more than 20 things. With the technology out there now, we feel you should be able to measure thousands, if not tens of thousands, if not ultimately millions of things. That would be a much clearer picture of what’s going on.”

It's tempting to speculate what possibilities this could hold for both "personal science" as defined elsewhere, and citizen science based on one's own body.

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