Nivedit Majumdar Nivedit Majumdar

The Game Changer for the Quantified Self: Genomics

A vital fundamental of the Quantified Self movement is to understand how the human body functions, and what are the causative forces behind recorded parameters and other facets. After all, if one is aware of the problem, only then can one find the solution.

But more often than not, the problem is slightly obscured. Behind the garb of seemingly normal physical recordings, yet unnatural sensor readings from the wearable tracker, there’s an underlying question begging to be answered: what’s wrong?

Perhaps the only answer to such questions comes if one goes deep down – DNA deep. Genomics is turning out to be the game changer as far as understanding the Quantified Self is concerned, and that shall be the focal point of this article: how genomics enables a deeper perspective of the functioning of the body, and how major QS corps are tapping into this very field.

A VERITABLE POOL OF DATA

See, here’s the thing with data. The human body generates data on an everyday, every moment basis. Tapping into the enormous potential of this data opens up new information streams and this ultimately leads to better readings and more insight.

 

But besides the data being generated, there’s also the data that we’re born with, data that’s hardcoded within our DNA (literally) to explain how, why and when certain things might occur. A user manual, a manufacturer’s statement, if you will.

To put things in perspective, the human genome comprises of 1.5GB worth of data. Want more mind boggling numbers, how’s this for an example: Assuming the human body has 100 trillion cells, and each diploid cell contains 1.5GB worth of data, we’re looking at 150 Zettabytes of data within the human body!

So all things considered, besides the data pool that exists within ourselves, how are these numbers relevant?

A DISRUPTION IN HEALTHCARE SYSTEMS

The relation between healthcare and the Quantified Self is a very intricate, balanced symbiosis. QS gathers data from the body, via a multitude of sensors. And the data gathered can often help in initiating better healthcare mechanisms which would suit the body instantly.

We’ve already spoken about Quantified Healthcare in the form of mHealth, discussed Self Tracking in Medicine, and have envisioned the relation between the healthcare sector and mobile technology in 2016. Besides these, we’ve also seen how self-tracking pills might be the next technological innovation in QS/Healthcare, and have also seen vital use cases through mobile devices, for example resolving depression.

Tapping into the genome of individuals would gather a more substantial, solid and foolproof data which would be directly affected by (and also influence) the change in health parameters, recorded by the wearable sensors. Correlating this data with the data recorded from instruments would pave the path for more effective and more efficient healthcare systems worldwide.

NEXT UP, BIOHACKING

There are already a few brands which focus on genome testing. Organisations such as 23andMe brings forth a next-gen DNA genotyping mechanism which offers a plethora of results based on the individual’s genetic structure. In under $200, any individual can tap into their genetic information stream and gather their own spec sheet.

And in the future, we can actually evolve into more viable solutions. Nutrition replenishments (such as Soylent), Scanadu trackers, MyDario diabetes tracking and management systems are all benefited with the introduction of more robust genetic information.

emberify_qs_and_biohacking
Image Source: Mikko Ikola, Slideshare

Let’s keep imagining the potential. What if, at a not so distant future, the data from your genome, correlated with the data taken in from the wearables, gave an individual personalised diet plans, or fitness regimes. What if retail stores could take a peek into this data to offer consumer centric discounts, and fitness trainers and medical practitioners could advise based on the genomic/sensor based information? Healthcare and retail sectors would simply raise the bar for themselves.

Where does this come into major play? It’s not just information, not just insight. We’re talking about predictions, and relevant measures. Tap into an individual’s genome to see drug resistance /response or drug allergy signs. Tap into an individual’s genome to see chances of inheritable diseases, and eradicate them at the earliest.

And the next step? A very, very long shot, but the future could move from mere genetic structure knowledge, to advanced genetic engineering. The quantified self, evolved into the ultimate quantified self.

TAKEAWAY POINT

What’s needed is a more comprehensive correlation system to seamlessly connect the dots between genomic data and sensor based data, to generate more useful and concise information. This concise information would in turn lead to better data driven decisions, and more effective and enhanced healthcare norms.

Where would that lead us? A more uniform, more dynamic, and more robust Quantified Self. Moving beyond diabetic history or baldness patterns, is the ocean of data contained within the genome. And that would be the future, the next big thing, for the Quantified Self movement.

(Further reading:
ZDNet’s cover on 23andMe
Finding the balance between retail and genomics, by Contagious.com)

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