Author Archive for Katherine Morley

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Friday Links

Two exciting-looking new science blogging collectives have been announced this week. The Public Library of Science launched a new blogging collective, including personal genomics blogger Misha Angrist, and the Guardian newspaper has launched its Guardian Science Blogs network, including Dr Evan Harris, ex-MP for Oxford West and long time supporter of the role of science in public policy. I’m pretty excited about these new blogs, but it does stand to increase my RSS load significantly. [LJ]

In this month’s issue of European Journal of Human Genetics, Yang, Visscher and Wray contribute to the discussion around the aetiology of common complex diseases.  They demonstrate that the existence of a large number of sporadic cases (instances where a patient has no first, second, or third-degree relatives with the disease) is not incompatible with a polygenic model of disease.  A little less hot-off-the-press are two opinion pieces on genetic testing regulation from the August issue of Nature.  Arthur Beaudet argues that stringent government regulation should be applied to genotyping/sequencing, and interpretation should be the exclusive domain of the medical profession.  Gail Javitt takes a different view, arguing that genetic tests to be treated in the same way as other medical tests and that the level of regulation imposed should be determined by medical relevance of the outcome. [KIM]

Finally, Procreation News; our very own Daniel MacArthur and Ilana Fisher have recently given birth to a baby boy (the picture to the left may be a little out of date). Daniel made the announcement on Twitter, and also had this to say:

After careful inspection, I’ve decided that my six-day-old son is the most remarkable human being to have ever lived.

Due to double blinding, neither we nor Daniel know whether he has an actual or placebo baby, so we can’t yet assess the significance of this claim. Watch this space! [LJ]

A missed opportunity: what the GAO report could have told us about DTC genetic testing

The recent United States Government Accountability Office report on direct-to-consumer (DTC) genetic tests was the star attraction of a bruising Congressional hearing into the DTC industry, and sparked widespread headlines about “bogus” results from the genetic testing industry.

The report is prefaced by the statement:

GAO did not conduct a scientific study but instead documented observations that could be made by any consumer.

While it is the GAO’s prerogative to conduct their study as they see fit, we believe that they missed a valuable opportunity to survey the DTC genetic testing industry and systematically evaluate what is and isn’t being done well. In this post, we discuss how the discoveries that the GAO reported were already largely known, and assess the opportunities that the GAO missed to provide genuine insight. What could the data they collected have told us if they had decided to add a little more scientific rigour to their investigation?  

Continue reading ‘A missed opportunity: what the GAO report could have told us about DTC genetic testing’

How well can a screening test predict disease risk?

We can usually be pretty confident that if our genotyping results say we carry a certain genetic variant, we really do carry that variant.  So why doesn’t that necessarily equate to a confident prediction about disease risk?  As Caroline outlined in her previous post on the risks and benefits of population screening, the results of screening tests (genetic or otherwise) may not provide a definitive diagnosis.  Test results often just categorise people as being at high or low risk of disease.  In this post, we’ll look at some of the ways we assess the predictive ability of a diagnostic test, and why the results we get from them are usually probabilistic.

Continue reading ‘How well can a screening test predict disease risk?’

If you’re predicting disease, you should be regulated

Last week’s Congressional hearings on the direct-to-consumer genetics industry (featuring a provocative GAO report based on covertly recorded phone calls made to major DTC companies) have spurred plenty of discussion, including Daniel MacArthur’s post here at Genomes Unzipped and Dan Vorhaus’ post at Genomics Law Report.

But we disagree with some other Genomes Unzipped members about the regulatory future of the industry, and in particular we believe that medical interpretation of genetic data should be regulated.

Continue reading ‘If you’re predicting disease, you should be regulated’


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