1. Salah & Diana had their newborn son, Malik, tested for several
genetic disorders. Their son did have galactosemia, which, untreated,
causes severe brain damage and death. Fortunately, with early diagnosis,
the disease can be managed by diet. Malik's growth and development
have been completely normal and at 5 years old, he is healthy and
thriving. Recently, Salah changed jobs, his new insurance company
notified the family that Malik is considered high risk because of
another gene that predisposes him to high cholesterol. The insurance
company found Malik's early DNA tests through a company that stores
and sells information.
a. Did Malik's parents make a mistake by having this optional
genetic testing on their newborn?
b. Does the insurance company have the right to deny insurance
to this family?
c. What laws should exist to govern the use of information in
d. A biotech company also bought Malik's DNA tests; and scientists
discovered a new tumor suppressor gene in his DNA that may cure
several types of cancer. Who owns this gene? Should this gene
be used to develop an anticancer drug? Who gets the profits?
e. Assume that Malik's DNA test showed that he has the Alzheimer's
gene; should he be told?
2. Months of drought followed by months of rain have caused repeated
crop failure in sub-Saharan Africa leaving 18 million people with
little food. Couples often have as many as nine children because
only one survives to adulthood. An American biotech company has
genetically engineered wheat seeds that produce high-protein, drought-resistant
plants. The U.S. is considering providing the seeds to the African
a. Will this result in over-population if nine healthy children
survive in each family?
b. Will this create dependency on the West?
c. What will happen during the rainy season if the wheat doesn't
d. Who's responsible if, 5 years from now, it is found that this
high-protein wheat causes allergies?
3. Researchers at Splicedna Company identified an anti-retroviral
protein in a deep sea sponge. The researchers have cloned the gene
in Escherichia coli bacteria and the bacteria are making large quantities
of this protein. Clinical trials of the purified protein show it
kills HIV and the FDA has approved use of this drug in humans. Treatment
costs $20 per month.
a. Should this drug be available to all HIV/AIDS patients, including
low-income and homeless people?
b. AIDS is the leading cause of death in Africa. Should this drug
be made available to people in less developed countries, such
c. Whose responsibility is it to make this drug available to everyone
who needs it?
d. Would your answer to question a change if the cost was $500/month?
4. One group of enzymes encoded by the cytochrome p450 genes breaks
down most of the drugs we use in our bodies. Individuals with some
forms of the cytochrome p450 genes are likely to show adverse reactions
to about 100 common drugs ranging from asthma and psychiatric medications
to over-the-counter St. John's Wort. Normal doses of drugs are ineffective
for individuals with other forms of cytochrome p450. Signature Genetics
has produced a test for variations in the cytochrome p450. The test
costs $2000 and comes with a 50-page analysis for the patient and
a. Should every patient be tested for cytochrome P450?
b. Who is responsible if a disease is not cured because this test
c. Who should pay for the test?
d. Who should be responsible for reading the 50-page report? What
should be done after reading it?
5. The Omnichip is a DNA test for variations in 100 genes. Roberto's
insurance pays for the OmniChip test for his family. The test shows
that his daughter does not have a mutant breast cancer (BRCA) gene,
however, his son shows a predisposition to heart disease. This heart
disease can be avoided with lifestyle and dietary choices.
a. Who bears the responsibility of educating children about lifestyle
b. Who bears the responsibility for a child's risk avoidance and
surveillance? For an adult?
c. The OmniChip can't find every BRCA mutation. What are the implications
of a false negative for Jose's daughter?