Summary & Study Guide - The Gene Machine by Lee Tang

How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids - and the Kids We Have

The must-read summary of “The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids — and the Kids We Have” by Bonnie Rochman.

Summary & study guide - the gene machine

The promise and peril of having children in an age of genetic tests and interventions.

The must-read summary of “The Gene Machine: How Genetic Technologies Are Changing the Way We Have Kids — and the Kids We Have” by Bonnie Rochman.

This complete summary of Rochman’s book covers a variety of topics from breast cancer to Tay-Sachs, several pre-natal genetic mapping technologies, genome sequencing, rare disease diagnosis, silencing of a gene, and repairing gene defects using gene editing tools (CRISPR). It covers the question of testing for Down syndrome and abortion, and the emotionally and morally fraught decisions individuals are forced to make when confronting the information these tests reveal.
In the past few years, genetic testing has expanded into a full array of testing available prenatally, postnatally, and even pre-conception. More targeted analysis has allowed women to weed out unhealthy embryos before attempting pregnancy. Genome sequencing gives the child’s blueprint, including predisposition to diseases such as Down syndrome, early-onset Alzheimer’s, or breast cancer. Having access to so much information can be empowering, enlightening, confusing, and frightening. It can enable parents to prepare for a child with special needs. Or it can allow them to end the pregnancy.

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Value-added of this guide:

This is a must read for those planning on having kids, or for those who simply want to learn about genetic technologies. 


Genre: STUDY AIDS / Study Guides

Secondary Genre: HEALTH & FITNESS / Diseases / Genetic

Language: English

Keywords: human heredity, dna sequencing, medical genetics, down syndrome, prenatal books, genetic evolution, cystic fibrosis

Word Count: 9,500

Sample text:

Tay-Sachs is a fatal hereditary neurological disease affecting young children. Ashkenazi Jews who trace their roots to Eastern Europe are more likely to be carriers—4 percent of Ashkenazi Jews in the United States is a carrier, compared to 0.4 percent in the general population. 
Tay-Sachs is an autosomal recessive disease caused by a defective gene on chromosome 15. It is called recessive because you have to receive two copies of the defective gene, one from each parent, to become affected. If you only have one copy of the defective gene, you become a carrier. You will not be affected, but may pass the defective gene down to your children. When a child is conceived by a couple who are both carriers of the disease, the child has a 25 percent chance of being unaffected, a 50 percent chance of being carriers, and a 25 percent chance of having the disease.

As soon as Rochman found out she was pregnant in 2002, she asked about genetic testing for herself and her husband because they are both Ashkenazi Jews. In New York City where awareness of Jewish genetic disease was high, women could screen for an entire panel of genetic diseases affecting Ashkenazi Jews. But in North Carolina, she had to jump through hoops to get her DNA tested. Fortunately, her reports came back clear.


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Already translated. Translated by Conny Fontanella
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