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About the Center

Most, if not all, human diseases have one or more genetic factors that contribute to cause, likelihood of occurrence, severity, and response to existing or experimental treatments. There is a general perception that the ability to define a person's genetic makeup will lead to better health, improved treatments and a better understanding of risks to other family members. However, many genetic technologies increase uncertainty and confusion in the minds of patients, relatives, doctors, health insurers and others.

The University of Pennsylvania Center for Integration of Genetic and Healthcare Technologies (Penn CIGHT) aims to define these issues better and offer suggestions for reducing the problems of uncertainty. The overall goal of the Penn CIGHT is to develop tools that will help consumers, professionals, policy makers and insurers understand and cope with the scope of certainty and uncertainty that genetic technologies engender. The work of the center is conducted by teams of experts representing a broad range of disciplines, such as medicine, bioethics, law, behavioral and social sciences, clinical research, public policy, economics, and genetic and genomic research. The interdisciplinary nature of this team allows the center to develop innovative research approaches focused on specific sets of issues that relate to the numerous applications and uses of genomic research, technologies, and information. The Center also trains investigators in methods to evaluate the implications and utility of future genetic technologies and discoveries.

The activities of the Center are carried out through three cores. The administrative core provides overall coordination and facilitates transdisciplinary collaboration. The training core provides transdisciplinary training in research for faculty, post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. The research-to-practice core facilitates the development of policies that incorporate center findings. Additionally, the Penn CIGHT serves as a resource for other Penn faculty, for other Centers of Excellence, and for individuals, volunteer support groups, payers of health services and investigators, for educating about the implications of genetic technologies in terms of the realms of certainty.

Team members are conducting original research to evaluate genetic technologies. The initial studies include:

  1. a historical and sociological analysis of prenatal testing for cystic fibrosis and Down syndrome
  2. an assessment from the perspective of patients, providers and third party payers of the utility of a genetic test to identify future disease susceptibility
  3. an evaluation of the long-term psychological, social, and medical effects of genetic testing and counseling for breast cancer on African American women and their families

Please see Research for additional ongoing center projects.