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Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of Genome Research: ELSI of Genome Research

This guide provides resources that will help the user understand the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genome research--research into the genomes of humans, plants, and other organisms. Among other topics, this guide covers gene patenting.

Ethical, Legal, and Social Implications (ELSI) of Genome Research


Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) are used to analyze genetic differences between people with specific illnesses and healthy individuals. The purpose of GWAS is twofold:

1. Explore the connection between specific genes (genotype) and their outward expression (phenotype)

2. Help identify genetic risk factors for the development or progression of specific illnesses

What are Some Examples of ELSI Topics?

Portions of the annual Human Genome Project (HGP) budgets of the DOE (3%) and NIH (5%) were devoted to studying the ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI) of genome research. Examples of topics that fall under such ELSI programs include:

  • Genetic Variation - Self-perception and society's perception of individuals based on genetic differences
  • Genetic Privacy - Ownership and control of genetic information; use of genetic information by insurers or employers
  • Gene Patenting - Effect of patenting of DNA sequences on accessibility of data and materials
  • Genes and Illness - Individual susceptibility to specific illnesses, such as cancer
  • Genetically Modified Organisms - Safety of genetically modified foods