Image by sean dreilinger via Flickr
I was irked to see, in today’s New York Times, a picture of a young child having his cheek swabbed so that his parents could ascertain his status at the rs1815739 C/T variant . T-alleles at this site give rise to a premature stop codon in the alpha 3 actinin (ACTN3) gene while the C-allele encodes a full-length protein that contributes to the fast twitching of muscle fibers. Not surprisingly, it was found [PubMed Central ID: PMC118068] that folks who have achieved status as Olympic caliber sprinters are more likely to carry the C-allele than ethnically matched controls. The company, Atlas Sports Genetics is now marketing the test, for $149 as a means to “predict a child’s natural athletic strengths”. Holy Crap !
Its sad to think of the myriad of ways in which genetic information can be misused and misrepresented – sadder still to think of using genetic tests to deny kids the simple joy of playing with each other. Parents may be intersted to know that among europeans and asians, the C-allele is present at about 50%, making 75% of the population either a C/C or a C/T … which, taken alone, explains very little of why a handful of individuals achieve athletic success. Parents considering paying the $149 might also wish to read a recent article by Dr. Jerome Kagan, a well-regarded developmental psychologist on recent trends in overparenting.
My 23andMe profile shows a middling C/T which is on par with my middling soccer skills. Nevertheless, I had a great experience learning and building relationships with my pals on the soccer field, many who remain friends decades hence.