But it’s all right, we all are. Zimmer has begun a series called Game of Genomes in which he has had his whole genome sequenced, and is being led by a group of scientists through the analysis. So far he’s made a good summary of the procedure, and a general overview of the state of his genome.
In my own genome, Gerstein and his colleagues discovered 13 genes in which both copies appear to be broken. I have another 42 genes in which only one copy looks like it’s defunct.
It may sound strange that my genome has dozens of broken genes that cause me no apparent harm. If it’s any consolation, I’m no freak. The 1000 Genomes Project revealed that everyone has a few dozen broken genes.
Our genomes are not finely engineered machines that can’t tolerate a single broken flywheel or gear shaft. They’re sloppy products of evolution that usually manage to work pretty well despite being riddled with mutations.
I’ve probably passed down some of my uniquely broken genes to my children. Perhaps, long in the future, one of those broken genes will become more common in humans, and end up in every member of our species. That’s certainly happened in the past. My genome catalog includes about 14,000 genes that have been broken for thousands or millions of years, known as pseudogenes. Once they lost the ability to make proteins, they simply became extra baggage carried down from one generation to the next. Thanks to a genetic roll of the dice, they ended up becoming common. Now these 14,000 pseudogenes are found in all humans today.
As you can tell, it’s a nicely written summary that doesn’t require a huge amount of scientific background to understand. Good stuff!