Advances in genetics and biotechnology are impacting society in provocative ways. The Genetizen is written by a select group of scientists, bioethicists, and healthcare professionals who provide you with expert analysis and commentary on many important issues.
Disclaimer: Opinions expressed in blog postings may or may not reflect the opinions of Geneforum. In addition, the content provided here is purely informational and not a substitute for advice from your personal physician.
We've started posting presentations from a number of our community talks to SlideShare. Our first one is entitled "The Genomics Policy Process: Forming Partnerships Between Citizens, Experts, and Policy Makers," by Drs. Fowler, Allison, and Garland at Translating ELSI: Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Genomics, Case Western Reserve University, May 3, 2008.
Just in time for the holidays:
Users who accessed AAAGTCTGAC also bought:
- BioPet DNA Breed Identification Kit
- The DNA of Relationships
- DNA Nation iPhone Cover Sticker
- DNA by Bijan for Men -- Eau De Toilette
I couldn't resist playing with Amazon's announcement that it's making the Annotated Human Genome Data available via Amazon Web Services.
News sites and genetic blogs have been abuzz over the past few days with the ATLAS Sports Genetics' release of a genetic test to determine kids' athletic ability. ATLAS isn't the first to offer the test, but the company's site trumpets:
Finding any great Olympic champion normally takes years to determine.
What if we knew a part of the answer when we were born?
It all starts with a simple invitation from a friend: "You are invited to join the group Slow Caffeine Metabolizers", date, time, location. You are more likely to receive an invitation if you're one of those who has money and feels as comfortable in evening dress as in jeans and teeshirt. And, if you're "IN".
They call them "spit parties" and the plan is that--sometime in the evening--you will spit into a cotton-filled tube, donating enough of your DNA for a commercial operation to analyze it for single nucleotidepolymorphisms (SNPs). Meanwhile, you are building the sponsoring company's database.
Let's see if I can tell you what's happening without naming the company involved. . . .
Today, one of the companies offering genetic testing dropped its $999 price for a "full genome scan" to $399. Most of the stories I read were taken directly from the Associated Press release and quoted the company's CEO as saying, "The mission of the company has always been to enable anyone to be able to get access to their genetic information."
Hsien-Hsien Lei of the Eye on DNA blog recently asked readers to define genetics in one simple sentence. I tried, with the following:
Genetics is the study of the operating instructions for life.
To this could be added: Scientists look at how the instructions are passed from one generation to the next, how instructions differ from one living thing to another, and how the instructions work.
For a "young" audience, something modern--operating instructions--could be useful. Note that the second sentence distinguishes the various components of genetic study: inheritance, form, function.
Sure, you checked out what sports he likes, and whether he snores, but did you check his genes? Do you know that "men are more likely to be devoted and loyal husbands when they lack a particular variant of a gene that . . . [predicts] his aptitude for monogamy"?
According to a recent article in The Oregonian and other newspapers, this finding
. . . not only links the gene variant, which is present in two of every five men, with the risk of marital discord and divorce, but also appears to predict whether women involved with these men are likely to say their partners are emotionally close and available, or distant and disagreeable. The presence of the gene variant, or allele, also seems predictive of whether men get married or live with women without getting married.
While many people, especially in the US, have become focused on the genetics of health, many times that number have their health determined almost solely by social factors. You have to have food and water long before you are rich enough to worry about inheritance as a factor in your health.
An article in the Australian News today puts the issue into clearer focus with its title, "Being poor kills":
For instance, a boy living in the Glasgow suburb of Calton is expected to live to 54 - 28 years less than a boy born in affluent Lenzie nearby.
Some time ago, my daughters suggested I write a "dummies" book about Genetics. I really don't like the series, but decided to think about it.
A few days ago, I did just that--think about it, that is--by checking out a link from some page that referred to genetics education sites. I found that there is already a Genetics for Dummies book, published in 2005, and written by a geneticist from the Northwest.
Scooped again. But that leave more time for other things.
If you're interested in reading this book, and other books on many, many topics, you can download free online versions. The site's bookmarked on my other machine, so I'll have to add it to this post in an edit. I had to register for and download an access program first, but could then download and read the book I wanted.
Wow, have I been out of touch lately! A few weeks ago, when I returned to Oregon after selling my home in Utah, I logged in and promised to start posting blogs again.
Didn't make it. So, let's try again.
My personal news is that the Godfrey genetic pool has been increased by one beautiful baby boy, born to first-time parents. He doesn't look like any family member in particular, but does have a couple of features we suspect are genetically determined.
Now that I have access more often to a computer, I will be trying to post more regularly.
Here are some subjects I'm finding of personal interest at the moment. Let me know how these fit with your interests.
There has been a plethora of recent articles on the Beijing Olympiad ranging from "Let the Games Be Doped" and "The Amazing Adventures of Gene Doping Man" to "Doping Scandals Cast Shadow on Athletic Success" to "Drugs of Olympic Desperation: A Survey of Banned Substances".
Geneforum has added two new members to its Advisory Board - Victoria E. Navarrete Cruz and Fernando Anaya-Velazquez. Both head up the University of Guanajuato's bioethics center (Centro de Investigaciones en Bioethica (CIB) in Mexico.
Marie Godfrey and I have been invited by the Chief Medical Officer, Goeffrey W. Rutledge at Wellsphere, to join other medical experts, healthcare professionals, and expert health bloggers around the country in contributing to Wellsphere's new genetics blogging community of more than 100 new health communities. Wellsphere is slated to be launched by the end of August or early September 2008.
For those of you who do not know, Marie was trained as a geneticist at Johns Hopkins University and worked many years as a medical writer for the pharmaceutical industry. Marie has played a central role in furthering Geneforum's mission to build an informed citizenry for the Gene Age by helping readers translate what they read in the public media. We hope you'll add Wellsphere to your list of informative sites about genetics.
Just wanted to introduce Kirk Allison to the Geneforum community. Kirk, Director of the Program in Human Rights and Health in the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, has been involved with Geneforum since June of 2007 when I was a Visiting Guest Lecturer in the inaugural year of a three-week Public Health Genomics course as part of the offerings of the 2007 Public Health Institute at the University of Minnesota.
His research and writings in human rights and public values fueled an eventual collaboration which resulted in a co-authored paper, Technology and Citizenry: A Model for Public Consultation in Science Policy Formation soon to appear in the May 2008 issue of the Journal of Evolution & Technology. From May 1-3, 2008, Kirk and I teamed up to present a paper, The Genomics Policy Process: A Model for Partnering Citizens, Experts and Policy Makers at the Translating ELSI: Global Perspectives on Ethical, Legal and Social Implications of Human Genome Research in Cleveland.
It's been a tough month for me, as I closed a chapter many years long and moved on to permanent residence in Portland, Oregon. I'm trying to catch up on what's been happening in the world of genetics and--in my usual way of following distractions to see where they lead--found out that
Professor Randy Pausch, author of the remarkable and inspiring book "Last Lecture," has passed away at the age of 47. A dear friend to Diane Sawyer and 'Good Morning America,' Pausch's lecture and subsequent interview was one of the most powerful accounts of hope, grace and optimism "GMA" has ever featured, and drew a worldwide response.