Some diseases wait like ticking time bombs in our genetic blueprints. Gene mutations might mean that we have a greater risk of getting Alzheimer’s or cancer, for instance. But how do we cope psychologically with this knowledge? And do we really have no control over this ‘master plan’?
We live in an age in which gene tests are becoming cheaper and more widespread and scientists are discovering more and more risk factors. But do we always want to know what fate might befall us? We meet Jana whose fate seems to be sealed because she has a rare inherited disorder, cerebellar degeneration. Doctors hold out little hope. Yet Jana has surprised everyone with her will to live. Katrin also knows that she has a potentially fatal genetic disorder. She was 35 when she detected a lump in her breast. She subsequently discovered that she has a gene mutation that greatly increases her risk of getting cancer. But Katrin refuses to let her life be ruled by statistics. Stefan doesn’t know anything about his genetic baggage yet. The architect is allowing researchers to analyze his own genetic building blocks, his DNA, as part of Germany’s biggest health study. The aim of the project is to identify genetic risk factors in our genome together with lifestyle risks and help to prevent disease before it happens. But don’t studies like these carry their own dangers?