Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Genetics-based products

Genetics-based products stir concerns - The Boston Globe: "The companies, on the other hand, contend that even if much of the complexity of genetics continues to be worked out in labs, enough is already known that they are providing valuable information to customers.

'It's an early science; it's in flux, it's changing . . . and I think that's the context by which people have to understand consumer genetics - this is something that's in the process of evolution, but that doesn't mean there isn't utility,' said Lew Bender, chief executive of Interleukin Genetics, a Waltham company developing genetic tests for consumers.

The disconnect stems partly from ordinary people's expectations of genetics, which have been set by the powerful - but often oversimplified - idea they learned in high school that inherited genes determine traits such as blood type or eye color and that a single errant gene could be the culprit for a disease, such as cystic fibrosis or Huntington's disease. Such clear-cut examples of the power of genetics do not exist in most diseases, or complex phenomena like aging, where a confusing stew of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors seems to play a role.

Most of the genes or snippets of DNA that have so far been linked to diseases confer a small, or hard-to-interpret amount of risk for a disease."


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