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China children's camp tests DNA--Gattaca becomes more than science fiction

The Chongqing Children's Palace in China will mix leisure with science this summer as the staff runs DNA testing on children attending the five-day camp. The test, in combination with observations of how the children play, is designed to help parents identify and cater to their children's genetic gifts at an early age.

Approximately 30 children between the ages of three and 12 are in the program, which costs $880, according to CNN. The DNA samples are collected from mucosal membranes, like saliva from the cheek, and tests are run on 11 genes. From the data collected, the camp scientists think they can extract information regarding a child's IQ, memory, athletic ability and more.

China claims to be the first to use DNA testing as a means to determine genetic gifts as opposed to inheritance or susceptibility to disease.

Instead of identifying genetic gifts, researchers in the U.S. are focusing on giving children special talents. Jeffrey Steinberg, director at the U.S. center of The Fertility Institutes, told ABC in March, that within the next six months his clinic will allow parents the ability to select physical traits of their children, screening embryonic DNA to select which embryos to implant in wombs.

Currently there are no U.S. laws against using genetic information to build a "designer baby" or to customize children’s future hobbies and educational direction.  

Chen Zhongyan, speaking about her four-year old daughter who is attending the Chongqing Children's Palace, told CNN, "It's better to develop her talents earlier rather than later."

Image by wsphotos via iStockphoto

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