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A 'Flawed' Plan

The UK's Border Agency is beginning a six-month pilot project to use DNA testing to determine the nationalities of people seeking asylum, reports the Observer. In conjunction with language analysis, interviews, and other techniques, the agency hopes to limit bogus claims in which people from one country are saying they are from another — particularly focusing on people claiming to be from Somalia — to increase their chances of receiving asylum. According to ScienceInsider, researchers have called this program "horrifying," "naïve," and "flawed" and that the agency is "[confusing] ancestry or ethnicity with nationality." Imperial College London's David Balding adds that "genes don't respect national borders, as many legitimate citizens are migrants or direct descendants of migrants, and many national borders split ethnic groups."

Genetic Future's Daniel MacArthur also weighs in:

I'm skeptical that we have sufficient data on patterns of genetic variation within Africa to be able to use it to guide accurate decisions; until the Border Agency can demonstrate publicly that its models for geographical ancestry prediction is robust it would be inhumane to use them to decide on a refugee's fate.

ScienceInsider also has a list of key questions, such as which markers are being tested — the answer is that it's not known — here.

The Scan

Positive Framing of Genetic Studies Can Spark Mistrust Among Underrepresented Groups

Researchers in Human Genetics and Genomics Advances report that how researchers describe genomic studies may alienate potential participants.

Small Study of Gene Editing to Treat Sickle Cell Disease

In a Novartis-sponsored study in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that a CRISPR-Cas9-based treatment targeting promoters of genes encoding fetal hemoglobin could reduce disease symptoms.

Gut Microbiome Changes Appear in Infants Before They Develop Eczema, Study Finds

Researchers report in mSystems that infants experienced an enrichment in Clostridium sensu stricto 1 and Finegoldia and a depletion of Bacteroides before developing eczema.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia Treatment Specificity Enhanced With Stem Cell Editing

A study in Nature suggests epitope editing in donor stem cells prior to bone marrow transplants can stave off toxicity when targeting acute myeloid leukemia with immunotherapy.