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|The sequencing of
the genomes of humans and many other species is showing us
that humans are far more similar to other forms of life —
not only to other mammals and vertebrates, but to all life,
including plants and bacteria — than had been previously
Relationship of humans to other life on Earth: Copernicus
argued that the Earth was not the center of the solar system,
and Galileo carried out the astronomical observations that confirmed
that the Earth with the other planets rotated around the Sun,
and not vice versa. The sequencing of the genomes of humans and
many other species is showing us that humans are far more similar
to other forms of life — not only to other mammals and vertebrates,
but to all life, including plants and bacteria — than had
been previously appreciated. A family of genes involved in organization
of the body plan in fruit flies, for example, is structured and
activated similarly to that for humans. We have drawn an analogy
with the earlier change in thinking about our solar system and
have referred to this as “the Copernican revolution in biology.”
The consequence of this evolution in our thinking is that we can
extrapolate from observations in other organisms to improve our
understanding of human development and disease. This allows us,
for example, to insert or delete genes in mice to mimic human
disease and to test potentially relevant therapies. Similarly,
we can create human-disease models in fruit flies and bacteria.
It also suggests that the vast number of species on Earth represent
more a matrix than a hierarchy, with humans embedded within that
matrix rather than having a unique central role within biology.
We can only hope that a better understanding of our position in
the matrixed biosphere will also provide us with a deeper sense
of responsibility for the other forms of life with which we coexist.
Direct-to-consumer marketing of genetic testing: An
increasing number of genetic tests are being marketed directly
to consumers by way of the Internet. The claims of some of these
advertisements are spurious — for example, gene profiling
prior to recommending nutritional supplements or skin-care products.
Even for those claims that are firmly fact-based, the interpretation
of the results of the testing may be quite complex and difficult.