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Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

Will Ozzy's Genome Reveal the Secret of Rock Star Resilience?

The infamous rock star is paying Cambridge-based Knome to sequence his genome.

  • June 22, 2010

Last week, my brother informed me of some strange genome news he had heard on his favorite morning radio show. Ozzy Osbourne, front man for Black Sabbath, is going to have his genome sequenced in order to figure out how he is still alive after decades of legendary drug use. Blogs were a-twitter with the cryptic news, but yesterday the Toronto Star published a much more informative and sensible piece.

Osbourne is paying Knome, a start-up here in Cambridge, to sequence his genome. (The company charges about $19,000 to sequence just the protein-coding region of the genome and approximately three times that amount for the full genome.) Nathaniel Pearson, Knome’s director of research, speculated to the Star that Ozzy “was spurred to sequence his genome by his new gig as a health columnist for the Sunday Times of London. (According to the Star, he’s written two so far, “riffing on syphilis, euthanasia and the laxative effects of spicy food.”)

Ozzy is likely over optimistic if he thinks his genome will reveal the secret of his resilience. Too little is known about the vast majority of the human genome. But there may be some clues.

“Ozzy may in fact share gene variants with people who may be able to metabolize recreational drugs better than others,” Pearson told the Star on Monday…Given the high sensitivity of liver genes to revealing how the body deals with drugs and alcohol, Osbourne’s results might be a revelation.”We may find something,” said Pearson. “We probably won’t. Not today. I want to tamp down expectations.”

“By all accounts, I’m a medical miracle,” Osbourne wrote in his introduction to the Dr. Ozzy Osbourne column. “I was knocking back four bottles of cognac a day. While filming The Osbournes, I was shoving 42 types of prescription medication down my neck, and that was before all the dope I was smoking.

“And then there was the rabies treatment I had to go through after eating a bat.”

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