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August 30, 2005

Genetics and Affirmative Action

This week's CGREAL newsletter is now up online, but I neglected to cite one news item that's of particular interest: the NY Times magazine's feature on the really new issues (rather the old, familiar ones of abortion and gay rights) that the Supreme Court, and John Roberts, might face in the coming years.

This includes such CGREAL-related topics as genetic screening and reproductive cloning, financing of enhancement and genetic therapies, and gene patents, all issues which many have seen looming on the horizon, but which yet have before the Court.

What I was surprised to see on the list was the impact of DNA on affirmative action. While there has been a lot of the recent work of the Population Issues group has focused on how genetics is both challenging and reinforcing our traditional concept of race, its role in affirmative action has not been discussed.

How might genetics change affirmative action? One scholar suggests genetic tests may be required to prove minority status as increasing numbers fight over shrinking resources.

I'm not convinced. I'm sure that affirmative action will come before the Court again soon, but I don't think genetics will significantly change the debate. The issues around affirmative action programs are about the inherent fairness of racial preferences, not about the validity of individuals' racial identities or histories.

The increasingly popular genetic ancestry tests (which are of questionable value) do uncomfortably recall the infamous one-drop rules, and they could bee potentially misused, though not only for affirmative action. And the question of race is certainly being complicated by genetics.

rsp10 02:22 PM | (0) |

August 25, 2005

New Contributor & a New Start

This, hopefully, marks a new start for the CGREAL blog, with more than just the occassional post about random news. I hope to see this blog grow into a useful and interesting venue for disseminating information and discussing issues of genetic research ethiccs and law - an outgrowth of our exciting center talks, discussions, and works.

Joining me here at the revived blog is my fellow research assistant Paola Ortiz. She has been with CGREAL since April, bringing to the center a infectious enthusiasm and a sharp insight, along with long experience with a variety of qualitative and quantitative research and a background (and hopefully, foreground) in evolutionary biology. Welcome!

rsp10 04:11 PM | (0) |

August 08, 2005

Genetics in the literature

Genetics in the Literature

(all available on request)

Development and validation of tools to assess genetic discrimination and genetically based racism.
J Natl Med Assoc. 2005 Jul; 97(7): 980-90
Parrott RL, Silk KJ, Dillow MR, Krieger JL, Harris TM, Condit CM

It is possible that communication from mass media, public health or consumer advertising sources about human genetics and health may reify stereotypes of racialized social groups, perhaps cueing or exacerbating discriminatory and racist attitudes. This research used a multifaceted approach to assess lay perceptions of genetic discrimination and genetically based racism (N = 644). Two tools for use in strategic planning efforts associated with communicating about human genetics and health, the genetic discrimination instrument (GDI) and the genetically based racism instrument (GBRI), were derived. We recommend application of these screening tools prior to national dissemination of messages associated with genes and disease susceptibility, including school and university-based curricula.

Variation in gene expression profiles of peripheral blood mononuclear cells from healthy volunteers.
Physiol Genomics. 2005 Jul 12
Eady JJ, Wortley GM, et al

The normal degree of intra- and inter-individual variation in gene transcription profiles of healthy human tissues was studied in white blood ceels. Transcript levels for the majority of genes examined were found to be remarkably consistent within samples from a single donor, while, marked differences were observed in samples obtained from different donors. The findings are important for determining how individuals may respond to different medicines and for determining nutritional needs.

Human gene banks.
Med Ethics (Burlingt, Mass). 2005;12(1):1-2
Williams G

Heterogeneity of the genome ancestry of individuals classified as White in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
Am J Hum Biol. 2005 Jul-Aug;17(4):496-506
Marrero AR, Das Neves Leite FP, et al

Individuals classified as White, living in different localities of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul, were studied in relation to mtDNA and Y-chromosome polymorphisms. In a specific population characterized by Italian immigration, the results indicated almost complete European ancestry. However, another sample identified as White, from different localities of Rio Grande do Sul, presented significant fractions of Native American (36%) and African (16%) mtDNA haplogroups. These results indicate that Brazilian populations are remarkably heterogeneous; while some present an overwhelming majority of transplanted European genomes, with a complete correspondence between physical appearance and ancestry, others reflect a history of extensive admixture with dissociation between physical appearance and ancestry.

Ethical, legal and social issues of genetically modifying insect vectors for public health.
Insect Biochem Mol Biol. 2005 Jul;35(7):649-60
Authors: Macer D

The use of genetically modified (GM) insects for control of human disease can be consistent with common ethical norms of international society to reduce human suffering. This paper considers a range of ethical issues including animal rights, informed consent, community consensus and environmental viewpoints.

Pharmacogenomics in admixed populations.
Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2005 Apr;26(4):196-201
Authors: Suarez-Kurtz G

Personalized drug therapy proffered by pharmacogenomics must be based on the recognition of inherent genetic individuality, rather than relying on inter-ethnic differences in the frequency of polymorphisms that affect the pharmacokinetics and targets of drugs. This is particularly significant in admixed populations, in which the substructure created by inter-ethnic crosses further increases the fluidity of racial and/or ethnic labels. Extrapolation on a global scale of pharmacogenomic data from well-defined ethnic groups is plagued with uncertainty. This review examines the challenges and advantages of studying pharmacogenomics in admixed populations, drawing examples mainly from the trihybrid populations of the Americas.

 

In utero gene therapy: current challenges and perspectives.
Mol Ther. 2005 May;11(5):661-76
Authors: Waddington SN, Kramer MG, Hernandez-Alcoceba R, Buckley SM, Themis M, Coutelle C, Prieto J

This review will examine the concepts and practice of prenatal vector administration, highlighting the advantages of early therapeutic intervention on diseases that could benefit greatly from a prenatal gene therapy approach. We will pay special attention to the strategies and vectors that are most likely to be used for this application and will speculate on their expected developments for the near future.

SNP discovery in associating genetic variation with human disease phenotypes.
Mutat Res. 2005 Jun 3;573(1-2):41-53
Authors: Suh Y, Vijg J

In this review, we discuss genetic association studies and address the prospect for candidate gene association studies. Our focus is on the continuous need for SNP discovery methods and the use of currently available prescreening methods for large-scale genetic epidemiological research until more advanced sequencing methods currently under development will become available.

Mapping by admixture linkage disequilibrium: advances, limitations and guidelines.
Nat Rev Genet. 2005 Jul 12;
Authors: Smith MW, O'brien SJ
Mapping by admixture linkage disequilibrium (MALD) is a theoretically powerful, although unproven, approach to mapping genetic variants that are involved in human disease. MALD takes advantage of long-range haplotypes that are generated by gene flow among recently admixed ethnic groups, such as African-Americans and Latinos. Under ideal circumstances, MALD will have more power to detect some genetic variants than other types of genome-wide association study that are carried out among more ethnically homogeneous populations. It will also require 200-500 times fewer markers, providing a significant economic advantage.

Keeping medical research ethical.
Science. 2005 Jul 8;309(5732):246
Authors: Obyerodhyambo O
A letter to the editor notes that the that local communities may participate in research with the idea that, by becoming subjects, they are in fact buying "insurance."

Navigating an ethical patchwork--human gene banks.
Nat Biotechnol. 2005 May;23(5):539-45
Authors: Maschke KJ
Population genetics research collaborations are reaching increasingly across national boundaries to access human tissue repositories. Will discrepancies in national policies on informed consent and IP rights hinder progress?

Linkage of genetics and ethics: more crossing over is needed.
Biol Cell. 2005 Jul;97(7):599-604
Authors: Lissemore JL
The web sites of five different organizations that deal explicitly with genetics and ethics are reviewed here.

rsp10 03:29 PM | (0) |

Genetics in the News

DNAPrint
A company which develops and markets genetic testing products and services has a couple interesting items in its corporate site, notably the Product Pipeline (which includes several ancestry tests and one to predict eye color, billed as "the first genetics test yet developed for predicting a complex human trait from DNA") and their answer to the question "What is Race?" on its FAQ. Meanwhile, John Hawks, a University of Wisconsin-Madison anthropologist challenges the value and the accuracy of DNAPrint's ancestry tests as perpetuating the concept of race.

A step toward the $1,000 personal genome Researchers said they had found a faster and cheaper way to do it using readily available lab equipment that would cost only about $2.2 million, considerably cheaper than the current $20 million for a human genome. (The technique is described in Science.)


Calif. to start testing newborns for genetic disorders
Newborns throughout the state will be screened for 75 inherited and congenital disorders, the result of a new law that takes effect Monday.

Gene silencing technique offers new strategy for treating, curing disease
A new technique aimed at directly controlling the expression of genes by turning them on or off at the DNA level could lead to drugs for the treatment or cure of many diseases

The rise of a culture of life
The biological sciences are encouraging the move away from the ideals of the Enlightenment towards an idea of individual perfectibility and enhancement

rsp10 03:25 PM | (0) |

August 05, 2005

Research abroad

For all the discussion on the ethics of cloning, the NYT editorial on the South Korean dog-cloing success brings up another, less-discussed issue: that other countries are pulling ahead in research and technonology developments while the U.S. efforts are hampered by political debate and financial restrictions. The South Koreans, the first to clone human embryos and extract stem cells from them, look increasingly like the world leaders in this important field of research.

rsp10 09:40 AM | (0) |

August 04, 2005

Cafe Scientifique

I would love to see Case, along with other local institutions, sponsor a Cleveland Cafe Scientifique, which are now seem to be springing up in cities across the U.S. While many departments sponsor lectures and public talks, a Cafe Scientifique type of series would be an excellent way to engage the larger public and the community.

It would be particularly interesting for the CGREAL issues, since there is great public interest in genetic research, but a lot of room for education and informed debate.

rsp10 01:18 PM | (2) |