Thursday, 7 November 2013

The hunter's obsession.

Ever since the discovery of the structure of DNA by Crick, Watson and Franklin, everyone has wanted to unlock the DNA code for the human genome, and this was successfully done, via the human genome project. However, what geneticists in the UK wish to achieve using 100,000 volunteers, almost makes all of these other DNA achievements look small and inconsequential in comparison.

The UK Personal Genome Project requires a brave 100,000 people who are willing to have their genome mapped, analysed and potentially shared with the rest of the world. The aim of this project, is to have a greater understanding into genetic diseases and diseases which come with age such as Alzheimer's and Type II diabetes.

The head of the US version of the project, Professor Church said that analysing such a large number of genomes can really help to lead to advances in studying disease and give a real insight into the genetic disposition some people have to certain diseases..

A project which is so personal can have a large effect on the participant, particularly as anonymity cannot be guaranteed. Those willing to take part will have to pass several tests to ensure that they understand the consequences of having their genetic data on show for the rest of the world.

Although this would be a magnificent step in the journey DNA discovery and sequencing could take, it could potentially have serious consequences on the participants like:

  • finding out about a genetic disease which they or their parents were unaware about having or being a carrier for.
  • potentially losing their current relationship or future relationship, via the discovery of a potential disease.
  • participants being targeted by insurance companies.
  • other companies cloning parts of their DNA without permission.
  • DNA copies being used to aid with crime.
Obviously, these are all worse case scenarios, but they are all possibilities with the current technological advances. 

But should the advantages always outweigh the negatives even if the negatives could be as harmful to the participant as those listed?

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