FRANCIS COLLINS Tracking Down Killer Genes

FRANCIS COLLINS is finding new ways to trace the origins of disease. But he agonizes over the implications of this brave new world of medicine.

Q . You just found the gene for neurofibromatosis, often confused with Elephant Man's disease. A year ago, you were instrumental in finding the gene that triggers cystic fibrosis. How will such discoveries affect the practice of medicine?

A. They will transform medicine in ways we can't even predict. I'm sure that a hundred years from now, people will look back on this era and shake their heads in disbelief in the same way that we look back on arsenic treatments for syphilis in the previous century. But that's in the long run. It's sort of a paradox. Here we have...

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