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DNA Testing: Hype, Hope, or Harm?

August 21, 2018

Life science technology is evolving at a breathtaking speed, faster than the rules that govern the knowledge we’re amassing. And that makes people nervous.  

Who has my data? How could this be used against me? And, where exactly is my DNA?

The answers are as confusing as the science. That’s because DNA analysis is a huge field of research that is generating an enormous number of applications. And promises. One imagines not only getting tested for diseases, but also for sleep patterns, best places to vacation, and couples’ compatibility.

Naturally, the big question is, “Does a DNA test really protect my privacy?”

The answers are as individual as the players in the industry. And even as the types of tests they perform.

So, let’s break it down.

Genetic profiling is the process of determining the DNA sequence of an individual. It may reveal ethnicity, appearance, the likelihood of developing certain diseases, and even distant familial relations.  The more detailed genetic profiling processes are based on DNA sequencing and are referred to as “Whole Genome Sequencing,” “Next Generation Sequencing,” and “Exome Sequencing.”

As commercialized genetics labs rush the field to find the next reason to test for genetic sequences, DNA privacy is called into question. The handling of DNA samples and the results of genetic analyses vary from company to company. Suffice to say that genetic profiling produces an enormous amount of genetic information about the individuals they test.

In stark contrast, on the other end of the DNA testing spectrum is DNA ID generation. A DNA ID analysis generates no medical, ethnic, or appearance data - - therefore, there is no such data to disclose or leak or mishandle.  Aside from identification, the process is blind to any information about the person being tested.

DNA ID’s sole purpose is to identify a person by matching patterns in the non-medical DNA, the so-called “junk” DNA of his or her chromosomes.  

DNA IDs are the gold standard for forensic identification and have been for 20 years. The reason is that DNA IDs are much more accurate than conventional fingerprinting.

DNA IDs are, in many ways, simplistic. But the precision of DNA ID results is astounding: the chance that a random person shares your DNA ID is less than one in a trillion trillion.

DNA IDs obtain the minimal quantity of information required for accurate identification. No other information about the person is tested.

DNA IDs do not contain personal health, appearance, or ethnic background information.

A DNA ID testing is non-invasive, based on briefly rubbing the cheek with a cotton-tipped swab.

As more and more states begin generating the DNA IDs of suspects at the time of arrest, law enforcement will be increasingly more effective at matching crimes to suspects. And, just as importantly, it will also enable exoneration of the innocent quickly and accurately.  

Before concluding that a DNA ID allows your genetic data to be used against you, keep in mind that if you have not committed a rape, murder, kidnapping or other crime, there is no reason to be concerned. And, there’s a great deal of good in using this kind of science in our quest for a safer world.

DNA IDs can help identify a suspect within a couple of hours of testing, even while the suspect is still in the interview room.

DNA IDs can help identify victims of mass disasters, who may otherwise be unidentifiable. This avoids years of forensic lab analysis and can allow for earlier closure for loved-ones.

DNA IDs can stop human trafficking if a smuggler claims a child is their daughter or son, because DNA IDs are the most accurate way to determine parent-child relationships.  

DNA IDs can identify immediately, the perpetrator in a rape case.

DNA IDs can make our communities safer, can help victims get justice, and can stop repeat offenders before they commit more crimes.  

And it can provide these enormous societal benefits without violating your privacy.

For more information about DNA IDs and the ANDE RapidDNA systems, contact us at info@ANDE.com.

The ANDE Rapid DNA instrument
The ANDE Rapid DNA instrument