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November 30th, 2008

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02:08 am - Genetic testing for fun and profit
Here's a fascinating glimpse of the intersection of technology and modern-day child-rearing.
Atlas Sports Genetics is playing into the obsessions of parents by offering a $149 test that aims to predict a child’s natural athletic strengths. The process is simple. Swab inside the child’s cheek and along the gums to collect DNA and return it to a lab for analysis of ACTN3, one gene among more than 20,000 in the human genome.

The test’s goal is to determine whether a person would be best at speed and power sports like sprinting or football, or endurance sports like distance running, or a combination of the two. A 2003 study discovered the link between ACTN3 and those athletic abilities.
Of course, this looks to be an exceptionally simplistic test that isn't likely to be terribly reliable, and I'm not expect significantly better ones for at least 5 years. Also, we're not on the road to Gattaca, because we're also looking at hormones and gene therapies being used (I've read in several places that there are at least even odds that illegal gene therapy was used on at least some athletes in the most recent Olympics). Throw in recent information on gene methylation, and we're definitely not looking at fixed capabilities, but we are looking at the start of something big. Genetic medicine and genetic testing are only going to get more important.
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