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Carry your DNA on a smartcard

Brave New World just around the corner

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This will be a familiar tale to most sci-fi buffs, but doctors in Europe reckon that within 20 years, we will all have our DNA profiled, and carry it with us on a smartcard. As the end of the Human Genome project swings into view -- completion is expected in 2003 -- the scope of our knowledge is rapidly expanding. Scientists working on the project expect to be able to trace around 2000 genes responsible for our health and well-being. The potential a DNA database has for abuse is vast. The very idea is enough to fill one's mind with thoughts of eugenics programs, insurance companies refusing cover on genetic grounds, super babies and so on. But doctors, who are not in it for the Hollywood story lines, think that DNA profiling has the potential to do a lot of good. Already, doctors have identified genes responsible for some forms of cancer. People identified as being at risk of such diseases could, they say, be given important lifestyle advice, and could be monitored more closely for any worrying changes. New work is expected to reveal the genes involved in high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Diane Bachelor, at the National Cancer Institute in Holland commented: "It will become practical to diagnose diseases with a molecular chip-based diagnostic test that allows us to develop tailor made therapy. Current diagnostic and treatment measures will become obsolete." ®

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