Quick Note: Time Magazine Focus on DNA and What We May Learn

Just  a very short note, spurred by this entry in the Family Matters blog over at Time Magazine.   It appears that the whole issue (which I have not yet seen) is focused on kids and DNA.  It does not appear to me that the issue focuses particularly on ART or use of third-party gametes or anything directly tied to what we often talk about here.  But I’ve frequently wondered about what direct knowledge of our DNA will bring–in terms of screening and testing, say.   Or in terms of selecting genetic materials to use.  Or in terms of understanding the risks we all face in the future.   Direct knowledge of genetics, for example, probably makes family medical history a good deal less important.

As I said, I haven’t read it yet so I’ve nothing to say.  But it sure looks like it is worth a look and I will patiently wait for my magazine to arrive.

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2 responses to “Quick Note: Time Magazine Focus on DNA and What We May Learn

  1. It is just a tease about the full article. But they ask the question how much do we really want to know? I have a preference for the organic accumulation of knowledge which is lost whenever families separate. Maybe organic is the wrong word.

    I had a lot of miscarriages. I held my little boy when he was born and he was opening his mouth and I asked them if he was hungry and they said no he can’t breath his lungs did not develop and he was too tiny to save so we held him in our arms until he died. They put a leaf with a tear drop on the door of my hospital room to warn nurses that my baby died. It was so sad it hurt so much. They tested his placenta it was full of clots and they tested me and I had something called Thrombofila. My Dad’s sister called me and said that she thought my grandmother was there in spirt to make sure I got to hold my baby and call for a priest to baptize him because they took all of her babies away and told her she could not see them and she did not know what they did with their bodies. I’d forgotten my Father had brothers that died at birth. I’d forgotten that all the women in Dad’s family gave birth to dead babies. We all forgot. My Dad and Mom were tested and it was him that carried the gene. Learning that extended his life because they changed his heart medication to deal with the clotting disorder. Learning that enabled me to finally give birth to a healthy child it took shots of blood thinner in my belly twice a day till it was black and blue but she lived. And now when she gets pregnant they’ll treat her as high risk right away and she won’t go through what I went through or my grandmother went through. Maybe I won’t have a stroke the way my relatives did because of this knowledge gained late in life. I had to go through those losses to find out and the next generation will learn from that. Had I donated eggs who knows all those women might have miscarried or those babies would never have the benefit of knowing they carry this gene. May father did not learn he had it till something went wrong with me – information is a two way street.

    I don’t know if it would be beneficial to know it all in advance. There are women cutting off their perfectly healthy breasts to avoid breast cancer because they carry a gene. There is something peaceful about simply evolving through shared knowledge. Maybe a DNA scan can tell us everything we need to know in advance so it makes human interaction passe. There is something valuable that happens when people talk and when we witness things with our own eyes. I can’t put my finger on it so maybe I’m just being sentimental.

  2. I think there is no doubt that we learn (or can learn) a great deal from family medical history and your point that this information flow can work both ways (so that your father learned from your sad experience) is important. Also as you say, all I linked to are brief glimpses of whatever is actually in the article.

    It is striking to think about how much information has become available via genetic testing in my own lifetime. Genetic predispositions for hundreds of diseases can be determined. It’s tempting to think we’d be happier if we knew our futures. (I understand this is not the same as being able to deal with present disease or illness.) But genetic testing doesn’t really tell the future and sometimes a little knowledge is a dangerous–or at least a difficult–thing.

    Your post has made me wonder whether we will too quickly discard what we can learn from medical family histories as we are given access to more and more direct genetic information. I wonder, for example, if there are poorly understood interactions so that simply having the genetic testing will give us only a limited picture.

    It’s all outside the range of my knowledge, but I am reminded that we (and I) ought not to put too much faith in the wonders of science.

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