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The Personal Genome Project

Harvard researcher, Dr. George Church, is spearheading a project that would make complete personal genome mapping available for a mere $1000. I read his research subject recruitment disclaimer. Here is a choice excerpt:

Volunteers should be aware of the ways in which knowledge of their genome and phenotype might be used against them. For example, in principle, anyone with sufficient knowledge could take a volunteer’s genome and/or open medical records and use them to (1) infer paternity or other features of the volunteer’s genealogy, (2) claim statistical evidence that could affect employment or insurance for the volunteer, (3) claim relatedness of the volunteer to infamous villains, (4) make synthetic DNA corresponding to the volunteer and plant it at a crime scene, (5) revelation of disease lacking a current cure.

I wonder what personal genome mapping means from an ethical and legal perspective? Are we equipped to handle the possible privacy violations and prejudice inspired by DNA coded predispositions? On the one hand, customizing medical treatment to a person’s genes offers some of the best hope for optimal care and cures. On the other hand, having your genes on public display could put you at risk for the five problems described by Dr. Church.

These are exciting and frightening times.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at

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