Berkeley wants freshmen DNA - Macleans.ca

Berkeley wants freshmen DNA

Voluntary program intends to help students make healthier dietary choices

by

Freshmen at the University of California, Berkeley will be asked to voluntarily provide a DNA sample on a cotton swab, taken from the inside of their cheeks, to test for three genes that help regulate the ability to metabolize alcohol, lactose and folates, the New York Times reports. The study intends to help students make healthier choices by drinking less, avoiding dairy or eating more leafy green vegetables. This program, for the class of 2014, is the first mass genetic testing by a university, says genetics professor Jasper Rine, who adds that it’s designed to help students learn about personalized medicine. The testing is confidential: each freshman gets two bar code labels, one for the sample and one to keep. Results will be posted on a website where they can look for their bar code ID and see their results. Some bioethicists disagree with the program: Arthur Caplan, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics, says results should be given in a medical setting “where they can ask questions about the error rate or the chances of passing it on to their children.” Adds Boston University bioethicist George Annas, “What if someone tests negative [for the alcohol genetic marker], so they think that means they can drink more?” But Berkeley says the gene variants they’re looking for are relatively innocuous.

New York Times

Filed under: