Veritas Genetics is offering full genome sequencing of newborns in China,, ordered by a doctor. They will report back on 950 serious early- and later-life disease risks, 200 genes connected to drug reactions, and more than 100 physical traits a child is likely to have.
Called myBabyGenome, the service costs $1,500 and could help identify serious hidden problems in newborns, the company says.
But some doctors say the plan is a huge overstep. “I think it’s vastly premature to peddle a completely unproven set of data, especially to a vulnerable population like neonates,” says Jim Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
The problem is that the risk posed by many disease genes remains uncertain. Even if a child has a mutation in a gene, he or she may never be affected, prompting debate among doctors about whether it’s useful to inform parents.
The Veritas test also steps into uncharted territory by making predictions about how children will look and act: how wide their nose will be, whether they will overeat or have a “novelty seeking” personality, and even whether they are likely to go bald decades in the future.
Veritas, a spinoff of Harvard University’s Personal Genome Project, specializes in inexpensive “whole genome” sequencing using the latest speedy DNA technology.
For $999, it has since last year offered adults in the U.S. the chance to learn the sequence of the six billion DNA letters in their cells. A doctor must order that test. Gene knowledge can be critically useful to anyone who’s facing an undiagnosed disease or whose DNA harbors a cancer risk. But for most people the readout is little more than a novelty. Consumer demand for genome scans remains tepid.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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