Research in molecular biology and the neurosciences is increasing our ability to predict the incidence of an expanding number of diseases and conditions. Geneticists are beginning to isolate the genes that predispose people to common kinds of cancer, and attention has also turned to detecting susceptibility to complex conditions such as heart disease, leukemia, juvenile diabetes, mental illness, alcoholism, and Alzheimer's.

The hope is to discover clues to these conditions before symptoms appear. The goal is to detect susceptible individuals--those who are "at risk." Reflecting the growing focus on the hereditary basis of disease, genetic testing is becoming a part of general medical practice--so much so that, in 1992, the American Medical Association recognized medical genetics as a separate subspecialty of internal medicine.

Scientists should be aware of the potential abuses of the predictive information generated by their research and how such information is influencing social policy. The significance of...

Interested in reading more?

Become a Member of

Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!