As the incoming class of freshmen enter University of California, Berkeley, they are invited to take a new type of entrance test: a DNA test. Instead of the usual summer reading program, freshmen and transfer students at UC-Berkeley are being asked to submit cheek swab samples to test for three different genes. These genes help to regulate the body's ability to metabolize alcohol, lactose, and folates. These particular genes were targeted as college behaviors can have a direct impact on the well-being of students with these markers.
If a student is unable to properly metabolize alcohol, they may find that they are more easily intoxicated, or have more negative reactions to alcohol. An inability to metabolize lactose leads to lactose intolerance or sensitivity. A folate deficiency has been linked to depression, as well as heart disease and cancers. Folate is particularly important to women in their childbearing years. By understanding any defiencies within the body, students have the knowledge and ability to make healthier decisions. They can choose to drink less, avoid dairy, or eat more green leafy vegetables. UC-Berkeley hopes that by providing students with their results and educational information, they will be able to make deicisons that better their own personal health throughout their college career.
While controversy has risen among students, scientists, and bioethicist over the risks and rewards of such testing, UC-Berkeley stands behind its decision. This sort of testing is the first of its kind within a university setting. It may mark the beginning of personalized genetic testing for universities nationwide. To learn more, click here.