Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Royal Blood

Back in the middle ages, people used to believe that blood and the quality of a person's ancestry determined their fate on this earth. While the application of that idea was obviously not so splendid, the concept is frighteningly accurate.

Whenever I fall ill, the first thing a doctor wants from me is my blood. My blood can tell them more about my health that I can. It is an indicator of my most basic ability to function.

I stumbled upon this article while toodling around the web. Basically, scientists have devised a blood test with a 97% accuracy rate in determining whether or not a person is bipolar or schizophrenic, or whether they're "normal."

My brother had this really cool idea for a story once and in it, everyone's DNA sequences were stored with the government on discs. The government used the discs to eliminate diseases etc.

Anyway, I wonder if his vision of the future is that far off.

In some ways, scientific progress like this makes me nervous because I feel like some doctor I'll never meet will be able to tell me what kind of perfume would smell the best on me or what kind of ice cream I like the best. Where does DNA stop and sentience begin?

On the flip side, I know that progress is inevitable, and indeed, beneficial. I often complain on this blog about the utter inadequacy of current diagnostic measures. It would be nice to know in a day whether or not you are bipolar, instead of having to wait years for a doctor to make an official diagnosis.

I wonder if children who will become bipolar adults but have not yet manifested with the disease themselves will have indicators present in their blood. I wonder if the markers for this study would look the same in someone with an acute psychosis, someone on a period of normal time and some in a serious depression. Would the markers change if the disease was present for more than 5 years as opposed to say, less than 6 months? If the markers are not present in childhood, when would they appear in adults? Before the first episode? After? During?

That's the lovely thing about science. Every answer generates myriad questions.