Schadt adds, "The significance of our findings goes beyond medicine. For example, barcodes derived from individuals who participated in a research study, where RNA levels were monitored and deposited into publicly available databases, could be tested against DNA samples left at a crime scene as a way of identifying persons of interest."
Deducing a person's DNA sequence from gene expression patterns could have repercussions in health care and privacy. While specific laws and government regulations have been written to protect DNA-based information from misuse, it is unclear whether such laws apply to RNAeven though this study shows that RNA is informative at a deeper level compared to DNA regarding the current state of health of an individual.
"Rather than developing ways to further protect an individual's privacy given the ability to collect mountains of information on him or her, we would be better served by a society that accepts the fact that new types of high-dimensional data reflect deeply on who we are," Dr. Schadt said. "We need to accept the reality that it is difficultif not impossibleto shield personal information from others. It is akin to trying to protect privacy regarding appearances, for example, in a public place."
Dr. Schadt said he hopes the research will catalyze a discussion that might ultimately help resolve privacy debates, and encourage patients to provide data that will help their doctors better diagnose and treat their conditions. Increased access to, and greater quantities of, DNA and other biological information would also contribute to the g
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