A lower appeals court ruling allowing human genes to be patented has been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, which sends the case back down for a continuation of the battle between those who believe that genes carrying the secrets of life should not be exploited for commercial gain and companies who argue that a patent must be the reward for years of expensive research that moves science forward.

The ruling again overturns patents belonging to Myriad Genetics Inc. of Salt Lake City on two genes linked to increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Myriad's BRACAnalysis test looks for mutations on the breast cancer predisposition gene, or BRCA.  Now they must go back for a rehearing and the impact could be substantial.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has been awarding patents on human genes for almost 30 years.

The case is Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics, 11-725.

Supreme Court throws out human gene patents, Associated PressMonday, March 26, 2012