A GeneTiC sequenCe: GeneTiCAlly disCriminATinG

You learned the alphabet in kindergarten. It was probably in a more “A, B, C, D” elementary fashion instead of the “G, A, T, C,” biochemistry style. I’m pretty confident that at this young age we were not aware that two seemingly insignificant letters placed in the wrong order could imply life or death.

The two letters for breast cancer are “A” and “G”. In the NOVA’s “Cracking the Code of Life”, part 14 examines the repercussions of being tested and diagnosed. For sisters, Lyssa Kaplast and Laura Seigle, letters “A” and “G” have altered their lives and the lives of their family. At only 34 years of age, Lyssa was diagnosed with breast cancer. Since this malignancy is possibly innate, Laura and her daughter had the opportunity to test if their letters were in order. Her daughter, at 18, decided not to be tested just as I have chosen.

My grandpa died of pancreatic cancer. This is an inherited genetic disease. I am also 18 and personally have chosen not to be tested. I have chosen not to be limited and to fit into another disease statistic. Passing the potential trait onto my future children, I believe, is extremely controversial. Are we tiptoeing across the line of eugenics? Will the perfectionist developments of Brave New World’s society be integrated in ours?

Since the first gene sequence targeting Huntington’s disease was discovered in 1983, we have been aware of possible testing methods. Suppose someone was tested, found to possess the gene mutation, and decided to not reproduce. Instead, they created their children from test tubes. It is hard to say if we are mutually selecting our future generations in this manner.  Essentially, we are slowly but surely eliminating disease and genetically discriminating.

The Typical Family Dinner in Brave New World
In a way, Laura’s daughter and I are indirectly rejecting the possible upcoming society proposed in Brave New World. If this phenomenon becomes more apparent, one day we too could become a part of the caste of Alphas, Betas, Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons. Learning the alphabet is mandatory; learning the biochemist styled alphabet for your genome is optional. Laura’s daughter and I have chosen to make my genetic makeup a mystery.


NOVA “Cracking the Code of Life” Program 14



~ by katherinennelson on January 31, 2010.

One Response to “A GeneTiC sequenCe: GeneTiCAlly disCriminATinG”

  1. You bring up a very personal issue. We have the right to choose. Given our family history, we can choose not to reproduce given our chances of passing on undesirable traits to our children. We also have the right to choose whether we get genetic testing. However, these genetic testings do not say with certainty if a person will get this disease or this cancer. In my opinion, knowing your odds doesn’t make me anymore convinced that I wouldn’t someday get this disease. I think taking necessary precautions and opting for regular screenings is much more effective than results from a genetic test.

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