Well, not exactly.
The promise of personal genomics/personalized medicine is that doctors will someday be able to prescribe medicines and lifestyle recommendations that are customized to how YOUR body works, not to some statistical average of how most studied human bodies work. The rub is that identifying genes that control these individual responses to drugs, foods and experiences is really really hard.
I won't describe it all in detail, but the short story of how personal genomics works is as follows:
- Find a big group of people
- Identify genetic markers that differ between human genomes (SNPs, currently)
- Do math to see what SNP markers are associated with the trait you care about
- Check your own genome to see which version of the SNP (and trait) you have
So back to openSNP...
openSNP is an effort to put the power of personal genomics and association mapping (aka linkage disequilibrium, aka GWAS) studies into the hands of the people. The idea is that everyone will upload their SNP marker genotype to this common database (along with whatever part of their own phenotype they want to share) in order to create a shared resource. While published data is already freely available (another site, SNPedia, aggregates these peer-reviewed results), the people behind openSNP protest that databases owned by these personal genomics companies are not available to the public.
I love open source/access efforts and citizen science in general, but they're definitely trying something audacious. I'm not going to underestimate the application of the internet to a difficult problem, but they definitely have it cut out for themselves. I think I'd be hesitant to upload my own genotype due to privacy concerns but it's definitely an interesting project. I haven't considered paying to get my genotype though I did sequence a segment of my mitochondrial genome (which was inherited from my mom's mom's mom's mom back in Abruzzo) while I was in grad school.
Incidentally, I came across openSNP first in the DIYbio google group.
It's worth checking out.
* Association mapping seems to work much better in domesticated plants than in natural populations of humans and other creatures. If you're interested in more detail, these papers are a great start.
** The only reason this works at all is because DNA sequencing has become so cheap that it's already revolutionized how biology is studied. Sequencing costs per basepair is actually falling faster than Moore's Law.
Zhu, C., Gore, M., Buckler, E., & Yu, J. (2008). Status and Prospects of Association Mapping in Plants The Plant Genome Journal, 1 (1) DOI: 10.3835/plantgenome2008.02.0089
Hamblin MT, Buckler ES, & Jannink JL (2011). Population genetics of genomics-based crop improvement methods. Trends in genetics : TIG, 27 (3), 98-106 PMID: 21227531