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The Potential Perils of Pauline

Personal Genotyping for BRCA 1 and 2


Author(s)

George E. Keller
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences
Samford University
gekeller@samford.edu

Abstract

This directed case study follows the story of “Pauline,” a 20-year-old college student who has just received results from a personal genetic testing kit she purchased online. The report shows a negative result for variants of the BRCA 1 and 2 genes, which are associated with a greater risk for breast cancer. Although Pauline has a family history of breast cancer, she concludes that she no longer needs to be concerned, or does she? As students work through the questions in this case study, they review the role of genes and how they code for proteins as well as the effects of proteins on health, especially on cellular growth regulation and cancer. They also learn about the process of genetic testing and consider the ramifications of positive and negative tests for diseases or health conditions, especially with respect to breast cancer. The case is designed for non-science majors in a scientific methods course and could also be used in an introductory biology course. The questions in the case could be adapted for an upper level genetics class.


Objectives

  • Review the central dogma of gene expression.
  • Differentiate between genotyping and sequencing and their implications for diagnosing disease.
  • Understand the basis of non-diagnosis-based genetic testing (such as offered by 23andMe), both its power and its limitations.
  • Describe how cell division is linked to cancer.
  • Describe the process of FDA approval of genetic tests.
  • Analyze information from genetic testing results with respect to future behaviors.

Keywords

Genetic testing; BRCA; cancer; cell growth regulation; 23andMe; genome; genotyping; gene sequencing;

Topical Areas

Ethics

Educational Level

Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division

Format

PDF

Type / Methods

Directed

Language

English

Subject Headings

Biology (General)  |   Cell Biology  |   Genetics / Heredity  |   Molecular Biology  |  


Date Posted

5/11/2018

Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

The following resource is recommended for use with this case study.

  FDA Is Back On Board With A Breast Cancer Test

Answer Key

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