More Parents Showing Interest in Whole Genome Sequencing

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A study out of the University of Michigan has found that parents are deeply interested in using a technology that could help them discover risks contained in their children’s DNA concerning a variety of diseases that may not manifest until much later on in life, giving families time to find an answer before the problem arises.

The technology, called genome sequencing, uses a small amount of blood or saliva to discover the presence of a number of diseases, including hereditary cancer, cardiovascular disease or Alzheimer’s disease.

“As genome sequencing becomes faster and cheaper, we expect the technology to become used more frequently in clinics and the private market. We wanted to know what kind of factors influenced patient demand for this test, especially among parents,” says senior author Beth Tarini from University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and researcher at the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit.  “Particularly fascinating was that parents’ interest for having predictive genetic testing done for themselves reflected their interest in testing their children too – it appears to be a global decision for the family,” he added.

Researchers discovered that 59% of the entire population, which included both parents and non-parents, were interested in the technology.  In addition, 62% of parents said they would be interested in having the results for themselves, and 58% said they would like the complete DNA read for their children.

Adults planning to have children within the next five years showed an even greater interest in making use of the technology, writes Alexandru Toreanik for iKnowToday.

Patients who already show symptoms of an undiagnosed medical condition are currently most likely to make use of whole genome sequencing, although the technology has the ability to be used to look at a person’s complete DNA in order to deal with health diseases a patient holds a future risk for, earlier.  Despite this, there are still questions concerning the accuracy of the information presented.

“First, interpreting the data is challenging because we are not sure what all of the data means. Second, even if you can interpret the data then you may not know what to do with the interpretation. Perhaps you learn you have a slightly higher risk of getting prostate cancer or diabetes – neither of which is for certain or in the near future. Now what?”

Privacy is another issue that comes into play when considering the use of genome sequencing.  For example, parents may discover their children is at a higher risk for a disease in the future, but decisions concerning how to best handle the issue may be able to be held off until the child is old enough to decide for themselves.