Who Owns Your Genes? Hint: Not You.
You think you own the right to your own genetics, but actually someone else owns 20 percent of your genes. How can that be? Biotech companies are snatching up the patent rights.
What's the Latest Development?
When Lisbeth Ceriani was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer at age 42, it was a sure sign to her doctors that genetics were in play. After overcoming the cancer, she wanted to know what were the chances of contracting it again. The best way for her to find out was to test her BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. "If mutations are found, the risk of getting breast cancer is five times more likely. The risk of getting ovarian cancer is 40 times more likely. But the test is patented by a biotech company called Myriad Genetics." Because the test was expensive and not entirely covered by Ceriani's insurance, it took her a year and a half to secure a grant to fund the test.
What's the Big Idea?
Genetics professor Steven Salzberg, Ph.D., University of Maryland, says that while companies like Myriad Genetics should not be able to patent individual genes because they are products of nature, they are currently allowed to: "They basically own those genes. If you want to look at a gene that's patented from your own genome, you have to pay a licensing fee to the patent holder." The advance of technology may right this wrong before the law does: "Right now, it costs $10,000 to get your genome sequenced. But experts say in a few years, that cost will be less than $1,000. Then it will be possible to have your genes sequenced for all inherited mutations."
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How you talk to people with drug addiction might save their life.
- Addiction is a learning disorder; it's not a sign that someone is a bad person.
- Tough love doesn't help drug-addicted people. Research shows that the best way to get people help is through compassion, empathy and support. Approach them as an equal human being deserving of respect.
- As a first step to recovery, Maia Szalavitz recommends the family or friends of people with addiction get them a complete psychiatric evaluation by somebody who is not affiliated with any treatment organization. Unfortunately, warns Szalavitz, some people will try to make a profit off of an addicted person without informing them of their full options.
Meanwhile, Spaniards are the least likely to say their culture is superior to others.
- Survey by Pew Research Center shows great variation in chauvinism across Europe.
- Eight most chauvinist countries are in the east, and include Russia.
- British much more likely than French (and slightly more likely than Germans) to say their culture is "superior" to others.
China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.
- China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
- In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
- The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
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