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Genetic Linkage

How the Media Oversimplifies DNA Testing of Separated Families

Should DNA testing be used to help reunite separated immigrant families?
When the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA) was passed to unify “the existing patchwork of State and Federal laws,” the language was broad enough to apply to just about any use of information gleaned from DNA. The law is meant to prevent discrimination in health insurance and employment based on results of a “genetic test,” defined as “an analysis of human DNA, RNA, chromosomes, proteins, or metabolites, that detects genotypes, mutations, or chromosomal changes.”

Use of “genotypes” alone covers any application of determining sequences of A, T, C, and G that I can think of, and if that’s not enough, the first sentence of the act mentions sequencing the human genome.

A decade ago also came the first direct-to-consumer (DTC) DNA tests, from a handful of companies. Since then the number and types of “spit” and cheek swab tests and companies offering them have mushroomed, probing traits, tendencies, risks of future illness, metabolic quirks, behavioral characteristics, carrier status for single-gene diseases, and of course ancestry. But with the spreading tentacles of DNA testing, a lack of precision in describing what, exactly, is being considered, can lead to misunderstanding. That’s apparent in the use of DNA testing to help to reunite children separated from their parents as part of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy at U.S. borders.

Don’t Echo Politicians Who Gloss Over the Science

Initial confusion about DNA testing unfurled June 21 when California Representative Jackie Speier called for DTC DNA testing company 23andMe to donate kits for swabbing children’s cheeks at the borders.

Continue reading at DNA Science, where this post first appeared. Read More 
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Genetic Privacy and the Case of the Golden State Killer - Diving Into the Science

The alleged Golden State Killer -- caught with a familial clue from an ancestry DNA database.
Consumer DNA testing companies are rushing to reassure customers about the security of their genetic information following news that DNA data from a genealogy website was used by police to arrest the man they believe is the Golden State Killer, responsible for at least 12 murders and more than 50 rapes from 1976 to 1986.

But are DNA data ever really private? Read More 
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Comparing Adam Lanza’s DNA to Forensic DNA Databases: A Modest Proposal

Is there a genetic signature for violence? It's an old and controversial question. (NHGRI)
In 1729, Jonathan Swift of Gulliver’s Travels fame published a satirical essay called "A Modest Proposal." He suggested that a cure for poverty was for poor people to sell their children to rich people as food.

I’m borrowing Swift’s essay title to bring up another outrageous idea: analyzing forensic DNA databases for a genetic signature of criminality. Read More 
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