Thanks to medical research scientists, we now know that there are four 'bases' which go to make up our DNA: adenine, guanine, cytostine and thymine (A, G, C and T for short). These bases appear in groupings of three: the genetic code is written in triplets.
These four bases can be seen as being analogous to the four different colours of ink that are conventionally used in colour photographic printing - Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (Black) - and which are collectively referred to as CYMK. All other printed colours are made up from these four building blocks of colour.
The format in which the results of DNA profiling are presented can be meaningless to the non-scientist. To the scientist, though, apparently random collections of letters can be interpreted to obtain detailed genetic information.
This information can in turn be used to determine whether or not someone carries a gene associated with a particular impairment or medical condition. It can also be used to identify an individual from genetic material such as a hair or saliva.
In the early 21st century we believe that, quite soon, we will understand which genes are linked to intelligence, appearance, personality and sexual orientation, as well as which genes do and do not cause impairment and disease. Following on from this, we believe that we will be able to 'design' our future children.
In reality, on the basis of what we know today this will never be possible. However, genetic predictions are increasingly being used to screen out 'abnormalities' from the population. In the future, many people hope that this will include characteristics such as sexual orientation.
DNA profiling is also increasingly being used for surveillance. In the United Kingdom - now the most surveilled nation in the world - plans are being made to include every citizen's DNA on a national database.
It is not far-fetched to assume that, in the future, this database could be used to identify 'abnormal' citizens. Insurance companies already have policies in place to deal with customers whose genetic profiles show them to be at increased risk of developing particular diseases.
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© Ju Gosling aka ju90 2008
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