Electric Genes; May 1995; Scientific American Magazine; by Paterson; 2 Page(s)
As more and more of the human genetic blueprint is unraveled, the pressure to know what it means for people grows. Does the baby have any serious genetic problems? Does that teenager carry genes predisposing her to breast cancer? Does a particular adult have the DNA associated with diabetes or with Alzheimer's disease?
During the past few years, it has become possible to provide answers to more of these questions--to find, for example, the Apo E4 gene that indicates a greater risk of Alzheimer's or the BRCA1 gene associated with certain cases of breast cancer. But at present such testing is limited to patients in research projects or those who have a family history of the disease. Widespread speculative genetic screening of populations is too costly to consider--even were it ethically acceptable. This situation may be about to change, at least from a technical standpoint.