, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 155-166,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

From Utopia to Science: Challenges of Personalised Genomics Information for Health Management and Health Enhancement

Abstract

From 1900 onwards, scientists and novelists have explored the contours of a future society based on the use of “anthropotechnologies” (techniques applicable to human beings for the purpose of performance enhancement ranging from training and education to genome-based biotechnologies). Gradually but steadily, the technologies involved migrated from (science) fiction into scholarly publications, and from “utopia” (or “dystopia”) into science. Building on seminal ideas borrowed from Nietzsche, Peter Sloterdijk has outlined the challenges inherent in this development. Since time immemorial, and at least since the days of Plato’s Academy, human beings have been interested in possibilities for (physical or mental) performance enhancement. We are constantly trying to improve ourselves, both collectively and individually, for better or for worse. At present, however, new genomics-based technologies are opening up new avenues for self-amelioration. Developments in research facilities using animal models may to a certain extent be seen as expeditions into our own future. Are we able to address the bioethical and biopolitical issues awaiting us? After analyzing and assessing Sloterdijk’s views, attention will shift to a concrete domain of application, namely sport genomics. For various reasons, top athletes are likely to play the role of genomics pioneers by using personalized genomics information to adjust diet, life-style, training schedules and doping intake to the strengths and weaknesses of their personalized genome information. Thus, sport genomics may be regarded as a test bed where the contours of genomics-based self-management are tried out.

This article is part of the Research Programme of the Centre for Society & Genomics, funded by the Netherlands Genomics Initiative.