Many diseases and genetic conditions could be kept under control if they are discovered in time. It appears that in the future experts should be able to read someone’s genetics, even soon after they are born. This has been explained in a study published on Thursday in The American Journal of Human Genetics. While this method is superior to the current screening, scientists worry about the ethical issues.
How does it work?
Genetic sequencing is the process that could detect the newborns’ diseases. A trial for this started back in 2015 at the Brigham Women’s Hospital and the Boston Children’s Hospital. The project was known at BabySeq and the results were published in the study.
There were 159 babies that received genetic sequencing. Out of them researchers discovered that 15 had mutations that could affect their health in the future. “That was surprising. None of them were anticipated [to have a risk] based on their family or clinical histories,” explained study author Ozge Ceyhan-Birsoy, a clinical molecular geneticist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
The genetic risk issue comes into discussion here. For example, out of 85, 3 newborns had mutations which increased the risk of conditions such as colon cancer, breast cancer or other diseases that could appear in adulthood. Their parents were then tested as well and it was discovered that they also had the same mutations.
“There’s typically only one patient per doctor. But in genetics, when you have one member of a family as your patient, you might have to consider that the whole family is potentially under your care,” declared senior author Alan Beggs who is the director of the Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.