Genomics is the study of an organism's whole hereditary information that is present in its genes (DNA) and the use of its genes. It deals with the use of genome information associated with other information to provide answers in biology and medicine.
Genomic research may greatly change the practice of health care. But genomic research alone is not enough to apply this new knowledge to improving human health. We need to carefully study the many ethical, legal and social issues raised by this research. Such study is crucial to being able to use genomic research to help patients and to preventing misuse of new genetic technologies and information.
Ethical, legal and social issues raised by genomic research include:
Controversial issues such as cloning, stem cell research and eugenics also need to be carefully studied.
Since the beginning of the Human Genome Project, the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) has understood the need to address these issues as part of advancing the science of genomic research. We have an Ethical, Legal and Social Implications (ELSI) program, which is the federal government's largest funding source for study of these issues. Within NHGRI, the Division of Policy, Communications, and Education (DPCE) examines the intersection of ELSI issues with legislative policy and provides recommendations for federal policy and legislation. NHGRI also works to increase public awareness of ELSI issues in genomic research.
To learn more about ethics and policy topics and other resources for more information, follow these links to the Policy and Ethics section of this website.
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Last Updated: October 31, 2013