Michael Snyder knows his body better than anyone in history.
For two-and-a-half years, he’s had regular blood samples drawn, and tracked the ebb and flow of 40,000 different molecules within his cells, from hormones to blood sugar, to the proteins of the immune system and mutated genes. Snyder also watched as his genetic vulnerability to diabetes turned into actual disease.
In a paper published today in the journal Cell, Snyder, a genetics professor at Stanford University, and his collaborators recount 14 months of living a Truman Show kind of life, but with a microscope instead of a television camera. His story marks the first time anyone’s physiology has ever been followed this closely, and portends the future of personalized medicine, according to Snyder and others.
“This article reminds us that the future is now,” says Charis Eng, a professor of genomic medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “I think we’re heading in this direction, and I think we must prepare in every way, not just scientifically, not just medically, but as a society—[considering] all the ethical, moral, and regulatory issues.”
The cost of providing such analysis—genomics, metabolomics, proteomics, and transcriptomics, along with immune system measures—was significant. Snyder, who is also director of the Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine at Stanford, says it cost about $2,500 to collect molecular data from each blood sample, not counting the price of analyzing it or the millions of dollars in setup costs to purchase equipment.
Snyder, however, predicts the costs of such studies could drop dramatically, and become a common part of medicine. “In my case, it potentially saved a lot of damage,” he says.
During the course of the study, Snyder had his genome sequenced. The DNA testing suggested he was at risk for type 2 diabetes. Although his doctors didn’t see any outward signs that he might be developing the condition, his self-testing revealed early signs. He later developed the disease.