New DNA test that reveals a child’s true age has promise, but ethical pitfalls

February 23, 2020

Michael Kobor, a 2020 International Research Roundtable grant recipient, co-authored an article on the pitfalls of the first pediatric epigenetic clock.  Kobor Lab has designed a DNA test specifically for testing the age of young people, with an eye towards its applications in research and medical settings. There are non-medical applications as well, which present greater ethical dilemmas. Pediatric epigenetic tests could be used in immigration cases to prove the age of undocumented migrants seeking asylum as minors. Other future uses can be imagined, such as child labour and trafficking surveillance, or even for the identification of child combatants in armed conflict. 

Michael Kobor is a medical geneticist whose research focuses on the epigenetic regulation of gene expression in genome function. Kobor’s International Research Roundtable will focus on social exposome in child healthcare and development.