2009 October

Murderer Gets Reduced Sentence Because His Genes Made Him Do It

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 31, 2009 in DNA and the Law

Hey criminals! Here’s how you get out of taking full responsibility for your dastardly actions:

  1. Fake your DNA sample
  2. Blame it on your identical twin
  3. See if you have the genes that predispose you to whatever crime you’ve committed

Magnetic resonance image of a weakened impulse-control circuit in a brainMurderer Abdelmalek Bayout and his attorneys chose option three. Bayout admitted in 2007 to stabbing and killing Walter Felipe Novoa Perez in Italy. During the first sentencing, he was found to be mentally ill. This year, neuroscientists also found abnormalities in brain-imaging scans and five genes linked to violent behavior, including MAOA.

Although there have been numerous cases since 1994 in which the defense argued for leniency based on MAOA deficiency, this is the first case in which this tactic has been successful. Based on the scans and genetic testing results, the judge reduced Bayout’s sentence by another year.

Not everyone agrees with the judge’s decision.

"We don’t know how the whole genome functions and the [possible] protective effects of other genes," says Giuseppe Novelli, a forensic scientist and geneticist at the University Tor Vergata in Rome. Tests for single genes such as MAOA are "useless and expensive", he adds.

Even worse, this verdict could open the floodgates to claims of all sorts the more we know about genetic influences on behavior. That list above is just about to get longer.

Source: Scientific American

Image: “Structural (left) and functional (right) MRI scan data shows that subjects with the violence-related version of the MAO-A gene (MAOA-L) had reduced volume and activity of the anterior cingulate cortex (blue area in front part of brain at left and corresponding yellow area in at right), which is thought to be the hub of a circuit responsible for regulating impulsive aggression. The color-coded areas show where subjects with the L gene type differed from subjects with the H gene type.”

NIMH Clinical Brain Disorders Branch

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Video: Knome’s Ari Kiirikki Speaks with Medgadget

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 30, 2009 in DNA Podcasts and Videos

via Medgadget

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DNA in the Wild – NTUC Income

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 30, 2009 in DNA Fun

NTUC Income, an insurance provider in Singapore, has been running an ad prominently featuring the DNA double helix.


Their Facebook fan page is even running a photo contest asking people to post photos of themselves with one of their DNA ads. Very fun to see DNA in the wild.

Here’s one of my favorites.


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Getting a job at the University of Akron could require a DNA sample

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 29, 2009 in DNA and the Law

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Want a Job? Submit your DNA

The University of Akron is requiring that new employees must undergo a criminal background check and possibly a DNA sample.

Applicants will be asked to submit fingerprints and at the discretion of The University of Akron may be asked to submit a DNA sample for the purpose of a federal criminal background check.

~University of Akron Criminal Background Checks for Potential University Employees, effective August 12, 2009

Would you submit your DNA to get a job?

For more, see Inside Higher Ed and Taking Liberties at CBS News



Genomics Law Report Special Series on Ethical, Legal, and Social Issues

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 20, 2009 in DNA and the Law, DNA in General, The DNA Network Specials

What ELSI is new (article)DNA Network members who have or are contributing articles to the amazing series on ELSI over at Genomics Law Report:

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HUGO Matters

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 13, 2009 in DNA in General

My latest project has launched! HUGO Matters, the official blog of the Human Genome Organisation, is now live. Come check it out:


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Human Genome Organisation (HUGO) Symposium on Genomics and Ethics, Law and Society

by Dr. Hsien-Hsien Lei
Posted October 5, 2009 in DNA in General

hugo gels

In just a few short weeks, HUGO will be holding a symposium in Geneva, Switzerland on genomics and ethics, law and society (GELS). From 1 to 3 November 2009, experts from around the world will be gathering to discuss the following topics:

  • Science & Its Capabilities
  • Personal Genomics: Redefining Privacy, Choice and the Internet
  • Genetic Determinism, Discrimination, Exceptionalism and Selection
  • Equity and Justice: Access & Participation in the Developing World
  • Open Access, Open Markets: Intellectual Property?

It’s not too late to sign up! Student discounted registration fees, registration waivers for young scholars and young scientists are also available. Please see the GELS registration form.

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