Monday, May 24, 2010

UC Berkeley plans to test freshmen DNA

From The Associated Press
The university [of California, Berkeley] has said it will send test kits to 5,500 new students to analyze genes that help control the body's responses to alcohol, dairy products and folic acid.

The voluntary tests are intended to spur conversation about the growing field of personal genomics, not predict the likelihood of disease, university officials said Thursday. …

Critics, however, worry that students could get the idea the school approves of widely available direct-to-consumer gene-testing kits that claim to predict the risk of future health problems, said Jesse Reynolds, a policy analyst at the Center for Genetics and Society, a bioethics think thank.

Students might think, "Berkeley gave it to us. It must be good. UC Berkeley would never be giving its incoming students anything bad or controversial," Reynolds said. …

University officials said they were careful to choose genes for testing that were not related to serious health issues.

"We wanted to pick genes in which the variants were very easy to understand, not threatening, and probably reveal information students have about themselves already."

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