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About Personal Genomics


Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is an emerging, highly publicized industry, despite considerable skepticism among experts. Advances in sequencing and genomics have revealed some correlations between particular genetic sequences and certain diseases, physical characteristics, and behaviors, though these relationships are not perfectly understood. Nevertheless, entrepreneurs have seized on these correlations to sell tests that purport to indicate whether the customer has an increased risk of a disease or other characteristic. Similarly, associations of genetic sequences with specific geographical locations have led to commercial “ancestry tests.”

Evaluating the claims of these companies is difficult, since their technologies are typically kept private and there is minimal oversight. Medical tests are supposed to be supervised by a physician, and testing laboratories need to be licensed. California has worked with Navigenics and 23andMe, two of the best-known companies, to ensure that they are operating legally in the state, but these Internet-based businesses raise regulatory concerns that cross state boundaries.

This industry may contribute to an over-emphasis on genes as determinants, possibly at the expense of environmental, economic and social considerations. A further concern is the possible use of DNA databases developed by private companies, whose business plans include profiting from the compiled data. Finally, although the companies insist that they will respect the privacy of their customers, there is no effective guarantee.



The Vagina Bio-Hack That Wasn’t: How Two “Startup Bros” Twisted and Took Credit for a Young Woman’s Companyby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesNovember 25th, 2014When news broke last week that two male CEOs wanted to make women’s vaginas smell like peaches, there was a well-deserved backlash. Now, it turns out the project they announced wasn’t even theirs, and they got it all wrong.
Massive Man Versus Mouse Genome Project Publishes Resultsby Katie HoweBioNewsNovember 24th, 2014A comprehensive international study has revealed striking similarities as well as some significant differences in the regulation of mouse and human genomes.
The Problematic Hunt for a ‘Gay Gene’by Samantha AllenThe Daily BeastNovember 20th, 2014Another week, another study declaring the hunt for the ‘gay gene’ over. Why are we so hung up on a biological answer for homosexuality?
Bill to Have All Russians Fingerprinted and DNA Profiled Submitted to ParliamentRussia TodayNovember 19th, 2014MPs from the populist nationalist party LDPR have prepared and drafted a motion requiring universal fingerprinting and DNA profiling of all Russian citizens for reasons of security.
Discrimination Based on Genetics Could Soon be Illegal, and it’s Right on Timeby William Wolfe-WylieCanada.comNovember 18th, 2014As personalized genetic testing hits the mainstream, what companies do with that information is of growing concern.
Science For Sale: Diet-Based DNA Testing Veers into Marketingby Kelly CroweCBC NewsNovember 17th, 2014Does the commercial interest affect the kind of research being done? Are scientists looking for answers they can sell, not necessarily for personal gain, but because that's the only way they can get any funding at all?
Breaking from our Eugenic Pastby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesNovember 13th, 2014As the victims of North Carolina's eugenics program finally receive compensation, we should not celebrate "the new eugenics" as some have argued, but learn carefully from this history.
Gene Therapy: Editorial Controlby Katharine GammonNature NewsNovember 12th, 2014Correcting the genetic error in sickle-cell disease might be as simple as amending text.
Many U.S. Doctors Wary of Genetic Testing: Surveyby Randy DotingaHealthDayNovember 12th, 2014A new survey of American physicians suggests that many may not support genetic testing in patients without a major family history of certain illnesses.
Patently Absurd? Or Absurdly Patentable?by Pete ShanksBiopolitical TimesNovember 12th, 2014The US Supreme Court might agree to rule on the validity of stem-cell patents, and the Canadian courts are being asked to invalidate a patent on disease-linked genes.
Should Life Insurance Firms Have Access to Your Genetic Test Results?by Melissa HealyLos Angeles TimesNovember 11th, 2014US federal law prohibits the use of genetic information for health insurance coverage decisions. But it doesn't cover life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance.
Open-Source DNAby Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 31st, 2014Who are the players to watch in the growing trend to “free” our genetic data, and what does it mean to participate?
How Should the U.S. Regulate Genetic Testing?by Jessica CussinsBiopolitical TimesOctober 16th, 2014The question, addressed at a conference at Stanford’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, is both complicated and critical.
Genetic Testing for Alzheimer’s — Without Revealing the Resultsby Shirley S. WangThe Wall Street JournalOctober 13th, 2014Doctors are devising new ways to shield patients from information about their odds for developing inherited disease as genetic testing becomes more common.
The Genetics Epidemic: The Revolution in DNA Science -- And What To Do About Itby Jamie F. MetzlForeign AffairsOctober 12th, 2014The coming revolution in genetic engineering will be exciting to some, frightening to others, and challenging for all. If not adequately addressed, it will also likely lead to major conflict both within societies and globally.
How to Cope With a Positive Genetic Test Resultby Kristine CraneUS NewsOctober 10th, 2014There is help out there for people with a positive genetic test result, as well as something of a protocol for them to follow.
Controversial Genetic Self-Testing Kits Coming to Canadaby André PicardThe Globe and MailOctober 2nd, 2014Though U.S. FDA forbids sales of direct-to-consumer genetic tests for health prediction, regulators in Ottawa are working with California-based 23andMe.
With Consumer Genetic Testing, Buyer Bewareby EditorialThe Boston GlobeSeptember 30th, 2014The flood of data that comes with direct-to-consumer genetic testing raises a host of ethical questions that neither testing firms nor their customers may anticipate.
Kaiser Permanente's Genetic Database Is Boon to Medical Researchby Emily AnthesBloomberg BusinessweekSeptember 25th, 2014The health network has accumulated genetic data on more than 210,000 members.
The Stupidity of the 'Smart Gene'by Jessica CussinsThe Huffington PostSeptember 25th, 2014Now that “one of the largest, most rigorous genetic studies of human cognition” has effectively turned up "nothing," can we finally put the notion of “smart genes” behind us?
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