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Do You Want To Know Your DNA's Secrets?

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NEAL CONAN, HOST:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. A process that took squadrons of scientists several years and billions of dollars may soon be part of medical routine. Recent advances now make it possible to unravel a person's complete genetic code in a matter of weeks, for roughly about the cost of an MRI.

Doctors can use that genome sequence to help diagnose and treat patients with mysterious or hidden conditions. But these advantages come with questions, too, about ethics, about accuracy, about usefulness and about costs. So what do you want to know from your genetic code? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Later in the program, President Bill Pullman, from "Independence Day" to "1600 Penn." But first, NPR's science correspondent Rob Stein joins us here in Studio 3A.

Nice to have you back on TALK OF THE NATION, Rob.

ROB STEIN, BYLINE: Oh, nice to be here, Neal.

CONAN: And what's driving this speed-up in the genetic code process?

STEIN: Yeah, it's really been kind of a revolution in the ability to decode the genetic code. It wasn't that long ago that, as you said, it took hundreds of scientists, and it cost something like $3 billion just to get a rough draft of the first genetic blueprint. And what's happened over the last 12 years or so is that technology's really gone kind of crazy, and it's a combination of computing power and new techniques for - in optics and some chemical processes that can really speed up the process unbelievably.

And now it can take, as you said, a matter of weeks, and there is even some talk that there's some new techniques that could bring it down to just a matter of days, or even hours, potentially.

CONAN: And instead of an entire lab and all kinds of people in white coats, you're down to something about the size of a copy machine?

STEIN: That's right. That's right. The machines that are in use right now are about the size of an office copier, and all you need is a few lab techs, and you can turn out a genome in about 10 days. But there's even one company that's been showing off this little, new sequencer. It's about the size of a fat thumb drive, and it can - pops into the side of a laptop. And it can supposedly spit out a genome in hours.

CONAN: And what's the market for these things?

STEIN: Well, you know, it's interesting. Since I started working on this series of stories, the market is really taking off. There - first of all, there's the two big groups of patients for which it'll become almost immediately available and useful for are cancer patients to try to decode their genomes to try to figure out what caused the mutation that caused the cancer and then tailor drugs that might be able to treat them.

And there are also thousands of children that are born each year with mysterious genetic conditions that nobody can figure out, and this can help do that for the first time. It can really help parents who have been searching for years for answers.

CONAN: And you profiled one such couple in one of your pieces.

STEIN: That's right. That's right. It really can really change people's lives in fundamental ways. And down the road, there's all kinds of talk about it becoming part of routine medical care. Now, we're not there yet, but that seems to be where it's going, where - and there's even talk about people potentially getting sequenced at birth, where their genome would become part of their permanent medical record.

It would be there, and their doctor, if they needed to refer to it for some reason, if they're going to prescribe a drug and they want to see if it might cause a side effect, they'll just click a few keys on their keyboard, and up pops their genome, and they can find the answer.

CONAN: And I'm sure you referenced it in one of your pieces, and I'm not the only person who's thinking "Gattaca."

STEIN: Yeah, yeah. Those are some of the images that it starts to raise in this sort of brave new world of genetically engineering the human race. You know, and there are - you know, that's clearly nothing that's, you know, an immediate concern. But there are, you know, shadows of that that are definitely a concern, and it raises a lot of ethical questions that needed to be worked out before this stuff becomes widespread.

CONAN: So if that hypothetical child is gene-sequenced and then suddenly discovers that there's a - well, what an insurance company might call a pre-existing condition.

STEIN: Right, right. I mean, there's even talk about doing - using genome sequencing prenatally, where you do it on a fetus in the womb. And this summer, a couple of groups actually did that for the first time. They did the entire genetic sequence of a fetus in the womb. And that raises a whole new set of questions that really needed to be worked out, including, as you mentioned, the idea of potential genetic discrimination by future employers, for health insurance, for long-term health care, for life insurance, all sorts of things.

CONAN: Other people - it was interesting, somebody - again, the comparison to the MRI. It costs about the same, roughly, right now, but everybody doesn't get an MRI. And I can't - I can get an MRI and I can look at that film, and I can't read it.

STEIN: Right, right. Yes. It's heading in that direction. It's not quite the price of an MRI, but it's definitely heading in that direction. A lot of people are predicting that's where it's going to end up, perhaps by the end of the year. And that's a good analogy, because whole - these whole-body scans that are out there that people can get, you can go out there and get them right now, you know, if you're curious just to see what's going on in there.

There's a lot of concerns about doing that, because, you know, you can spot some serious problems that maybe can be helpful, but also oftentimes it just picks up all kinds of things that people don't really know what it is, that doctors can't figure it out. You end up getting lots of follow-up tests and maybe treatments that end up doing more harm than good.

CONAN: And the same might be true of the genome sequencing, too. You might get - there's a lot we still don't know.

STEIN: Actually, that's the case. And for most people right now, they probably would get very little, if any, useful information by getting their genome sequenced. And that's the big concern, is that we'll spend a lot of money and we'll end up scaring a lot of people for no reason and won't get a lot of benefit out of it right now.

CONAN: And the question also becomes: If it's available, a lot of patients might ask their doctors, well, of course I want it. I want all the information possible.

STEIN: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's sort of the tendency in this country. If something is new and it's the latest, people want it. They want to get every test. They want to know everything. And sometimes, you know, there are things we just don't want to know. And sometimes information really is not useful and, in fact, can be harmful.

CONAN: Such as?

STEIN: Well, you know, if you get a result back of - let's say you have a genetic marker for a disease that might put you at increased risk for a disease, but you may or may not get it, that might end up just causing a lot of anxiety. It might end up prompting you to get a lot of follow-up tests. It might make you prone to genetic discrimination of some form or another, without actually providing any kind of benefit.

CONAN: The other trait that people mention is the one for breast cancer. Again, having it means you're more likely to get it. It doesn't mean you're going to. People might say, gee, I've got the marker. I better have a mastectomy.

STEIN: Right. And that happens now already. So that's not a theoretical concern. That's the sort of thing that does happen. And, you know, another example is Huntington's disease. You know, we have long been able to test for the gene that causes Huntington's disease. And what it's turned out is a lot of people actually don't want to know if they're going to get Huntington's disease, because there's nothing they can do it. All it does it creates the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads their entire lives.

CONAN: Or something like a predilection for Alzheimer's.

STEIN: Alzheimer's. That's right. That's right. And one of the stories I did, in fact, James Watson, who's one of the pioneers in genetics, had his genome sequenced. And he said, OK, you can sequence my genome. You can tell me everything that's in there, but not if I have the gene for Alzheimer's. I just don't want to know. I watched my grandmother die from the disease. I know there's nothing I can really do about it, and I'd just rather not know.

CONAN: What do you want to know from your genome, your genetic code? Give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. Our guest is Rob Stein of NPR's Science Desk, and we'll begin with a caller. Cathy's(ph) with us from Grant's Pass in Oregon.

CATHY: Hello.

CONAN: Hi.

CATHY: I'm very excited about this whole project. I have a grandson who's autistic, and he participated in a study that's being done at UC Davis in California. And it was discovered that is a Fragile X, which is a damaged chromosome. And as they are researching this farther, they learned that my father had Parkinson's. And so we're kind of wondering if I am the carrier for that.

I'm having trouble finding anyone around here to prescribe the test for me, because there's not a genetic counselor. But our value in knowing this is to be able to inform the younger women in the family that this exists, in case they want to consider that when they're having children.

STEIN: Yes. There's no question that there are a lot of genetic tests that are available right now that are quite useful, especially for families like yours where there is already known propensities for certain diseases. In those cases, genetic testing can be very helpful, especially for things like you mentioned, for, you know, whether deciding whether to have kids in the future, and that sort of thing.

But those tests are very targeted. They're very specific. They tend to look for the very specific genes involved in diseases, like Parkinson's. The difference here is that this would look at the entire genetic code where there - a lot of it would basically be useless, or there'd be some ambiguous findings that, you know, may tell you something, but may not, and then raise a lot of questions, more questions than, really, you could answer.

But, actually, one point you just raised is actually another important issue here, is that there's only something like 3,000 genetic counselors in the entire United States.

CONAN: I was going to ask: Genetic counselor, what is that?

STEIN: Yeah. So if lots and lots of people started getting their entire genetic sequences spelled out, they'd need a lot of help in interpreting and understanding that data, and we just don't have, you know, the genetic counselors available to do that.

CONAN: And who are genetic counselors?

STEIN: These are people who are specially trained in this field to - they understand the science. It's very complex. Most doctors, frankly, don't really have the capabilities to understand and interpret and explain to people what the findings of genetic testing means. And so you really need somebody who really understands this and has been trained not only to understand it, but to communicate it.

CONAN: So, Cathy, what's your next step?

CATHY: Well, I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

CATHY: I may have to go down to UC Davis myself, which is quite a drive. But I understand why doctors don't want to order the test, because doctors want to be able to tell you the results of tests they've ordered. And that's why they're declining, since they're not genetic counselors. So I think my next step is to go down to UC Davis and have it done there.

CONAN: Well, good luck. Thanks.

CATHY: Thank you very much. Bye.

CONAN: Appreciate it. Let's see if we can go next to - this is Robin, Robin with us from Phoenix.

ROBIN: Hi. Thank you for taking my call. In 2005, I was under 50, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. So my surgeon insisted that I have genetic counseling done and some testing. So I went through the process, and on the BRCA2 gene, there was a minor defect, and it wasn't the typical breast cancer, ovarian thing.

It was a very rare defect that wasn't seen in the gene population very much, because most fetuses that had that miscarried.

CONAN: And so what did that tell him and you about your cancer?

CATHY: Well, nothing. But what it did, it raised questions about my family, because my mother had nine pregnancies, and three of them were miscarries. And there have been a series of other miscarries in the family. So my - I'm wondering if that is something that's been carried through in our genetic code.

CONAN: Rob, any thoughts?

STEIN: Yeah, I mean, that is - does raise an important point, which that - which really is how little we really know, at this point, about genetics. There - most of the miscarriages that occur each year are assumed to be due to some sort of genetic mutation, but in most cases, they can't figure out what it is or what caused it.

And, you know the great hope of sequencing is that someday, it'll be able to do that. It'll be able to figure out what's causing all these very specific problems. And the more sequencing is done and the more researchers have a chance to take a look at it, the more likely that's going to happen.

Right now, we're not quite there yet, but that's where it's headed, hopefully.

CONAN: Robin, how are you doing?

ROBIN: Oh, I'm doing great. I've - I don't say that I'm in remission. I say I'm cancer-free.

CONAN: Well, good. Congratulations.

ROBIN: Thank you very much.

CONAN: Appreciate the phone call.

ROBIN: Bye-bye.

CONAN: We're talking about the promise and risk of full genome sequencing. Call and tell us: What do you want to know from your genetic code? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. I'm Neal Conan. Stay with us. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. Twelve years ago, a group of scientists announced they'd completed the first genome sequence of a plant - a small flower commonly known as thale cress - with a relatively simple DNA code. Still, the project took four years complete.

Today, anybody with a couple of thousand dollars can decode their entire genetic blueprint in a matter of weeks, which raises all sorts of practical and ethical questions. What do you want to know from your genetic code? 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Our guest is NPR science correspondent and senior editor Rob Stein. You can hear his reports on the $1,000 genome on our website. Again that's at npr.org. And John West joins us now from Menlo Park, California.

Nice to talk with you today.

JOHN WEST: Hi. Nice to speak with you.

CONAN: And what did you want to know from your genome?

WEST: Actually, that I had been contacted by NPR to be involved in this, because actually, we had our whole family sequenced three years ago by the company Illumina that has developed the technology for whole genome sequencing. And actually, I've started a new company now with a group of professors from Stanford University that works on interpretations of whole genomes.

So we were interested in getting a look ahead as to what might be in our family's medical future, and I think we found that it was useful in that regard. But as your prior participant mentioned, there are many elements that are still being researched, and we look forward to being able to say even more from human genomes in future years.

CONAN: Sure, I understand the subsequent interest. But that first interest, what was - was there someone that said, well, you know, there's something I'd really like to know?

WEST: So I think we view it not as something where there's a particular question, but the advantage of looking at the entire genome is that you can find out what - almost what questions should I ask. You don't have to have a specific question before looking. You can, in fact, look across the entire genome and say: Is there anything there that I ought to know about?

And for full disclosure, I have been involved in my career in the industry of the companies that make equipment for DNA analysis, and so once this finally became possible in 2009, I felt I'd been waiting for 25 years to do this. It's a fantastic opportunity, and we stepped forward and had our family be sequenced.

CONAN: Did you get some kind of a discount?

WEST: No. Actually, it was much more expensive than it is today, but I think we felt it was worthwhile, and it's been a great learning experience. We are, in fact, still learning from it. We did find some things that were immediately practically useful, however, and we've talked about some of those publicly. The - there tend to be three main categories of information that can gleaned from the genome.

One would have to do with rare, purely genetic diseases, things like cystic fibrosis and whether you might be predisposed to those. The second would be to do with what are considered more complex diseases that might involve many genes, but also a lot of environmental factors, things like heart disease and cancer.

And the third category has to do with drug metabolism because individuals' response to medicines tends to be different, because the genes that contribute to the metabolism of those drugs in your body can be different from person to person, and therefore the dose that's appropriate or even which drug you should take can differ from person to person based on their genetics. And that's an important area, and we actually learn some things about that from our genome that help guide us, actually, away from medicines that were proposed for various things that turned out to be inappropriate (technical difficulties).

CONAN: And I've read, in fact, in a story about your family that blood clots, that was one of the things that you found out about.

WEST: Yeah. We actually knew about the blood clots beforehand. We viewed it as just one example. I actually originally found out about the blood clotting well before we had our genomes sequenced. But it was based on having a medical event due to the blood clots, which I felt like if I had been able to have my genome sequenced prior to that time, you know, I didn't necessarily know there was any reason to think about blood clots.

But if I'd seen the data in my genome before that actually happened, I would have probably been able to take actions that might well have avoided that. Blood clotting is something that's affected by a lot of environmental factors, including specifically the foods that you eat. So, for example, foods which are very high in Vitamin K, things like spinach or miso soup, tend to be things that if the amount of those foods that you eat goes up and down from day to day, then you can be changing your blood clotting level quite substantially, and you have to be careful about that.

So if I had just known that ahead of time, I probably wouldn't have had to have a blood clot. But my - part of (technical difficulties) was not so much about the blood clotting itself, but whether there were other things where we also didn't know about it because we'd never been able to look. So now that we were able to look at the entire genome, it gave us that view to see: Are there other things, essentially, that we just haven't run into yet? And I'd say most of it was, in fact, very reassuring.

CONAN: And given the fact that you found this useful - I'm not sure how old your daughter is - but if she were to become pregnant, would you have her test - her fetus tested in utero? Would you have the baby tested at birth?

WEST: So those would be my daughter's choice, not mine. But actually, my daughter's been very involved in the analysis of our genome. She's currently at college and has done a fantastic job. She's actually spoken at a number of scientific conferences about the work analyzing our family's genomes. And I think - I can't speak for her entirely, but my guess is that she would be positive about that and would share that decision with her husband, and they would have to make that decision.

But I think she views it as a very positive thing, and just like you do lots of other tests, medical tests to make sure that your children are safe, this would be one more such test.

CONAN: John West, thanks very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

WEST: Great. Thank you.

CONAN: John West is CEO of Personalis, a company that provides genome analysis for clinical medicine. As he mentioned, he's had his entire family sequenced, or their genome sequenced.

And Rob Stein, he raises an interesting point: Until you've had the sequence done, you don't know the question to ask.

STEIN: That's right. I mean, most people, they don't necessarily have a specific medical problem or question that they're trying to answer. Some people are just sort of curious to sort of look, you know, check it out and see what might be in there. And, you know, at the moment, this is sort of a typical case.

And we called our series The $1,000 Genome because people are predicting that's where it's going to - how much it's going to cost soon. We're not quite there yet. And at the moment, it still is not cheap. It still costs, you know, it could cost 4,000, $7,000 to do it. And so most people who are doing it tend to be scientists, biotech executives or people with very specific medical problems like cancer patients or mysterious genetic conditions.

But, you know, at some point, as the price keeps dropping, it's going to get to the point where more and more people who are just curious might start to do it.

CONAN: Gus in Grand Rapids asks by email: Is mandatory genome sequencing foreseeable for insurance purposes, lower rates for favorable results, higher rates for customers with expected medical problems?

STEIN: Yeah. I mean, that's the big question is, you know, as this starts to become more common, you know, it's going to - even at a cheaper price, it's going to start to add up, and the question is: Is it going to end up doing more benefits than harms? Is it going to end up saving money by helping diagnose and treat patients better? Or is it going to end up just, you know, adding huge amounts of money to the nation's medical bill? We won't know until we see what happens.

CONAN: And another email question, this from Brando - Brandon, excuse me, in Reno: I would like to sequence the genomes for my parents, my siblings, my partner and my beautiful daughter to elaborate on the family tree and trace conditions, behaviors and features as best we can. As long as people maintain the awareness that our ability to decipher and understand the genome is still in its infancy, and as long as people keep in mind that we can't predict the future, I think that information is a wonderful thing. It's only through lots and lots of practice and observation that we'll get better at interpreting the genome.

STEIN: Yeah, again, that's - there's sort of a philosophical debate that goes on around genome sequencing, which is really: Should everybody who wants information get as much information as they want, or is - should they, you know, should there be gatekeepers that decide, OK, you know, we're ready to tell people X, but not Y? And that's a debate that's going on. There's a big school of thought that says, hey, it's my genetic information. It's my genome. I have a right to know.

But there's another school of thought that says, well, that might be your first impulse, but a lot of people may not have thought it through, and they might not even realize what they might find once they start looking around, and that could have all kinds of unforeseen implications.

CONAN: And the lesson, as you mentioned, of Watson, the co-discoverer of the double helix, saying, look, there are some things I don't want to know.

STEIN: Right, right. And then there was another example of a scientist from Stanford who decided to sequence himself to see what he might find out. He actually found out that he might be at risk for diabetes, even though no one had any idea that that might be possible. He developed diabetes, but because they caught it so fast, he was able to beat it back and become healthy again.

But then when his wife tried to raise his life insurance, what she found out was the price shot through the roof, and they couldn't afford it anymore because of his increased risk for diabetes. He wasn't expecting that when he got into it.

CONAN: And let's see if we can get another caller in on the conversation. Let's go to Nathan, Nathan with us from San Antonio.

NATHAN: Thank you.

CONAN: Go ahead, please.

NATHAN: I was curious as to whether or not you thought the sequencing of people's genetic codes would aid us in figuring out what our ancestors had done wrong, what had been part of the culture, if you will, versus what parts were genetic.

For instance, in my family we've got both degenerative back disease elements and some diseases like ulcerative colitis that go up and down the digestive tract. And I'd be curious to know if parts of those were because of the environment my ancestors were exposed to and the food that my family was eating or if that's part of our genetics.

CONAN: Go ahead, Rob.

STEIN: Yeah. No. I mean that's a fascinating field, the interaction of environmental factors and genetic factors and the interplay of that. It's all very complicated and very subtle, in a lot of ways. But as, you know, again, as time goes on and we get more genetic information from individuals, we'll be able to start to sort that out.

But the reality is chances are it's going to remain really complicated. There's not going to be any simple answer for some of these things anytime soon because it's going to be a combination of genetic factors and a combination of environmental factors that all kind of work together to cause these things to happen, especially when you're talking about intergenerational events like this caller is talking about.

CONAN: And the vast amounts - and thanks very much, Nathan, for the phone call. And the vast amounts we don't know. For example, the recent discovery that all that stuff that we thought was junk turns out to be pretty important.

STEIN: That's right. We used to think that 98 percent of the genome was considered what they call junk DNA. It turns out that it's not junk, that it's playing really important roles, and they're just, just starting to figure out what that means and how that works.

CONAN: We're talking with Rob Stein, NPR science correspondent and editor on the Science Desk. This from Rodney in San Francisco: Working for Laurel Fertility here in San Francisco, we do a lot of genetic testing on potential parents, as well as embryos for specific genetic diseases. It is extremely positive and allows potential parents a small window into possible issues.

Yes. But again, there's a distinction between these specific tests for specific diseases - as you mentioned, Parkinson's - as opposed to looking at the whole genome.

STEIN: That - that's right. And, you know, it's - the guiding principle has, for the longest time, has been that we would look for things that we really understood, that - and oftentimes that we could do something about. That's been the principle behind newborn screening. All newborn babies are tested for dozens of conditions. And the thinking has always been like they can't give informed consent. We're not going to test them for things that we don't know for sure could help them.

CONAN: Let's see if we get another caller in on the conversation. Let's go to - this is Fred, and Fred's with us from Tulsa.

FRED: Yes. Thank you so much. My wife was adopted from Norway, and we had no idea what her background was genetically. And I had an extensive background. We knew who they were. And my daughter became pregnant, and she said, you know something? Why don't we sequence to see what it's like?

So we all did. And it's very, very interesting to be able to find out the unknown in her that she did not know about and the things in me and the little makers that kind of are giving us guides as to what kind of way we should be doing our bodies the best.

CONAN: Could you give us one practical example of the way you've changed your life as a result?

FRED: Well, I've been trying to cut down a little bit on alcohol because I have markers that says you have a tendency for cirrhosis. So don't - you know, take it easy. I thought that was kind of wild.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: That's interesting. And - but essentially what motivated you was curiosity.

FRED: Yes. She had no idea as to what her father and mother - so we got an idea when we put them together, and then my daughter had hers. And it's kind of interesting to see how all these things link up.

CONAN: Fred, thanks very much for the phone call. Interesting. And there was a person you interviewed in one of your pieces, Rob, who said - I'm paraphrasing here - whoa, cool. If there's information out there, I'd like to know it.

STEIN: Yeah, yeah. That's a lot of people's attitude. They just really want to know what makes them tick for - you know, so to speak. And the caller raised one of the issues that is one of the most popular uses of genetics is this, you know, genealogy and ancestry. And that's - there's a lot of companies out there selling those services. And you know, in that area, of course, it's just of interest. It's really not going to hurt anybody, you know, to do that kind of testing.

When you start to get into these other areas - you're involving medicine and things like that - then you have more potential for doing some - creating problems and doing some harms. And there's also the problem of, you know, if you start to look for one thing and you find something else that you weren't looking for, what do you do with that information?

For example, if you sequence a fetus or a baby, you can find out information about who that fetus' parents are, and sometimes they're finding, you know, the father isn't the father they thought it was. And, you know, the parents, did they go into it thinking that might be a possibility? And who do you tell, and how do you tell it? And all sorts of potential problems crop up.

CONAN: The miasma of issues that surround the advent of the thousand-dollar genome. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Here's an email from a caller, writer who wishes to remain anonymous: I had a great-grandfather who's mentally ill, probably with schizophrenia. I have three cousins and a brother with the same illness. The brother is the youngest of seven, so my siblings and I thought we had escaped the family curse. His illness showed up several years after I had children. If I had known about him, I may or may not have had children. What's the news on genetic testing for mental illness?

STEIN: Yeah. That's a big area of interest, and you know, we're learning a lot more about that day by day. But there isn't a lot about that we really know for sure at this point. I mean a lot of genetic mutations and genes have been associated with various mental illnesses. It's - as time has gone on, it's become clear that it's way more complicated than anybody thought going into it.

And they've found lots of different genes that may increase their propensity for certain mental illnesses. But as they say, it's not destiny, that genes are not destiny. It's only - increased risk doesn't mean you necessarily are going to get whatever disease you're talking about.

CONAN: And we've had several episodes in your series thus far. The last one's tomorrow morning, and what does that focus on?

STEIN: Yeah. The last one is focusing more on sort of the commercialization of genomic sequencing. As I said, there are a lot of companies that are popping up to start to offer these services and to start offering interpretations of these services. And so that gets - raises lots of questions about as it becomes - hits the mass market, how is that - what the implications are going to be and how are we going to deal with that.

CONAN: Do companies really see a mass market for this, even at that price?

STEIN: Yes. You can tell from the calls, and there's a lot of interest in this stuff. And we have had a poll running with my series, asking people, okay, if you could get your genome sequenced, would you do it? And overwhelmingly, people are saying yes, I would. And they're asking if you - would you like to know everything? And they're all saying yes, overwhelmingly. We'd like to know as much information is possible.

CONAN: And where, if one wanted to participate in this poll, might one go?

STEIN: Npr.org.

(LAUGHTER)

CONAN: What a shock. Rob Stein. You can also find links to his pieces that he's run thus far at npr.org, click on TALK OF THE NATION and they're all there. And the last in the series runs - this the last in the series?

STEIN: It's the next in the series. There's probably are going to be at least one or two more stories coming.

CONAN: On what aspects?

STEIN: At least one piece will probably look at sequencing in the womb and newborn babies.

CONAN: All right. Rob Stein from NPR's Science Desk, thanks as always.

STEIN: Oh, nice to be here, Neal.

Rob Stein joined us here in Studio 3A. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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