12 April, 2013

A To Z Challenge: Karyology And Why Your Genes May Be Patented

Karyology is a field involving an organism's cell nucleus, particularly its chromosomes. It is a branch of cytology--the study of cell function and structure--which is in turn a branch of biology. Technically the word karyology refers only to the physical presence of the nucleus and its components, excluding the study of how chromosomes control in different parts of the body.

Chromosomes are tightly wound coils of DNA. As you've no doubt heard or read, DNA is the fundamental building block of life on Earth; it is the instruction manual that tells organisms how to grow, survive, and reproduce.

My next point is not strictly a scientific development, per se, but I thought it was an interesting (and perhaps alarming) recent event related to the field. This April, on the 15th, the US Supreme Court will hear a case about patenting genes. Myriad Genetics discovered genetic mutations on BCRA 1 and BCRA 2 genes--mutations related to breast and ovarian cancer--in the 1990s and filed for a patent on DNA with those mutated sequences. They got the patent.

The upcoming argument in the Supreme Court is over the functionality of the DNA. The DNA Myriad Genetics patented is, officially, "isolated DNA", which means it has to be a single piece of genetic material outside the rest of the chromosome for it to fall under the patent. The Supreme Court will decide whether the DNA is functionally different from that in the human body--there is a "products of nature" doctrine which states that something with no "marked difference" to something naturally occurring cannot be patented.

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Sources:
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/karyology
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/cytology
http://stalikez.info/fsm/semp/site/caryo_gb.php
http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-a-Chromosome.aspx
http://www.genome.gov/Glossary/index.cfm?id=33
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/04/130412084225.htm
http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/04/are_your_genes_patented_the_supreme_court_will_decide_if_they_can_be.html

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Do you think genes should be patented? Or do you think patent offices should not allow specific DNA sequences to be "owned" by companies?


-----The Golden Eagle

22 comments:

M. J. Joachim said...

That's just too weird! I don't even know how to comment on this...what a waste of taxpayer dollars, invasion of personal space etc. etc. Thankfully, it will all probably be tied up in red tape for years!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Interesting to see how that case pans out.

M Pax said...

I think it's silly to patent genes. I think they'd have to prove it couldn't occur in nature. Otherwise, can I patent a certain type of rain?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That would be like patenting people. Sounds a little scary.

Pat Hatt said...

Yeah that is dumb, maybe I can patent a snowflake.

Jeff Hargett said...

Will be interesting to see how it concludes.

mshatch said...

I'd need to know more about this subject before I could make a decision. I'd love to be a fly on the wall during the case.

Cindy Dwyer said...

Imagine the conversation that transpired when the first person thought of this?

"So I was thinking, why don't we patent genes?"

"Bob, that's the best idea you've had all week!"

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

With my limited knowledge I would say no one should be allowed to patent any part of human DNA. It doesn't belong to anyone.

ayjay said...

Yeah, so that's a pretty weird thing, really... To think that part of my body, if it came out of my body, might fall under someone else's patent. Not sure I like it.

AJ Lauer
#atozchallenge fellow minion
Twitter: @ayjaylauer

Tyrean Martinson said...

I don't think genes should be patented . . . but then I may not have the whole scientific picture.

Carol Kilgore said...

I continue to be amazed by how smart you are. You go, girl!

Gina Gao said...

This sounds really interesting, but also kinda scary.

www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

laughingwolf said...

silliness taken to absurdity... it's like that twit, donald trump, trying to make 'you're fired!' his own trade mark...

good work on your part :)

Carrie Butler said...

That seems a bit excessive. Like Alex said, it'll be interesting to see how it all pans out...

Stephen Tremp said...

I can't beleive this case has gone this far. Hopefully the justices will make rational decisions and not allow for any patents regarding this matter.

And I have a new blog. Hope to see you stop by and say hi!

Crystal Collier said...

What will they think of next? My answer is a definite NO. But hey, politics, right?

Duncan D. Horne - the Kuantan blogger said...

You've blown me away with this one and I have no idea how to comment on it!

Keep Calm and A-Z
An A-Z of learning English
Round the world from A to Z

The Golden Eagle said...

M. J.: Perhaps--but perhaps not. The U.S. Patent Office has already issued patents.

Alex: Indeed it will be!

Mary: Interesting analogy. I'd patent the kind that only falls on your flowers. :P

Diane: In some ways, yes!

Pat: Well, if it was proved to be different enough from one found in nature . . . I think you could. At least under US law.

Jeff: Agreed!

Mshatch: I think there's audio uploaded after oral arguments. You could listen to that, maybe.

Cindy: Probably was something like that, though.

Susan: Or many people would be owned in part by companies.

Ayjay: I don't like it either!

Tyrean: It's a strange idea. I'm against it if there's any functional similarity between a patented gene and the naturally-occurring one in the human body.

Carol: Thank you. :)

Gina: Definitely.

Laughingwolf: Donald Trump said that . . . ? Wait, no, never mind, of course he did.

Thanks!

Carrie: Yup. Court case is today!

Stephen: I'll be by later today. :)

Crystal: Yeah, good ol' politics. It's hard to look at politics and call it reasonable.

Duncan: Wow, I don't think I've done that with many commenters before! Hope you found it informative, at any rate.

Paul Tobin said...

I am against the concept of patenting genes- its not on. It strikes me as corporate arrogance- people with too much money trying to grab the world.

The Golden Eagle said...

Paul: There are an awful lot of those kinds of people. I wonder what the court will rule . . .

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi GE .. I know I definitely don't like the idea of this ..

Cheers Hilary