DNA tests may also inadvertently reveal incest

February 11th, 2011 - 1:22 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Feb 11 (ANI): Baylor College of Medicine researchers using DNA microarrays to identify developmental disabilities or congenital anomalies in kids unexpectedly found that some have been conceived through incest.

This has raised social and legal issues that institutions and the scientific community must address.

“We have discussed these issues with legal and ethics experts at Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital, and we are considering how best to handle them,” said Arthur Beaudet, a senior author of the report.

Scientists identified cases of possible incest through what they call an ‘absence of heterozygosity.’

In most instances, an infant receives roughly half of his or her genes from the mother and half from the father. This is called heterozygosity. In the case of incest, family members, who already share much of their genetic code, each contribute to the genetic material of a child.

This will result in absence of heterozygosity in the genes of that child. In other words, children conceived through incest have large blocks of DNA in which genes inherited from the mother and the father are identical.

The most common cause for this is that the child was conceived by first-degree relatives, such as a father and a daughter or a brother and a sister.

Beaudet and his co-authors have recommended that health care institutions establish a committee to discuss these issues and draft practice guidelines that deal with issues of consent, disclosure of results and reporting.

The findings have been published in the journal Lancet. (ANI)

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