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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "genetics"

The search for the “gay gene”

Westlake Legal Group GeneEditing The search for the “gay gene” The Blog Science LGBT genetics geneology gay

When this report first came out last week I didn’t feel tempted to write about it, but it did lead to a lengthy and interesting discussion with some friends on social media. It involves the release of the results of a study conducted in Great Britain and the United States that’s being billed as the biggest study ever conducted on genetics and same-sex attraction. I’ll have to confess… I was kind of shocked at the conclusions. But long story short, while some possible correlations were noted, they concluded that there is no single “gay gene” that determines your sexual orientation. (NBC News)

The largest study to date on genetics and same-sex sexual behavior was published last week, and it concluded something many queer people have been saying for a long time: Sexual orientation is complicated and can’t be explained away by a single “gay gene.”

This takeaway pushes back on what seemed like a resolute determination among earlier scientists to show sexual orientation is a product simply of biology, while it also backs up millions of us who’ve discussed our varied experiences regarding our sexualities. And it helps clarify where the priorities of LGBTQ people should be in fighting for civil rights in the political and legal arenas.

Sexual orientation is complicated and can’t be explained away by a single “gay gene.”

The author goes on to offer a number of arguments as to why this study should never have been published, many of which have been around for ages and are worth consideration. Gays and lesbians have long been concerned over the possible discovery of the mythical gay gene because that information could be misused in the wrong hands. What if someone wanted to push the research in another direction and develop a “cure?” Or would parents begin prenatal screening and start aborting gay babies? Prior to recent changes in policy, there were suggestions the military might start screening blood tests of recruits and rejecting those that “failed the straight test.”

Much of my surprise was no doubt due to my highly limited, layman’s understanding of genetics. For some reason, I had always assumed that there would be some sort of definitive gay gene or genes. After all, there seem to be specific genes dictating every aspect of our makeup that we look at. There are genes that determine whether individuals find the taste of a particular food or spice pleasant, bitter and awful, or they detect no taste at all. There are genes that seem to predict whether you will prefer coffee or tea. Why wouldn’t something so fundamental as your sexual orientation be driven by something hiding in your double helix?

But then I was reminded by some of the people I was chatting with of some other factors to consider. One of the biggest was the idea that, aside from random mutations in each generation, genes are passed down from parents to children. The elephant in the room here should be obvious. How would a gene be passed down if its primary function was to make you vastly less likely to engage in the activities required to produce children? Good question.

In the end, will any of this matter? I highly doubt it. People are just people, straight, gay or in between. And while we have mapped the human genome, precisely what all of those tiny strands are up to will probably remain a mystery for a long time to come. In fact, most researchers appear to believe that most genes don’t “act alone” for any particular result, with the outcome depending on combinations of multiple genes. And some “turn on” or “turn off” at various points in our lives, so the picture is constantly shifting. So I’m not drawing any conclusions here. I just find the science behind it fascinating.

The post The search for the “gay gene” appeared first on Hot Air.

Westlake Legal Group GeneEditing-300x159 The search for the “gay gene” The Blog Science LGBT genetics geneology gay  Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

We’d like a sample of your dog’s DNA for poop purposes

Westlake Legal Group wed-like-a-sample-of-your-dogs-dna-for-poop-purposes We’d like a sample of your dog’s DNA for poop purposes The Blog genetics dogs DNA Animals

Westlake Legal Group DogSleepingCouchAwkward715 We’d like a sample of your dog’s DNA for poop purposes The Blog genetics dogs DNA Animals

It’s really annoying when people take their dogs out for a walk and don’t clean up after them, isn’t it? Being a dog owner/walker myself, I always make sure to bring a plastic bag along with me to clean up after Jake and I have pointed out to others that they should do likewise when I see someone being negligent. And yet, not everyone is so responsible, but what do we do about it? One apartment complex in Pennsylvania has come up with a rather unique solution. They’re building a DNA database of all the dogs that live there so they can send offending samples found on the grass out for analysis. (CBS Philadelphia)

A Delaware County apartment complex is going to extreme lengths to deal with residents who don’t clean up after their dogs. The Governor Sproul Apartments in Marple Township is swabbing dogs to get their DNA.

“They’re asking all of their pet owners to get DNA from their dogs,” said Rose Renzulli.

Governor Sproul management has grown tired of “party pooper tenants” not picking up after their four-legged friends. They even offer free bags and a friendly reminder to clean up.

“I didn’t realize we had a dog doo problem,” one resident said.

So how does your average apartment manager go about setting up a lab and building a doggy DNA database? She doesn’t. They have owners swab their dogs and send the sample out to a place called Poo Prints. (Yes, that’s a real service.) The company, which describes itself at their website as “a proven dog poop management service,” enters each dog’s DNA into the DNA World Pet Registry database.

Then, when anyone finds an unscooped “sample” on the apartment complex grounds, maintenance workers collect some of it and mail it off to Poo Prints, where it’s tested against the known database of registered dogs. If they get a match, the owner can be fined up to $250, along with being shamed by all their neighbors, no doubt.

My first question (of many) was how they could get everyone in compliance. If you’re someone who regularly lets your dog poop on the public square without cleaning it up, why would you submit a DNA sample? Turns out that the apartment complex is making compliance with the DNA swabbing part of their lease agreement.

You can see this sort of thing spiraling out of control quickly. Pretty soon all of the shelters and pet stores could be coerced into providing DNA samples of every dog they adopt or sell. Once the database is large enough, they’d have a record of a majority of pets along with where they live sooner or later. I know the police would dearly love to have a complete database of every human being in the country, but you pesky privacy advocates seem to be opposed to that. The dogs don’t have any lawyers (or constitutional rights for that matter), however, so this could really happen.

Orwellian or just good property management? You be the judge.

The post We’d like a sample of your dog’s DNA for poop purposes appeared first on Hot Air.

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Is IVF going too far?

Westlake Legal Group scientist Is IVF going too far? The Blog pregnancy in vitro fertilization genetics

A couple of days ago we looked at a new poll showing that a majority of Americans are okay with gene editing of human babies if it was only done to eliminate diseases which are inheritable. The public drew the line, however, at the idea of “designer babies” who would be modified to be taller, stronger, more beautiful, etc. That discussion got me to thinking about another increasingly common practice in the medical community where such custom-designed children are already being born.

It’s the subject of a report in the Washington Post from this weekend and it deals with in vitro fertilization (IVF). To be clear, this procedure doesn’t involve any form of gene editing or CRISPR technology. But it does offer prospective parents the option of picking from as many different embryos as they can afford to have produced in a lab. And the options on the menu include many factors having nothing to do with health or the prevention of disease. In fact, some of the selection criteria are currently illegal in other countries.

While many countries have moved in recent years to impose boundaries on assisted reproduction, the U.S. fertility industry remains largely unregulated and routinely offers services outlawed elsewhere. As a result, the United States has emerged as a popular destination for IVF patients from around the world seeking controversial services — not just sex selection, but commercial surrogacy, anonymous sperm donation and screening for physical characteristics such as eye color.

This freewheeling approach has been good for business; the U.S. fertility industry is estimated to be worth as much as $5.8 billion this year. But as technological advances outpace any social consensus on such forms of reproductive intervention, discomfort with the hands-off status quo is rising.

Last month, news that a U.S.-educated Chinese researcher had created the world’s first gene-edited infants reignited a debate over the morality of “designer babies.” Some scientific leaders blasted the effort, which purported to make the babies resistant to HIV infection, and urged the U.S. government to step in.

Perhaps it’s something of a uniquely American perspective (plus Cyprus and the United Arab Emirates), but I’ve always taken IVF for granted as just another medical miracle of the 20th century which was a good thing. Infertile couples can go to a doctor’s office, have eggs and sperm combined to create viable embryos, implant them in the mother and welcome a new baby into the world. What’s not to like, right?

But as the “screening” process for the embryos has become more and more intricate, the concerns mentioned above are growing as well. Just as we saw in the poll about genetic editing, nobody seems to have a problem with doctors doing testing on the embryos and selecting the ones with the least propensity for medical problems further down the line. But once you open the curtains and take a peek into the baby’s DNA, there’s all of that other tempting information waiting to be discovered. How can parents resist having a look?

The easiest one to single out is the sex of the baby. Allowing parents to preselect either a boy or a girl seems harmless enough at first. But other countries outlaw the practice. In Great Britain, it’s illegal for IVF clinics to screen for gender. (Of course, it’s assumed that most of the clinics quietly “mention” the gender in passing without telling anyone else, so it’s almost certainly going on.) Is that morally unacceptable?

Today’s technology allows the clinics to go much further than that. In America, you can screen for other factors, such as picking an embryo that will produce a baby with blue eyes or blond hair. You can even get an indication of which baby will likely grow up to be taller. There’s obviously a procedural difference between editing the genes of an embryo and selecting the “best” one out of a batch of eggs that were fertilized with the father’s sperm, but isn’t the end result the same? Aren’t we allowing IVF parents to engage in the creation of designer babies?

More to the point, IVF was originally intended as a procedure to help infertile couples conceive. But today there are fertile couples going this route just to gain these advantages. And IVF isn’t cheap. Many employee insurance policies don’t even cover it, or only pay a small portion of medical bills that can quickly swell into the tens of thousands of dollars. That certainly sounds like a system where the wealthiest are able to design their own “super babies” while the rest of the great unwashed masses can’t. And wasn’t that the basis of all the objections to human gene editing in the first place?

The big question is what to do about it. I’m uncomfortable with suggesting more government regulation by default. But should we be debating whether or not IVF should be restricted to only couples who are proven infertile? And should clinics be barred from sharing genetic information about the embryos beyond screening for disease or deformity? These are some of the questions we’re probably going to have to wrestle to the ground as the 21st century marches on.

The post Is IVF going too far? appeared first on Hot Air.

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Poll: A shocking number of people are okay with editing baby genes

Westlake Legal Group GeneEditing Poll: A shocking number of people are okay with editing baby genes The Blog genetics editing CRISPR China babies

When we learned that a doctor in China had been editing the genes of human babies using CRISPR technology, you must have known it wasn’t going to end well. (Particularly for him, since the doctor went “missing” shortly thereafter.) The announcement sparked a new round of debate about messing with the human genome, the advent of “designer babies” and the tantalizing possibility of wiping out inherited diseases.

But where do most Americans stand on the subject? We’re still at the relative dawn of this science, at least when it comes to tinkering with human DNA. This technology is fraught with both medical and ethical questions galore. That’s why it came as something of a surprise to me to learn that a recent poll found most Americans are okay with the idea… at least to a point. (Associated Press)

Most Americans say it would be OK to use gene-editing technology to create babies protected against a variety of diseases — but a new poll finds they’d draw the line at changing DNA so children are born smarter, faster or taller.

A month after startling claims of the births of the world’s first gene-edited babies in China, the poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds people are torn between the medical promise of a technology powerful enough to alter human heredity and concerns over whether it will be used ethically.

Jaron Keener, a 31-year-old exhibit designer at Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History, said he’s opposed to “rich people being able to create designer babies.”

While I’m not a doctor of any sort, I find this subject fascinating and try to stay abreast of new developments in the field. With even my limited knowledge of genetics, the questions being addressed in this poll and the general attitude of Americans toward these procedures raise a pair of highly troubling questions.

First of all, despite amazing progress in this science, there are still too many things we don’t know about our own genetic code. Scientists are constantly running into new and unexpected discoveries about all of that supposed “junk DNA” in our cells. It’s not a static system. Genes turn on and then back off at various points in our lives, and even if we have a complete “map” of a person’s genetic structure, that doesn’t mean that we know everything that each gene is responsible for or may be responsible for later in life. We’re figuratively playing with fire here.

Even if we can somehow master all of that knowledge, the apparent desire of the public to allow “just some” genetic editing to end diseases but not to create an army of super-babies is simply unrealistic. Once the genetic genie is out of the bottle, it’s not going back in. There will be a demand for “perfect” children among those who can afford it and the history of the global marketplace shows us that the demand will eventually be met. Heck, there wasn’t supposed to be any gene editing on human babies taking place but it didn’t stop that guy in China. What makes you think we can keep that science locked down?

And even beyond all that, aren’t we already tinkering around enough with the fundamental building blocks of life? It’s bad enough that we’ve got somebody growing a steak in a test tube. (No thank you. Hard pass.) If we’re going to be heading down this road, it needs to be done very slowly and carefully. Edit the genes of some rats for a while and make sure they don’t turn into a species-ending monstrosity a few dozen generations down the line. Then maybe we can talk about experimenting on ourselves.

The post Poll: A shocking number of people are okay with editing baby genes appeared first on Hot Air.

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