Web genomics exposes ethics gaps

While connecting SNPs to playful traits such as curly hair and optimism, 23andMe reveals loopholes in the regulation of genomics research

Amy Maxmen
With contributions from 9,000 web-savvy customers, the personal genetics company linkurl:23andMe; has linked a suite of genes to eight rather playful traits, such as the ability to smell post-asparagus pee or the tendency to sneeze in sunlight. But in getting linkurl:the results published; today (June 24) in PLoS Genetics, they unintentionally illuminated an ungoverned landscape of human genetics research.
Saliva collection kit from 23andMe
The study wasn't previewed by a human research ethics committee, but neither the company nor publishers acted illegally. Participants signed a consent form to have their DNA sequenced for $399 (now $499), agreeing that their genetic information could be used for research by 23andMe. And simple questionnaires that customers, including lead author linkurl:Nicholas Eriksson,; completed on the company's website were voluntary. "It's actually just fun and addictive to take these surveys," said Eriksson, a statistical geneticist at 23andMe in Mountain View, California.From surveys, the 23andMe...
PLoS GeneticsPLoS GeneticsThe ScientistN. Eriksson et al, "Web-Based, Participant-Driven Studies Yield Novel Genetic Associations for Common Traits," PLoS Genet, 6(6): e1000993. doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1000993

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