Illustrative image for Ethical Questions About Whole Genome Sequencing 23andme and More from the Brain Genetics Frontier

Hastings Center News

Ethical Questions About Whole-Genome Sequencing, 23andme, and More from the Brain-Genetics Frontier

Braingenethics Update, a free monthly newsletter, aggregates recent scientific literature, commentary, and news on questions raised by findings on the genetics of complex human behaviors. It is produced by the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and The Hastings Center as part of a major multiyear project on the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of psychiatric, neurologic, and behavioral genetics. The Hastings Center investigators are Erik Parens and Josephine Johnston.

The latest issue discusses several scholarly articles on ethical concerns around whole-genome sequencing. One of the articles examines the difficulty amassing comprehensive data from geographic regions with limited access to genomic technologies.  Other topics are new findings on the influence of “behavior genes” – genes associated with stress, addiction, depression, and other behavioral traits – on food choices; new research on the role of genes in human memory; and ethical concerns about the growing practice of genetic testing in mild autism spectrum disorder.

The current issue also features a roundup of news items related to the FDA’s recent decision to grant approval to 23andme to offer direct-to-consumer tests to assess the risk of 10 conditions, including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Will these tests cause unnecessary worry? How might they reshape the at-home medical testing market? The issue also includes a report on a “genetic stop-and-frisk” testing policy under consideration in New York State, which would allow police to investigate the relatives of people whose DNA was collected from crime scenes.

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