Saturday, September 22, 2007

Mapping genes opens Pandora's box of issues: researcher

Each person's genome sequence, the DNA blueprint that among other things determines our susceptibility to disease, could be widely available in as little a five years, predicts a Canadian researcher.

The possibility could have huge privacy, ethical and societal implications, says an article published in Thursday's issue of Science.

Scientists believe that within five years, DNA sequencing, the process by which a person's 20,000 to 25,000 genes are mapped, will be affordable enough to be included in routine medical care.

As part of a regular physical, you could one day get a printout of your genes, identifying anything from a high cancer risk to a genetic mutation that you could pass on to your children.

But while this critical information could one day lead to personalized health care, such as specific tailor-made drug therapies that target your genetic weaknesses, it also opens a Pandora's box of ethical and societal challenges, Timothy Caulfield, Canada research chair in health law and policy and one of the study's authors, told on Friday.

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