The Age of Biotech

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An Inborn Talent Genetic Test? Unlikely

One test captures much of what's wrong with personal genomics.

Direct-to-consumer genetic testing is a growing yet controversial industry, offering customers the ability to learn about their genomes without the involvement of a medical professional or genetic counselor. With the Food and Drug Administration halting the sale of Pathway Genomics kits in Walgreens, UC Berkeley's gene tests for incoming students, and Congressional hearings, personal genetic testing has been receiving much public attention, often critical.

These products raise a spectrum of concerns. For example, their sales pitches often prey upon both our insecurities and "genism," the media's tendency to report overly simplistic relationships between genes and behavior or health. And some products are scientifically questionable, such as genetic tests for romantic compatibility.

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The "Inborn Talent Genetic Test," one of two tests offered by Singapore-based My Gene Profile, may embody all that is wrong with direct-to-consumer genetic testing. Echoing genetic testing of children in China, it targets anxious parents, particularly those of children with behavioral problems. Its sprawling website states:

Parents are seeking Inborn Talent Genetic Test on their children in order to take the guess work out of making talent related decisions.

When we, My Gene Profile reveal to you your child's Inborn Talent Genetic Test results you will have the unique DNA knowledge to make clear and correct decisions. You can use the results to know exactly what you need to do make the right decisions about your child's future!

It goes on to offer the Inborn Talent Genetic Test (an $8871 value!) for only $1397. It purportedly tests for 40 gene variants, in eight categories and strangely numbered up to 68:

(1) Character

1  Optimism Gene
2  Risk Taking Gene
3  Sociable Gene
5  Persistence Gene
6  Shyness Gene
8  Composure Gene
9. Split Personality Gene
11  Depression Gene
12  Impulsive Gene
13  Attentiveness/Focused Gene
15  Mould-abiltiy/Adaptability Gene

(2) Intelligence (IQ)

19  Creative Gene
21  Analytical/Thinking Gene
23  Comprehension Gene
25  Memory Gene
26  Intelligence Gene

(3) Emotion (EQ)

28 Affectionate Gene
29 Faithfulness/Loyalty Gene
30 Passion/Enthusiasm Gene
31 Propensity for Teenage Romance Gene
34 Sensitivity/Sentimentality Gene

(4) Artistic Gene

35 Performing Gene
37 Musical Gene
38 Drawing Gene
40 Dancing Gene
42 Linguistic/Literature Gene

(5) Sport

44 Endurance Gene
46 Explosive Power Gene
49 Technique/Skill Gene

(6) Environment

49 Sensitivity to Second-Hand Smoke Gene
51 Insensitivity to Second-Hand Smoke Gene

(7) Health

51 Myopia Gene
55 Obesity Gene
57 General Wellness Gene

(8) Addiction

59 General Addiction/Obsession (Internet, Games, TV)
61 Self Detoxifying Gene
63 Alcoholism Gene
65 Smoking Gene
67 Anti Intoxication Gene
68 Alcohol Intoxication Gene

Not surprisingly, the site provides no further information on these genes. "Buyer beware," to say the least.

Jesse Reynolds is a former researcher for the Center for Genetics and Society.

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