Tuesday, February 07, 2006

DNA databases...

Back in April 2005 (21st to be precise), I attended a public debate entitled DNA Profiling and You: Do genetic databases threaten or benefit society? at the Nowgen Centre in Manchester.

I heard that when the databases were initiated in 1999 it was only admisable to take DNA samples from individuals who had been convicted of a crime, but was astounded that since then the laws have been relaxed to such an extent that samples are routinely taken by people who are arrested even if they are acquited of the crime for which they were arrested. This was verified by a friend of mine who was arrested but never charged, yet was obliged (under the threat of force) to provide a DNA sample.

Recent articles in the news are highlighted in this months Nature Reviews Genetics, and highlights not only the racial bias that exists within the UK database, but the rapid expansion that it has undergone (see the article here if you can access it).

I was astounded to read that only ten microsatellites are used for typing individuals as this seems exceptionally small (in the future I may do some simulations to investigate the statistical probabilites of finding matches by chance alone with such a small sample size if time permits).

I do not wish to comment on the moral or ethical implications of collecting such databases, but find it amazing that such databases exist and continue to expand relatively unchecked. It is heinous that samples can be taken and retained freely, particularly in light of the extensive legal and ethical standards that organised medical research projects have to adhere to when applying for and executing medical research.


DNA database continues to swelll (BBC News, 04/01/2006)


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