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Benefits and Harms

In a new report, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics in the UK takes a look at personal genetic profiling. Benefits of genetic testing the council names include access to information, the possibility of early intervention, and more personal control, while the harms include the costs of a test that may give indefinite information and the cost of having that information, such as when nothing can be done about a reported risk or when the information is difficult to interpret or inaccurate. The report also discusses the clinical validity and utility of the tests as well as the psychological impact. The council concludes that "although personal genetic profiling for disease susceptibility to common multifactorial conditions has a number of benefits and offers people the freedom to access information about themselves ... they often offer low clinical validity and utility." The council recommends that government authorities should investigate clinical claims made by testing companies and provide consumers information about genetic testing, but does not recommend preventing people from buying the tests.

"Commercial genetic profiling services may seem to be providing more choice to consumers, but the test results can be unreliable and difficult to interpret and they are often offered to people with little or no genetic counselling or support," says Christopher Hood, chair of group that produced the report, according to Scientific Blogging.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.