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Gene testing: A lot of parents want it for their kids

July 20, 2010|By Rosie Mestel, Los Angeles Times

Ahoy, parents out there: How do you feel about a DNA test that could tell you what genetic risks your kids carry for medical problems such as heart disease, diabetes and more?

A nationally representative poll of 1,461 parents suggests a great many of us would like to use such at-home genetic tests for our children. In findings from the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, 53% said they were very or somewhat interested in such tests, for the most part because they hoped it would help them prevent disease in their kids.

Those parents who weren't interested — 47% — cited various reasons why not. One major reason was the worry the results would bring them. Another was fear of discrimination against their kids on the basis of the results.

Here's the full report on parents attitudes toward gene tests.

Such tests are already available — not only ones that offer disease-risk data but also ones far wackier-sounding. Just a few days ago we blogged on the marketing of DNA talent tests for kids — way-ahead-of-the-science tests that promise to reveal to you your children's true talents, true personality, true likes and dislikes.

But the Food and Drug Administration isn't a fan of these direct-to-consumer genetic tests and is considering regulating them like medical devices. The agency's concern is that what started out as a system of very specific tests used in doctors' offices for diagnosis has grown into an industry in which consumers can buy tests without involvement of a doctor, and these tests are often focused on raised risks for very common diseases. The FDA worries that consumers may use them to make medical decisions. In June, the FDA sent letters to five high-profile companies that offer such tests. And it just held a public meeting on the topic.

Here's a Q&A that Newsweek did with FDA official Alberto Gutierrez, director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics in the Center for Devices and Radiological Health, on the reason for the crackdown.

And finally, if you're interested in following the developments in this and other aspects of DNA law, check out the website of the Genomics Law Report.

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