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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.

Just What We Need: Slicker Infertility Marketingby Gina Maranto, Biopolitical Times guest contributorOctober 21st, 2016A serial tech entrepreneur launches a new start-up called Prelude with a hipster-chic website downplaying the many unknowns of egg freezing.
Surprisingly few new parents enlist in study to have baby's genome sequencedby Jocelyn KaiserScience MagazineOctober 19th, 2016NIH-funded project, BabySeq, seeks to analyze protein-coding DNA for mutations in 7,000 genes associated with childhood diseases.
Reports of ‘three-parent babies’ multiplyby Sara ReardonNature NewsOctober 19th, 2016Claims of infants created using mitochondrial manipulation techniques in Mexico and China, and two pregnancies in the Ukraine, stir scientific and ethical debate.
Can a DNA Test Really Predict Opiate Addiction?by Zachary SiegelThe Daily BeastOctober 15th, 2016By combining patient genetic profiles with clinical observations, tech company claims its test is 93% accurate without peer-reviewed evidence.
DNA database could help predict your disease — then get you firedby David LazarusLos Angeles TimesOctober 14th, 2016The "Precision Medicine" project of introducing big data into healthcare comes with a host of risks for individuals and communities, including privacy and genetic discrimination.
Advocacy group anecdotes present one-sided picture of genetic testing for breast cancerby Mary Chris JaklevicHealth News ReviewOctober 13th, 2016The push for BRCA genes screening often glosses over the limited foresight given by testing, the corporate ties of advocates, and the lack of support for women who test positive.
Three-person baby 'race' dangerous[citing CGS' Marcy Darnovsky]by James GallagherBBCOctober 12th, 2016Scientists and ethicists warn of fertility doctors forum-shopping to perform dangerous mitochondrial manipulation experiments.
Writing the First Human Genome by 2026 Is Synthetic Biology’s Grand Challengeby Jason DorrierSingularity HubOctober 10th, 2016AutoDesk's Andrew Hessel promises a functional fully synthesized human genome by 2026, continuing the HGP-Write hype that began with a closed meeting at Harvard on May 10.
White Nonsense: Alt-right trolls are arguing over genetic tests they think “prove” their whitenessby Elspeth ReeveVICE NewsOctober 9th, 2016The pseudo-science of "biological race" is perpetuated by white nationalist online communities with "ancestral evidence" provided by 23andMe.
Don’t Miss This: The Story of CRISPR Told in a Comicby Kayla TolentinoOctober 6th, 2016Illustrator Andy Warner helps to break down the complexities of the still unraveling CRISPR gene editing story in his recent piece "Bad Blood."
What’s the Longest Humans Can Live? 115 Years, New Study Saysby Carl ZimmerNew York TimesOctober 5th, 2016Despite improvements in modern life and medicine, researchers claim that humans have reached the upper limit of longevity.
The Promise of Indigenous Epigeneticsby Emma KowalDiscover SocietyOctober 4th, 2016Amid the hype surrounding the biological study of inter-generational trauma, lies the danger of paving the path to eugenic practices.
Wrong Steps: The First One From Threeby Pete ShanksDeccan ChronicleOctober 2nd, 2016Gene-editing technology is advancing rapidly. What if we come to a consensus about what should not be allowed...and then some renegade scientists, convinced that they know best, just go ahead and do it?
Sally Phillips: Do We Really Want a World without Down’s Syndrome?by Viv GroskopThe Guardian October 1st, 2016The UK national health service will now cover new tests to screen fetuses for Down syndrome. A mother and actress notes the likely result: "It becomes ‘your fault’ if you choose to have the baby."
Meet the guy biohacking puppies to make them glow in the darkby Kristen V. BrownFusionSeptember 28th, 2016The goal isn’t just to make glowing Frankenpuppies. "I want to make perfect dogs...I don’t want slightly imperfect dogs."
Are Swedish Designer Babies Coming Soon?by Eric NiilerSeekerSeptember 23rd, 2016"What are the oversight and controls to prevent this technology from being misused and go to a stage that, for now, the scientific community has agreed is a no-go?"
As Kuwait imposes world’s first DNA collection law, attorney tries to fight itby Cyrus FarivarARS TechnicaSeptember 22nd, 2016"Compelling every citizen, resident, and visitor to submit a DNA sample to the government is similar to forcing house searches without a warrant."
White House science advisers urge Justice Dept., judges to raise forensic standardsby Spencer S. HsuWashington PostSeptember 20th, 2016A new report cautions that widely used methods to trace complex DNA samples to criminal defendants fall short of scientific standards.
Why we need a law to prevent genetic discriminationby Yvonne Bombard, Ronald Cohn & Stephen SchererThe Globe and Mail [Canada]September 19th, 2016After unanimous passage through Canada's Senate, a bill on genetic discrimination is now before the House of Commons.
DNA Dragnet: In Some Cities, Police Go From Stop-and-Frisk to Stop-and-Spitby Lauren KirchnerProPublicaSeptember 12th, 2016Private police DNA databases are multiplying, and are subject to no state or federal regulation or oversight.
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