Winning and losing the genetic lottery

Soranzo’s scholarly prowess was displayed at Hay Festival today as she expertly guided the audience through human genetics.

Soranzo, of the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, described how the sequencing of the human genome has revolutionised scientists’ search for the genetic causes of human diseases.

She demonstrated how we can trace rare disorders, such as haemophilia, giving the example of how the genetics of the Royal Family from Queen Victoria to the present day can be tracked.

She revealed a list of the “Top 10 causes of death globally in 2016”, in which heart disease and stroke came out on top. However, she warned that these “common diseases are more complex than rare diseases…as it’s not just genetic but also environmental” factors at play, such as diet and exercise.

Soranzo stressed that we need to continue to increase exponentially the volume of data from living organisms, including humans, to help diagnose rare diseases in patients more accurately and to aid the development of new drugs.

However, with so much progress in genetic research, she warned of the importance of regulation to ensure that it becomes “illegal to discriminate over genetic make-up”.

If you are interested in more talks like this, please also see Event 131 at 11.30am on Monday 27 May.

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Picture by Chris Athanasiou