Can a company patent your genes?

December 8, 2011
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The Supreme Court may decide who owns your genes.

December 8, 2011

Yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) petitioned the Supreme Court to hear their appeal in a case involving whether or not a company can patent human genes.  Human DNA is organized into 23 pairs of chromosomes.  The basic units of inheritance within chromosomes are called genes.  Humans have thousands of different genes.  Following decades of research, scientists have now isolated many human genes and are using this knowledge to target certain diseases.  After investing millions of dollars on research, companies have patented genes, limiting others ability to develop tests or treatments for diseases caused by these faulty genes.  Many feel that doctors or scientists are being restricted from studying certain genes, and therefore slowing medical progress.  “Something as natural as human DNA cannot be owned by a particular company,” said Chris Hansen, attorney at the ACLU.  “Nobody ‘invents’ genes, so no one should be able to claim ownership of them,” said Daniel Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation.  In July, however, a federal appeals court held that Myriad Genetics can patent two human genes associated with breast and ovarian cancers.  The ACLU and Public Patent Foundation have appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.  TeenJury will continue to monitor this case and alert you if the Court agrees to hear the appeal.

What do you think?

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