Genetic mapping of babies by 2019 will transform preventive medicine
2009-02-10 0:00

By Mark Henderson | timesonline.co.uk


Every baby born a decade from now will have its genetic code mapped at birth, the head of the world's leading genome sequencing company has predicted.

A complete DNA read-out for every newborn will be technically feasible and affordable in less than five years, promising a revolution in healthcare, says Jay Flatley, the chief executive of Illumina.

Only social and legal issues are likely to delay the era of “genome sequences”, or genetic profiles, for all. By 2019 it will have become routine to map infants' genes when they are born, Dr Flatley told The Times.

This will open a new approach to medicine, by which conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can be predicted and prevented and drugs prescribed more safely and effectively.

The development, however, will raise difficult questions about privacy and access to individuals' genetic records. Many people may be reluctant to have their genome read, for fear that the results could be used against them by an employer or insurance company.

The prospect of genome screening for all has emerged because of the plummeting cost of the relevant technology.

The Human Genome Project, which published its first rough sequence of mankind's genetic code in 2001, cost an estimated $4billion (£2.7billion). By the time the scientists James Watson and Craig Venter had their genomes mapped two years ago, the cost had fallen to about $1m (£700,000).

Genotyping services, which examine about 2million of the genome's 6billion DNA letters for clues to disease, are already available to consumers for about $1,000 (£700). Those with deeper pockets can have their whole genome mapped for about $100,000 (£70,000).

Illumina is preparing to launch a much cheaper whole-genome service within two years. It has already begun seeking consent from its first customers, who are likely to pay between $10,000 and $20,000 (£7,000-£14,000).

Last month, Illumina announced a deal with Oxford Nanopore, a British company that is developing a new approach to sequencing that could bring costs down further.

In an interview with The Times, Dr Flatley said a genome sequence should be available for less than $1,000 (£700) in three to four years.

“The limitations are sociological; when and where people think it can be applied, the concerns people have about misinformation and the background ethics questions.

“I think those are actually going to be the limits that push it out to a ten-year timeframe,” he added.

A baby's genome can be discovered at birth by a heel-prick blood test, similar to the one that is already used to screen for inherited diseases such as cystic fibrosis.

By examining which genetic variants a person has inherited, it is possible to identify raised risks of developing an array of conditions, including cardiovascular disease and many cancers. Those at high risk can then be screened more regularly, or given drugs or dietary advice to lower their chances of becoming ill.

As DNA affects the way certain drugs are metabolised, personal genomes could also be used to ensure that patients get the medicine that is most likely to work for them and least likely to have side-effects.

Personal genome sequencing, however, will raise legitimate concerns about privacy,

“Bad things can be done with the genome. It could predict something about someone — and you could potentially hand information to their employer or their insurance company,” said Dr Flatley. “Legislation has to be passed.”

Complete genetic privacy, however, was unlikely to be possible, he added.

“People have to recognise that this horse is out of the barn, and that your genome probably can't be protected, because everywhere you go you leave your genome behind.”

As the benefits become clearer, however, he believes that most people will want their genomes read and interpreted. The apparent benefits would soon eclipse the hazards.

Source: Genetic mapping of babies by 2019 will transform preventive medicine

More at the mtsarforum



Related Articles
The last barrier to be overcome in genetic testing is public acceptability
Illumina (company)
illumina.com
DeoxyriboNucleic Acid (DNA)
Scientist Calls For World DNA Database
Red Ice Creations Radio - Michael Tsarion - The Post Human World
'Darth Venter' (J. Craig Venter) & The Archon Genomics X Prize


Latest News from our Front Page

Holocaust, Hate Speech and Were the Germans so Stupid?
2015-02-28 20:31
Description form YouTube: This is an updated version of the video which was taken down by YouTube following a spurious copyright-infringement claim. It addresses issues regarding claims that Zyklon B in liquid form gives off fumes at temperatures below 0º C. As the world approaches the brink of a new Middle East crisis this time involving Syria, clearly at the behind-the-scenes ...
The Jewish Roots of Leonard Nimoy and What the ‘Live Long and Prosper’ Hand Symbol Really Means
2015-02-28 0:20
Leonard Nimoy first saw what became the famous Vulcan salute, “live long and prosper,” as a child, long before “Star Trek” even existed. The placement of the hands comes from a childhood memory, of an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service in Boston. The man who would play Spock saw the gesture as part of a blessing, and it never left him. “Something ...
Baby born still INSIDE his amniotic sac is hailed a ‘medical miracle’ by doctors [Video]
2015-02-27 22:46
What an incredible miracle… Not only was the little boy three months early – he was born inside his amniotic sac. I’ve never heard of this happening before. If you look at the picture, you can see him clearly with his little arms and legs curled up. He was still being given oxygen by his mom until the sac was ...
California Infant Dies after 8 Vaccines, Family Gets Him Back from Hospital Cremated
2015-02-27 21:55
Parents in California are distraught after losing their infant son after being vaccinated. He died in his sleep and was taken to the hospital already deceased. Hospital staff ruled his death as sudden infant death syndrome. The couple was told an autopsy was required to be performed on their son. After returning home, waiting to get an update, they never received ...
DNA: Data-storage for eternity
2015-02-27 20:57
How can we preserve our knowledge today for the next millennia? ETH researchers have found a way to store information in the form of DNA, preserving it for nearly an eternity. Scrolls thousands of years old provide us with a glimpse into long-forgotten cultures and the knowledge of our ancestors. In this digital era, in contrast, a large part of our ...
More News »