A singular obsession defines George Church’s life. He wants to crack open the cellular machinery of every human on Earth and read their genetic blueprint.
Tall and thin with an enormous white puffy beard and hair to match, Church looks like he’d be as comfortable at Hogwarts as he’s been at Harvard Medical School , where he is a professor of genetics, over the past three decades. His projects can seem just as wizardly. Church has explored everything from reversing aging to resurrecting the woolly mammoth, and he helped launch the revolutionary Human Genome Project (HGP), which sequenced human DNA in its entirety.
But it’s another goal – one Church has never stopped working on – that could carry the greatest potential to alter life on our planet. Ever since his work on HGP, he’s been trying to sequence the rest of us. And he wants to use that information to shape how we pick our mates.
From Parent to Child
The blueprint of any life-form can be found in that organism’s DNA. These strands are condensed into packages called chromosomes; humans have 23 pairs. At the moment of conception, an embryo gets one copy of each – including tens of thousands of genes – from each parent.
In general, genes for a particular trait are either dominant or recessive. Dominant genes overpower recessive ones. So, a child dealt both a dominant and a recessive gene ends up with the trait encoded by the dominant gene.