Genetic Profiling

The rapid growth in popularity of DNA testing and genetic profiling is proving many skeptics wrong. A recent poll shows that the benefits available from genetic tests outweigh consumers privacy concerns. From dating to preventative heart medication, the use of genetic data to drive health and lifestyle decisions is gaining acceptance.

As DNA tests become more affordable, their use in lifestyle areas such as family tree genealogy and dating is overtaking the traditional areas of health and criminal justice. In a recent series of polls, 72% of consumers felt that the benefits of DNA tests are outweighed by the risks of the results being used for other purposes. On the dating potential, 58% of respondents felt that the use of genetic tests to determine compatibility and sexual attraction will form an important part of the information used on matchmaking websites in the future.

The polls were conducted as part of the morefocus groups on-going health and lifestyle research initiative, designed to study the changing attitudes of US consumers to healthcare, leisure, education and work. The results will be used to focus the design of an in depth online study to be run across a selected network of health and lifestyle internet and mobile websites late in 2008.

Commenting on the initial results, Dr. Regan Carey, who heads the Morefocus Media division that will conduct the research, said, It is clear that the potential of genetic testing to drive health and lifestyle decisions has captured the imagination of many. Analysis of online searches conducted across our network shows a remarkable awareness of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008, otherwise known as GINA, and its implications for the protection of consumers rights.

Dr. Carey continued, In just a few short years, there has been a dramatic shift in individuals attitudes and a growing understanding of the long-term effects of lifestyle choices. It is logical that the explosive growth in services such as personalized training and personalized medicine would lead to a rapid understanding of the benefits provided by personalized genetics. As the testing market matures and regulatory compliant genetics testing labs grow their databases, the promised health benefits are enormous. Bridging the health and lifestyle divide are the possibilities offered by using genetic dating to determine sexual attraction and compatibility. At the fun and hobby end of the spectrum, there is huge interest in genealogy today. The potential to use combined DNA databases to build or expand family trees is enormous.

On the ethics and education aspects, 84% of respondents considered that expanded privacy and ethics education is vital for doctors, nurses and healthcare administration workers. Colin Lucas-Mudd, morefocus groups CEO, said, Since the enactment of the HIPAA legislation at the start of the decade, privacy and ethics issues have been an increasingly important aspect of healthcare education. Several states have DNA testing legislation with New York acting earlier this year to warn 31 genetic labs that they are in breach of state regulations and California ordering thirteen laboratories to cease operations. As GINA takes full force it is clear that confidence in the benefits of DNA analysis will grow.

Dr. Carey concluded, The potential to avoid a broken heart through genetic dating, or a failed heart through early intervention is just to tempting to ignore.