SNS Special Letter: Quantified Health

Towards Digitally Enabled Genomic Medicine:
A 10-Year Detective Story of Quantifying My Body

 By Larry Smarr

This is a report on my 10-year personal quest to increasingly quantify my body. As a lifelong scientist, this form of understanding my physical being has come naturally to me.

In many ways, my personal journey is a detective story. It started with simple quantification, such as weighing myself every day; but then clues began emerging which caused me to dig deeper and to rapidly expand the biochemical variables I was tracking over time. Eventually, I made a completely unexpected discovery about myself, with serious future health ramifications. But rather than jump to that surprise twist, I will describe the journey I experienced step-by-step, in the belief that hearing about the evolution of my understanding may benefit others.

What I have learned about myself both illustrates and foreshadows the ongoing digital transformation of medicine[1]. As our technological ability to “read out” the state of our body’s many subsystems improves, keeping track of changes in our key biochemical markers over time will become routine, and deviations from norms will more easily reveal early signals of disease development.

Genome sequencing is exponentially decreasing in cost, allowing for much broader population sequencing, leading to a digital context for comparison of our individual body’s markers. Social networks enable sharing among people with similar health situations[2] in a way that was virtually impossible until recently, increasing the positive reinforcement of better personal health choices. Finally, the emergence of system biology is leading to an integrative approach for all this data.

As mentioned above, I have been engaged in an ongoing personal experiment[3] in probing this emerging paradigm. This report is a short summary of my quest – a report from the field on the coming radical changes in how we can monitor and improve our personal health status.

Read the complete letter here: Quantified Health