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As I trolled LinkedIn this morning, I came across a few articles discussing the future of genotype and phenotype data. If you are like me, those terms require clarification. According to Personal Genetics Education Project:

Your genotype is your complete heritable genetic identity; it is your unique genome that would be revealed by personal genome sequencing. However, the word genotype can also refer just to a particular gene or set of genes carried by an individual. For example, if you carry a mutation that is linked to diabetes, you may refer to your genotype just with respect to this mutation without consideration of all the other gene variants that you may carry. 

In contrast, your phenotype is a description of your actual physical characteristics. This includes straightforward visible characteristics like your height and eye color, but also your overall health, your disease history and even your behavior and general disposition. Do you gain weight easily? Are you anxious or calm? Do you like cats? These are all ways in which you present yourself to the world and, as such, are considered phenotypes. However, not all phenotypes are a direct result of your genotype; chances are that your personal disposition to cats is the result of your life’s experience with pets rather than a mutation in a hypothetical cat fancier gene.

“In a nutshell, this is a nature and nurture scenario; your health has both genetic and environmental influences.”

In a nutshell, this is a nature and nurture scenario; your health has both genetic and environmental influences. By using the same principles of identifying people in your Facebook photos, technology is making strides to provide genetic assessments based on a submitted photograph. This form of technology takes into account a person’s phenotype and what implications they have for the individual’s health.

The technology is mind-blowing, but I question how it will impact HR down the road. Will recruiters use this technology to analyze the health risk of candidates? Will this become a central tool in health and wellness management? Will data submissions be unbiased and factual?

There are companies already considering how compliant these practices are with HIPAA, but what if the analyses are not totally accurate? Will it ever become a standard use tool, or will it remain optional like with airport scanners? My assumption is the ethical dilemma this presents may hinder the development of the technology or at least its user adoption.

Although I do not have answers today, I can assure you I will be keeping an eye on new genotype and phenotype developments.  

Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments below.