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WikiLeaks Sheds Light on Genetic Espionage

If you thought the WikiLeaks documents had nothing to do with science, think again. A pair of cables caught the interest of Genomics Law Report's Dan Vorhaus — one alleging that Chinese government officials are spying on Decode Genetics, and the second revealing that the US State Department's intelligence gathering work on key world leaders includes requests for "biometric information" like health information, fingerprints, and DNA. The WikiLeaks documents don't disclose why the State Department wants this information or if any of it has been successfully obtained, Vorhaus says, but they do serve as a reminder that the law surrounding the collection and testing of such data remains "extremely murky." Concerns about surreptitious testing and so-called "genome hacking" have grown, Vorhaus says, and that GINA offers limited protection against such use of genetic material. "The leaked State Department communiqués raise important questions to which we do not have clear answers. In particular: under what circumstances is the surreptitious collection of biometric data, including genetic data, appropriate?" Vorhaus asks. As the price of genetic sequencing continues to fall, and genetic information becomes increasingly accessible, it's time to push for a legal framework that will protect people against unauthorized use of their genetic code, he adds.

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.