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2008 National DNA Day Online Chatroom Transcript

This is just one question from an archive of the National DNA Day Moderated Chat held in April 2008. The NHGRI Director and many genomics experts from across NHGRI took questions from students, teachers and the general public on topics ranging from basic genomic research, to the genetic basis of disease, to ethical questions about genetic privacy.

Why don't we talk about good human genes? Why only defective genes?
     Jean McEwen, J.D., Ph.D.: Working on issues related to the ethical, legal, and social implications of genetic and genomic research. Good point - since most genetic differences among people are neither inherently "good" nor "bad" - they are just differences! In fact, some genetic variants that are associated with a particular disease make the person who has them LESS susceptible to OTHER diseases. A good example is the genetic change associated with sickle cell disease, which confers resistance to malaria. Even terms like "defective genes" or "genetic defect" are really misleading, because they suggest that people who have the "defective" variant of the gene are in some way "defective" - which is not true. ALL of us carry a number of genes that are associated with a higher risk of developing certain diseases - there are no "perfect genetic specimens"!
ABABU Center for Biological Information Technology, RAJAHMUNDRY, INDIA (teacher)

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