See Inside August 2007

Attitude Screen

Seeing if the public is ready for personal genetic information

A chance to peek into the future—at least one possible future—is always a tempting fantasy. But if it were offered in reality, would you take it? And if you didn’t like what you saw, how hard would you try to change it? After almost 20 years spent reading, mapping and analyzing human DNA, researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) believe that personal genetic information is nearly ready for use by consumers in managing their health, so the institute is launching a large-scale study to gauge whether consumers are ready for the information.

The year-long Multiplex Initiative will ultimately involve thousands of subjects, who will be offered a personal genetic report card based on screening for gene variations associated with increased risk for major diseases. The investigators are interested in how many take up the offer, why, and how participants respond to their results. The researchers also hope to gain insights into the best ways for health professionals to communicate information about genetic risk.

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