dna

A PATENT on DNA? Really? As strange as it sounds, the question of whether companies can patent DNA extracted from human cells is a live debate — one that will reach the Supreme Court on Monday.

The case involves the Salt Lake City-based Myriad Genetics, which identified two sections of genetic code that, when abnormal, indicate higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer. In order to scrutinize these genes, scientists must know where to look for them, find them and then remove them from the long strand of DNA in human cells, “isolating” them for lab testing. The company obtained patents on the isolated versions of the two genes it identified. That means if you want to see if you carry a mutated version of one or both of them, you have to ask Myriad to do the testing for you.