While the majority of Western medicine remains staunchly in the hands of the medical professional community, new tools designed to empower patients are causing real shifts in this power dynamic. Physicians are being increasingly challenged by patient self-diagnosis via websites like Wikipedia and WebMD. And on an even more personal level, researchers are now providing ways for us to see and ‘read' our individual genomes.

Your personal genome is incredibly useful for understanding your genetic predispositions, while at the same time incredibly difficult for someone without medical training to approach. The work of Martin Wrzywinski out of Vancouver’s Genome Sciences Center helps close this gap. Wrzhwinski has created a program called Circos to plot genetic data on a circular graph. The visual (and quite lovely) representation of genetic relationships allows for important connections to be mapped between Simple lines drawn between different genes, represented as points around a circle, result in a complex (and lovely) visual representation of genetic data. Using such a graph to highlight combinations of genes that increase the incidence of, say, breast cancer could help patients understand the information once only comprehensible (or accesible) to medical professionals.

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