Your Genes Your Choices

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Your Genes, Your Choices: by Catherine Baker Exploring the Issues Raised by Genetic Research

New Genetics:  One way to explore the topic of new

genetics and genetic research is to look at it in terms of the ethical, legal, and social issues.  Ethical issues concern what is moral or right.  Legal issues concern the protections that laws or regulations should provide.  Social issues concern how society as

Genetic Testing  In the past few years researchers

have increased their knowledge to test for hundreds of genetic disorders  More new tests are established all the time  Tests are helpful for diagnosing disorders in the young and adults  Tests are also useful in predicting chances for an individual to come

Continue...  They are also used by couples who

want to learn their risk of passing on genetic disorders to any children they may have.  Prenatal tests are done before birth to an embryo or foetus, to check for genetic problems  Test results can be definite but in other cases they only suggest the risk for developing a disorder.

Continue...  One way of testing is to do a

medical exam  A person’s family history is studied using for example, pedigree, for clues as to how the disorder has been passed down from generation to generation.  A blood sample can be obtained in order to look at a person’s chromosomes.

Concerns About Genetic Testing  Great progress is been made in

genetic testing but it is slower in the treatment of genetic disorders  Tests are available to give results but treatment is lacking e.g.. Huntington Disease

Genetic Counselling:  It is a medical speciality that helps

parents and prospective parents evaluate and cope with their risk of passing a hereditary disorder to their children  It is important for anyone wanting to obtain information about their genes

Continue...  With counselling from professional

advisors, people can understand the facts of their situation  Counsellors can help in understanding the limitations of the tests and how different test results might affect them  Counsellors can explain to people what their choices are after they know the results

Continue...  Genetic counselling is a new field

and there’s a small number of trained genetic counsellors  New tests are coming out faster than new counsellors are been trained 

Genetic Determinism:

 Genes have something, but not

everything, to do with disorders  Misunderstanding that genes by themselves determine what happens to you is called genetic determinism  It can lead people to harmful and unfair judgements about themselves and others

Dealing with Genetic Knowledge

 Decisions we make on how to live

our lives will be influenced by information we have about our genes  Knowing one’s genetic profile is helpful:  Suggests what health-related

Continue...  Tips you off to have frequent

checkups for genetic conditions  Helps to plan life by avoiding behaviours and substances that trigger disease  Knowing one’s genetic profile can create problems:  Everyone has a number of problem genes that they don’t know about until a health problem surfaces

Continue...  A piece of paper listing “problem”

genes could give a lot to worry about  People tend to limit their choice based on fears  People may choose not to marry or build a career because of their “problem” gene or genetic profile

A Big Question! ! !  Whether children should be told

information about the genes they carry or, if so, at what age they should be told  It is difficult for children to understand facts about genetics such as the difference between a risk and a sure thing  There’s a possibility of misunderstanding what they are told

Discrimination Based on Genes  Information about “problem” genes

can bring extra trouble e.g. Cost of health insurance  People with “problem” genes have been denied health insurance or dropped from their health plans.  Medical expanses are not covered due to genetic conditions

Continue...  People have been told that their

children will not be covered because they are at risk for inheriting genetic disease  Number of such cases may increase as genetic testing becomes more common  Some people are concern that employers may use genetic information to weed out workers who

Continue...  The fear of being discriminated

against may lead people to refuse genetic testing even when it could help diagnose, prevent or treat a health problem  They may be too afraid that the information will be used against them; If that happens, then all the benefits of genetic research could come to nothing.

Genes and Behaviour  The study of whether and how traits

for behaviour are inherited is called behavioural genetics  Scientists have long tried to figure out whether behaviour is shaped by our genes or by how we are raised. It is called the question of “nature versus nurture”

Continue...  Scientists agree that both genes

(nature) and environment (nurture) help make us who we are  What no one knows is just how nature and nurture work together  Researchers believe that genes shape our inborn frame of mind or temperament

Prenatal Tests: Types

I. Alpha-fetoprotein test (AFP)  A sample of the mother’s blood is

taken to measure the amount of a special protein produced by the foetus Too much or too little of the protein indicates that the genes may not be working right Therefore, the brain or spine of the

Continue... 1. Enzymes  Foetal cells are checked for

presence of important enzymes  Some diseases are caused when the gene that gives the instructions for producing an enzyme doesn’t work  If the production of the enzyme ceases, an important body function stops and this results into a disease

Continue... 3. Ultrasound imaging  Ultrasound uses sound waves to create an image of the baby inside the mother 4. Amniocentesis (called “amnio” for short) and chorionic villus sampling (CVS)  These are tests that check for defects in the chromosomes  Cells surrounding the foetus are

Continue...  A special technique is used to

rearrange the chromosomes into pairs.  The picture that is created is called a karyotype which makes it easy to see if any chromosomes are missing or broken, or if there are any extra chromosomes

Reproductive Technology

 Advances in prenatal testing have

come hand in hand with advances in medically assisted ways of making babies; reproductive technology  Is often used to help people who have problems conceiving children  Also is used to help people reduce their risk of having babies with

Continue… Types: 2. Artificial Insemination 3. In vitro fertilization 4. Ex utero genetic testing 

DNA Typing:  First introduced in the early 1980s  Turns DNA sample into a set of lines  The lines of one DNA sample can be

compared to the lines of another sample to see if they are alike  A match between two samples can be made only if entire DNA sequences are compared  Hair, blood, saliva, semen, skin, and nail clippings, because they all are

Uses For DNA Typing:  For identifying bodies; because DNA

lasts longer  To tell whether two people come from the same family  Gender identification and other physical characteristics

Continue…  To prove innocence  To prove guilt  To identify relatives  To prove fatherhood  To identify bodies  To identify soldiers  To uncover history  To study human evolution

Issues of  Computers can store information Privacy from millions of DNA samples  They can rapidly search through all

of this information to find matches  Searching is done in the DNA data bank where the samples are stored  Every time the police search their computer to find a match for some DNA evidence found at some crime scene, they are checking someone’s DNA without permission

Continue…  Owners of DNA samples are being

made permanent suspects, which means that their privacy is invaded  Privacy is the “right to be left alone” or “the right to decide for yourself what information others can know about you.”  Also is the right to decide what information you learn about yourself

Controls on DNA Files:  DNA information could end up in other

types of data banks  Personal and medical information is released in most cases such as, applying for a job, life or health insurance, credit, financial aid, or government benefits  If the results of any DNA tests become part of your records, you may have to release the information in order to obtain needed services.

Continue…  There are no laws concerning DNA

data banks  No law which says that a blood sample collected for one kind of DNA testing can’t be used for another purpose  No law that limits data bank employees from snooping in your files  No law that gives you the right to check your DNA file to find out what

Eugenics:  The word "eugenics" was coined by

Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) to denote scientific endeavors to increase the proportion of persons with better than average genetic endowment through selective mating of marriage partners  Is the science which deals with all influences that improve the inborn qualities of a race; also with those that develop them to the utmost advantage (THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SOCIOLOGY

Continue…  Also defined as the use of genetic

knowledge to improve the human race 

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