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French scientists create DNA app for smartphones

Christian Ude

French scientists have designed new software that allows people to view their complete genetic code on their smartphone. The project is currently under development in the US, since genetic sequencing is strictly limited under French ethics laws.

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The software, developed by four scientists from Bordeaux in south-west France, translates the data obtained from DNA testing into three gigaoctets of readily accessible information

The application highlights potential health risks, such as a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, with a red warning symbol.

It's designed as a means of "prevention and vigilance", according to project founder Patrick Merel.

He and his colleagues created their company, Portable Genomics, in California.  Several private companies in the US already offer DNA screening and analysis.

In France, genetic sequencing can only be carried out by doctors and for medical purposes.

By flagging up genetic predispositions to illnesses, such technology risks alarming people unnecessarily, according to Patrick Gaudray, a member of France's National Ethics Council and research director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.

He warns that the data obtained in DNA screening is not always reliable and has limited medical applications.

"Our genes are our own," counters Merel. "Why shouldn't we have access to them?"

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