Ancestor Connection and DNA Testing by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ photo michael bakasIf like me, you view ancestry research as a spiritual quest, you may be wondering if it is worthwhile to have your DNA tested. I found out about The Seven Daughters of Eve, the female ancestors of most Europeans, some years ago. Through my mtDNA (passed from mothers to children) and my father’s YDNA (passed from fathers to sons) tests, I discovered my connection to a woman who lived in Old Europe about 18,000 years ago and to a man who was among the Indo-European invaders thousands of years later.

I became aware of atDNA (autosomal) tests for ethnicity while watching the PBS American ancestry programs created by Harvard historian Henry Louis Gates. In considering ethnicity, it is important to remember that 99.9% of human DNA is shared. AtDNA testing focuses on the .1% that is not. This type of DNA testing can locate African DNA geographically, and it also can reveal Native American and Jewish ancestry. When the test recently became less expensive, I decided to try it. I was particularly interested to see if my 3x great-grandmother Gertrud Zimmerman might have been Jewish. Continue reading “Ancestor Connection and DNA Testing by Carol P. Christ”

Genetic Testing: The Ethical Implications of Expanded Newborn Testing – Who Benefits? (Part Two) by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John Carroll

With Angelina Jolie’s decision to have a double mastectomy due to a genetic test that revealed she carried the BRCa gene, the issue of genetic testing is in the forefront once again.  This is the second part of a three-part essay exploring genetic testing on newborns (part one and part two) and concludes with exploring personal choices and the psychological ramifications of genetic testing.

False Positives, Lack of Empirical Evidence, and Dangers in Expanded Newborn Screening

In the year 2000, most states only screened for about four conditions.   As of November 2008, most states adopted screening for the 29 recommended primary conditions and up to 25 secondary conditions (See President’s Council on Bioethics, “The Changing Moral Focus of Newborn Screening,” 36).    Since no federal mandate on newborn screening exists from state to state, this number varies due to the lack of understanding of the diseases or showing no proven benefit.   In fact, the twenty-five secondary conditions recommended  by the American College of Medical Genetics do not need urgent treatment in the newborn period or have no proven treatment (Also see Mary Ann Baily and Thomas J. Murray, “Ethics, Evidence. And Cost in Newborn Screening” Hastings Center Report (38, 2008), 28 ).

Then there is the multiplex technology of tandem mass spectrometry (MS/ MS) that can screen for over 40 “inborn errors of metabolism” from a single drop of blood (See President’s Council, “The Changing Moral Focus of Newborn Screening,” 9).  While this technology has reduced the numbers of false positives, it is still far from being reliable.  This is due to screening forBabySeq rare disorders on a population wide basis – about four million babies annually.  To illustrate this point, in 2007,  3,364,612 infants were screened for Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) in the United States and 1,249 tested positive. After retesting, only 18 cases confirmed a positive result (See President’s Council, “The Changing Moral Focus of Newborn Screening,” 14).  MSUD is a well-understood condition that shows some benefit for screening.  However, when we expand screening to add conditions that are not understood as well as mandate all newborns in the United States to be tested, false positives are likely to be in the tens of thousands (See also Beth Tarini, et al. “State Newborn  Screening in the Tandem Mass Spectrometry Era: More Tests, More False Positives” Pediatrics,  118 (2006), 448-456).

Continue reading “Genetic Testing: The Ethical Implications of Expanded Newborn Testing – Who Benefits? (Part Two) by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

%d bloggers like this: