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Keeping DNA 'all in the family'
Date:10/6/2009

sion makers weigh in a number of factors. "When the societal benefits appear to outweigh the privacy risks, such as with DNA samples from disease-specific biobanks or tissues from children with paediatric diseases we suggest that the non-consented children's DNA could be distributed in the same manner as before to outside researchers, while taking appropriate safeguards," says Dr. Gurwitz.

"There are many new initiatives for children's biobanks taking place all around the world now, from the U.S. to China, yet we feel that not enough attention is being paid to addressing what could be serious concerns for the future privacy of participating children," he adds.

Avoiding future genetic discrimination

"We can expect that the today's younger generation will live a long and healthy life as active members of society, and we need to protect their future privacy," Dr. Gurwitz reasons. "What if a child whose parents donate her DNA today to a population biobank becomes a future candidate of a future national election campaign, and an opponent comes up with tell-tale hints to health risks carried in her DNA sequence?" Fifty years from now such data could be used to discriminate against people who want to take a mortgage, attend a private school, or immigrate to a new country, Dr. Gurwitz adds.

Dr. Gurwitz spoke at an European Science Foundation Biobanks meeting last year, where he first suggested new guidelines for access by researchers to DNA collected from children. While research on children's DNA pushes full-steam ahead, Dr. Dr. Gurwitz and his colleagues want researchers to start openly discussing the ethics concerning biobanked children's DNA.

Through his work at TAU's unique NLGIP biobank, Dr. Gurwitz has seen firsthand how complex the issues of protecting the genetic details of individuals can be. The biobank he safeguards contains several thousand DNA samples, taken from consenting adult and healthy Israeli in
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Contact: George Hunka
ghunka@aftau.org
212-742-9070
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Source:Eurekalert  

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