The recently-launched ResearchKit platform for iOS, which collates user data of a medical nature, could soon help to reveal whether a user’s condition is genetic or not according to a detailed MIT Technology Review article.
Essentially, ResearchKit apps make it easier for researchers to gather genetic data using Apple’s iPhones, and the data gathered can be put to use in research that aims to discover more about the genetic causes of disease.
Currently, ResearchKit apps rely on information gathered through the iPhone’s sensors and user-completed surveys. Gholson Lyon, a geneticist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory but not someone affiliated with the ongoing studies, suggests that based on the success of the platform, the next logical step is for Apple to collect DNA.
To do that, the company may encourage people to submit their own DNA for analysis, which the apps can then share with those users once the analysis is complete.
Apple won’t collect DNA directly, however, so don’t expect a future iPhone to have a dedicated DNA collector embedded in its body. Rather, DNA will be collected and analysed by “academic partners”, and the results fed into a consumer-facing app that runs on iPhones.
Another ResearchKit app, mPower, was reportedly able to recruit thousands of test subjects in a matter of days for a study on Parkinson’s disease symptoms thanks to the large number of people who own iPhones, and similar success is hoped for from DNA-related apps.
What, exactly, those apps will reveal to end users is very much unknown, as what people can and cannot be told about their DNA data is restricted by government agencies in the US like the Food & Drug Administration.
However that plays out, the MIT Technology Review article envisions a future where “Eventually, it’s even possible consumers might swipe to share “my genes” as easily as they do their location”.
Depending on what the results reveal, that will either be a great way to start a first date, or end it within minutes.
Engadget has reported that Apple declined to comment on the rumours, but indications are that it won’t be a long wait before the company makes its intentions clear, presumably sometime around Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference that’s taking place in June.[Source – MIT Technology Review, Image: BY CC0]