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Burdens of knowledge

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10:42am, November 7, 2007

From San Diego, at a meeting of the American Society of Human Genetics

The gold rush of human genetics is well under way. Now that tools for profiling genome activity are widely available, scientists have found more than 80 disease-related variations in human DNA, many of them in the past year.

As a result, ethical arguments about how to handle people's genetic information—and related disease-risk information—are no longer academic. Much of the discussion this year among human-genetics researchers has revolved around the sticky issues posed by the windfall of new knowledge. For example, how can scientists keep genetic data from research studies truly anonymous when DNA is, by its nature, the ultimate fingerprint?

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