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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

Hanson: The Warrior Gene

In today’s brave new world of genome analysis, law enforcement has just used genetic testing to track down a long sought serial killer. And just how our genetic information might be used to determine our access to insurance and health is, as yet unknown. But suddenly it seems like everybody and their 5th cousin are spitting into plastic tubes and sending them off for DNA testing. And sites like and 23 and me are growing faster than bacteria in a petri dish.

It was a kick to learn on PBS that Bernie Sanders and Larry David are distant cousins. And a couple of my long-married but still romantic friends spent days working out a time to spit into their tubes simultaneously and send them off together. Wedding planners and Hallmark take note.

That said, it was through that I was, at age 66, finally able to confirm the long-suspected identity of my long-dead biological father. Here's to you Winfield Sears Brooks, poet, author, publisher, and ladies’ man. Sorry we never got to meet.

So when I learned I could upload my entire genome and have thousands of snips of my DNA analyzed for ten bucks within a few keystrokes I was off.

Soon, I’m gazing at a massive report in black and white and red and green, with numbers, and letters, and pie charts, oh my: the essential nature of me all laid out to see and understand.

Unless growing mold on food in the refrigerator counts, I'm no scientist. But I plow ahead anyway... and discover I have something called the Warrior gene! Excellent!

And a gene that makes it very likely I’ll get Type One Diabetes… definitely not excellent.

But I also seem to have some super gene that will keep me from getting Diabetes... genetic checkmate.

Then, uh-oh: I have a 90 percent chance of getting Alzheimers.

So I call upon the power of my warrior gene... immediately enroll in a clinical trial… and stoically share the news with my husband and best friends.

Then I realize I’ve misread the report... no Alzheimers for me, after all.

Immediately, I reach out to everyone to apologize. But trust me, nobody wants to hear that it was my ADHD genes at fault.

Good thing I’ve also inherited the gene that makes it really beneficial to drink red wine.


Gayle Hanson is a long-time VT writer and editor. She has been a meditation teacher for 20 years and is a passionate advocate for community-based mentoring and adoptee rights.
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