Genetic Testing: A New Improvement Or A New Age of Social Injustice

    The “You and the World” project targets students to focus on world issues that they are interested in and seek to find a possible solution for that problem. It is also a debate-related project that the students argue though different aspects and their view of the issue. 

     My topic for the "You and the World” project is Genetic Testing: A New Improvement In Our Lives Or A New Era of Social Injustice. I specially chose this topic because I am fascinated by my own identity based on my DNA. To first know myself is an essential step to interact and associate with other people based on the knowledge of my personality, behavior, and etc. 

      Imagine you could one day look at your genome straight from your tablet. This scenario was thought to be an inconceivable task decades ago. But, as the Human Genome project took an remarkable achievement in humanity, sequencing genomes is possible. But, it would took $350,000 and an extensive time to sequence one genome. But, everything was starting to change as new technology made sequencing genomes faster and less costly (less than $500). It may gave rise to an era about self-acknowledgement or, is it? 

​Figure 1: It shows the amount of people who took genetic tests based on the four categories, predictive test, affected mutation search, and research mutation search. In the recent years, the amount of people taking genetic tests increased. 

     As the society’s population began to grow and countries get crowder, more diseases and bacteria thrived. The need for new medicine are at constant need. A simple genetic test could detect an individual’s mutated genes and design a type of personalized medicine based on his or her DNA. It is could be a new treatment for cancer. It means that the government will not have to spend as much as millions of dollars for patients with a severe and rare disease that are not familiar in hospitals. 

     Despite its advantage, these medicine are expensive (up to $294,000 per year). Not everyone will be eligible for personalized medicine because it could be only used in patients who have a mutated actionable gene. Even if it is proven that these medicines and chemical compounds have some affect on cancer, the cancer will sometimes come back to the patients body. So, how high is the cure rate? Is it worth spending hundreds and thousands of dollars? 

      Biotech companies, like DeCode me, and 23andMe placed a feature called the odds calculator to predict the possibility for that individual to contact certain diseases. To avoid these risks, people will adjust their lifestyle, prevent, and ask for treatment before the illness strikes. It means that people’s health rates and life-expectancy of the world will increase. However, sometimes people could not distinguish from possibilities that have countless variations from facts. Therefore, resulting the individual to be overwhelmed by results that are tested by only a fraction of their total genome.   

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​Figure 2: This is a flash drive that holds an individual's genome. It comes from a biotech company that uses a famous Greek quote, "Know thyself" as their message. 

    As the world seeks for new scientific achievements to make our lives easier it could result a new age of social injustice. The advancement toward personalized medicine means that hospitals and labs like, illumina could have a chance to accidentally leaking people’s DNA to public. Say if you want to be employ to a job, but the interviewer will not consider you because of a high chance you will get Parkinson’s disease based on your DNA. 

    There is a Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) that guarantee security and privacy for all people’s genome results, but who will stop the economy from choosing the best people into their companies, colleges, athletes, and etc? Even with the protection of the GINA, will it prevent any and all future possible invasions of privacy toward genetic information as this technology become more and more popular and efficient? Will we proceed into the society featured in “Gattaca”?

To view my bibliography, click here


Comments (2)

Alaina Silverman (Student 2015)
Alaina Silverman

Ming, I noticed that you bring up great points such as the potential horror of people receiving fewer opportunities, because of a genetic 'defect' that was leaked to the public. I wonder if you could have explained the bar chart more, it has interesting information. What if you consolidated your paragraphs a bit? Some of them are talking about similar things but are at opposite ends of the paper. It makes the reading a bit disjointed.

Alisha Rothwell (Student 2015)
Alisha Rothwell

Hello Mingxue,

I notice that you started your blog by letting everyone that this is a you in the world project. I wonder if you could have not started with it because you come off as you are only doing it because you have to for a project and not because you want to. What if you could have made your information a little smaller and combined together.