Investigation by a tenacious media organisation in Texas has exposed the shady circumstances by which the state gave away samples of hundreds of newborns’ blood. “Between 2003 and 2007, the state quietly gave hundreds of newborn blood samples to a U.S. Armed Forces laboratory for use in a forensics database. The revelation will likely raise questions about how newborn screening programs are run and how the samples are disseminated, almost always without families knowing where they go. In this case, 800 blood samples were to be part of a new, national mitochondrial DNA database intended as a reference databank for the forensic community and for research into mitochondrial DNA variation—DNA we inherit from our mother. California, Minnesota, and Florida have also reportedly supplied infant blood samples to the effort, according to The Texas Tribune investigation. Like virtually every state, Texas routinely screens almost all newborns for rare diseases, collecting a few drops of blood at birth. In recent years many states, Texas included, have stored the samples and offered them up for research, mainly in pediatrics. Because the samples are anonymous (though they may come with some demographic information, depending on the study), researchers have argued that they don’t need to seek informed consent to use them.”
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