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Other articles: March 2010

9 April 2010

Other papers this month

Choosing Deafness with Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis: An Ethical Way to Carry on a Cultural Bloodline?

Camporesi, S



Evaluation of genetic tests for susceptibility to common complex diseases: why, when and how?

Wright CF, Kroese M.

HUMAN GENETICS. 2010 FEB;127(2):125-34.

Recent research into the human genome has generated a wealth of scientific knowledge and increased both public and professional interest in the concept of personalised medicine. Somewhat unexpectedly, in addition to increasing our understanding about the genetic basis for numerous diseases, these new discoveries have also spawned a burgeoning new industry of ‘consumer genetic testing’. In this paper, we present the principles learnt though the evaluation of tests for single gene disorders and suggest a comparable framework for the evaluation of genetic tests for susceptibility to common complex diseases. Both physicians and the general public will need to be able to assess the claims made by providers of genetic testing services, and ultimately policy-makers will need to decide if and when such tests should be offered through state funded healthcare systems.


Stems and Standards: Social Interaction in the Search for Blood Stem Cells

Fagan MB

JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF BIOLOGY    Volume: 43 (1): 67-109

This essay examines the role of social interactions in the search for blood stem cells, in a recent episode of biomedical research. Linked to mid-20th century cell biology, genetics and radiation research, the search for blood stem cells coalesced in the 1960s and took a developmental turn in the late 1980s, with significant ramifications for immunology, stem cell and cancer biology. Like much contemporary biomedical research, this line of inquiry exhibits a complex social structure and includes several prominent scientific successes, recognized as such by participating researchers. I use personal interviews and the published record to trace the social interactions crucial for scientific success in this episode. All recognized successes in this episode have two aspects: improved models of blood cell development, and new interfaces with other lines of research. The narrative of the search for blood stem cells thus yields a robust account of scientific success in practice, which generalizes to other scientific episodes and lends itself to expansion to include wider social contexts.


Parental Knowledge and Attitudes Toward Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Genetic Testing

Fitzgerald-Butt SM, Byrne L, Gerhardt CA Vannatta K, Hoffman TM, McBride KL

PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGY    Volume: 31: 195-202

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is a common autosomal dominant condition with an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. Although clinical genetic testing can be used for confirmation of a clinical diagnosis as well as a predictive test, based on our clinical experience it is underutilized. Therefore, we developed and administered a questionnaire to assess potential determinants of parental interest in this testing. Of the 30 adult caregivers who participated, 80% had heard of genetic testing, whereas only 30% knew about genetic testing specifically for HCM. Once informed of the availability, 62% said they would consider testing in the future and 28% would consider it in the next year. Participants’ younger age, higher education level, knowledge of carrier testing, and positive view of genetic testing were significantly associated with the participant considering HCM genetic testing for their child (p a parts per thousand currency sign 0.05). Based on a logistic regression model, age, education level, and knowing that HCM is an inherited disease were the best predictors of who would consider genetic testing. This study provides healthcare providers with a framework to understand caregivers’ knowledge and views of genetic testing, which can be used to improve clinical care for pediatric HCM patients.


Genetically modified and organic crops in developing countries: A review of options for food security

Azadi H, Ho P

BIOTECHNOLOGY ADVANCES    Volume: 28(1): 160-168

Since two decades ago, when the first GM crops were introduced, there have increasingly been hot debates on the applications of gene manipulation. Currently, the development of GM crop varieties has raised a wide range of new legal, ethical and economic questions in agriculture. There is a growing body of literature reflecting the socio-economic and environmental impacts of GM crops which aims to criticize their value for farming systems. While organic crops are promoted as environmentally-friendly products in developed countries, they have provoked great controversy in developing countries facing food security and a low agricultural productivity. Discussion has been especially vigorous when organic farming was introduced as an alternative method. There are in fact, a few tradeoffs in developing countries. On the one hand, farmers are encouraged to accept and implement GM crops because of their higher productivity, while on the other hand, organic farming is encouraged because of socio-economic and environmental considerations. A crucial question facing such countries is therefore, whether GM crops can co-exist with organic farming. This paper aims to review the main considerations and tradeoffs.


There are also a series of papers and commentaries in the Cambridge Quarterley Healthcare Ethics journal:

Human rights and genetic technologies.

Hester DM, Swota A.

Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2010 Winter;19(1):126-7.

Bioethics and human rights: curb your enthusiasm.

Fenton E, Arras JD.

Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2010 Winter;19(1):127-33.

Human rights and American bioethics: resistance is futile.

Authors: Annas GJ.

Camb Q Healthc Ethics. 2010 Winter;19(1):133-41; discussion 141-50.

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