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 In Review

Writing the secret formula

In case you missed it, Jonathan Gitlin at Ars Technica published an article  Misunderstanding the genome: A (polite) rant  focussed on biggest misconceptions revolving around our genome data. (Gitlin was at the National Institutes of Health, NIH,  before joining Ars Technica)

Here were my favorite quotes from the Ars Technica article


Genes aren’t destiny

“Here we get to another misconception: screening tests and diagnostic tests are not the same. Genetic (or genomic, where multiple genes are analyzed) screening tests don’t always tell you if someone has a disease. Rather, they’re typically probabilistic—they tell you if you’ve got a greater chance of a problem than the average person. Even an increased risk compared to the general population is still just that: a risk.”

Misconception = The FDA is in my way

“In many discussions about this topic, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes appearances as an evil gatekeeper preventing us from knowing our DNA. Here too there is misunderstanding. Yes, the FDA told personal genomics company 23andMe that it had to stop marketing the health aspects of its product until it had demonstrated the clinical validity of its claims. But that’s exactly the reason that the FDA was created in the first place.” (23andMe has since had FDA approval)

Misconception = If I get tested, my insurance will go up

“On the face of it, this is not an unreasonable fear in the US. But even before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) stopped insurers from refusing to cover pre-existing conditions, Congress passed a law banning them from using genetic information in this manner. The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) makes it illegal for someone to deny you health insurance based on a genetic predisposition, as long as that disease hasn’t manifested. The law was actually passed in 2008, but public awareness remains unfortunately low. (GINA doesn’t apply to life insurance, long-term care insurance, or disability insurance.)”


Be sure to read the full article to get even more insights. Nice work Mr. Gitlin, nice work.

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