Fifty years after the discovery of the structure of DNA, a survey by the MORI Social Research Institute shows four in five British people (81%) are aware of at least one medical application when shown a list of eleven things made possible by the discovery of DNA.
The survey -- commissioned by the Medical Research Council -- shows that around 40% of the British public views gene therapy and understanding and predicting inherited genetic diseases as the DNA applications most beneficial to society. These figures increase to around half the population (in each case) when based on those aware of each application.
The most widely recognised DNA-related technique is DNA fingerprinting at 83%, followed by paternity testing at 80%. Three in five (61%) associate DNA with understanding and predicting inherited genetic diseases followed by genetically modified food (57%), gene therapy (55%) and tracing ancestry (55%).
More than half (53%) make the association between DNA and increasing understanding of the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing common diseases.
However, an analysis of the results however shows the techniques people were most familiar with were not necessarily those they believed to be most beneficial. When looking at the DNA-related applications most commonly seen as being of greatest benefit to society (by those who showed awareness), paternity testing and fingerprinting ranked below understanding and predicting genetic diseases and gene therapy.
Half (51%) of those aware of the development identified both inherited genetic diseases and gene therapy as providing the greatest benefits to society, while 47% said fingerprinting[see 1] and 16% identified paternity testing. Only seven per cent said GM food was most beneficial. Understanding the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing disease was seen by 40% as providing the greatest benefit.
- When the results are, however, based on the full sample, the highest proportion mentions fingerprinting as being of the greatest benefit to society.
MORI Social Research Institute interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,972 adults aged 15+ in Great Britain, face-to-face, in-home, in 193 sampling points between 20-24 March 2003. Data have been weighted to the known profile of the GB population. The overall results are accurate to within +/- 2% (95 times in 100).
- 1,972 interviews with adults aged 15+. Conducted in-home, face-to-face using CAPI
- Fieldwork conducted 20-24 March 2003
- 193 sampling points throughout Great Britain
- Base all (1,972), unless otherwise stated
- Data weighted to known profile of the GB population
- '*' denotes a finding of less than half a per cent but more than zero. Where figures do not add up to 100%, this is due to computer rounding or multiple answers
Q1 When I say 'DNA', what, if anything, springs to mind?
|DNA identification / fingerprinting / Forensic science (as used in criminal investigations)||31|
|Genes / Genetics||29|
|Paternity testing (using DNA to identify an individual's father)||8|
|The genetic material found in most cells in all living things||5|
|Sperm / Hair / Skin / Blood / Saliva||6|
|The material that carries instructions for how a living thing develops and functions||3|
|Blood tests / testing||3|
|Gene Therapy (replacing a faulty gene with a healthy version)||2|
|Genetically-modified plants / animals||2|
|Inherited / Genetic diseases e.g. Sickle Cell Anaemia, Haemophilia||2|
|Passed from parents to children||2|
|Double helix / The shape of it||2|
|Medicine / Medical research||2|
|Genetically-modified food / crops||1|
|The human genome project||1|
|Tracing ancestry / Family trees||1|
|What we're made of / Building blocks||1|
|Individual / Unique||1|
|'Did Not Attend'||1|
|Crick and Watson||*|
|Personalised medicines (Tailor-made drugs for individual patients)||*|
|Children / Babies||*|
|HIV / AIDS||*|
|Jurassic Park / Dinosaurs||*|
As you may or may not know, DNA is the genetic material found in most cells in all living things. It is passed from parents to children and carries instructions for how a living thing develops and functions.
Q2 On this card is a list of things made possible by the discovery of DNA, some of which are common now, some of which may be available in the future. Which, if any, of them were you aware of before seeing this card? Q3 And, in your opinion, which two or three of these things, if any, do you feel will provide the greatest benefit to society?
|DNA identification / fingerprinting (as used in criminal investigations)||83||43|
|Understanding / Predicting inherited genetic diseases||61||41|
|Gene Therapy (replacing a faulty gene with a healthy version)||55||38|
|Increasing understanding of the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing common diseases||53||30|
|Personalised medicines (Tailor-made drugs for individual patients)||27||27|
|Paternity testing (using DNA to identify an individual's father)||80||16|
|Sequencing the human genome / Knowing how many genes we have and how they might affect us physically||43||13|
|Improving our understanding of how life has evolved||47||8|
|Tracing ancestry / Family trees||55||6|
|None of these||2||1|
|Don't know / No opinion||3||6|
Q2/Q3 Summary Table
|Application||Awareness||Thought Greatly Beneficial||Thought Greatly Beneficial (Based on Awareness)|
|Understanding / Predicting inherited genetic diseases||3||61||2||41||1||51|
|Gene Therapy (replacing a faulty gene with a healthy version)||5||55||3||38||1||51|
|DNA identification / fingerprinting (as used in criminal investigations)||1||83||1||43||3||47|
|Increasing understanding of the link between genes, environment and lifestyle in causing common diseases||6||53||4||30||4||40|
|Personalised medicines (Tailor-made drugs for individual patients)||9||27||5||27||5||34|
|Sequencing the human genome / Knowing how many genes we have and how they might affect us physically||8||43||8||13||7||18|
|Paternity testing (using DNA to identify an individual's father)||2||80||7||16||8||16|
|Improving our understanding of how life has evolved||7||47||9||8||9||9|
|Tracing ancestry / Family trees||5||55||10||6||11||5|
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