CNN: Congrats on the new baby. Would you like a DNA screening test?
By Susan Scutti
Every baby born in the United States is given a routine blood test to screen for dozens of inherited medical conditions. Now, the U.S. National Institutes of Health is exploring whether to use DNA sequencing to screen newborn babies for additional genetic abnormalities and disorders. Such DNA testing would likely complement, but not replace, the current routine blood tests.
However, before routine genetic screening of infants even approaches reality, many questions need answers, including whether genetic sequencing can accurately identify babies who will develop a disease, according to Dr. Joseph A. Bocchini Jr., chairman of the Advisory Committee on Heritable Disorders in Newborns and Children.
More clarity is also needed on issues surrounding newborn DNA testing, including consent, accessibility, data privacy and the potential changes to medical practice and costs.
Another uncertainty with genetic sequencing is that it reveals genes that don't get "expressed," meaning the protein the gene codes for doesn't get made, said Dr. John Lantos, the director of the Children's Mercy Hospital Bioethics Center in Kansas City, Missouri. "The whole process of going from gene to protein is controlled by all sorts of things we don't yet understand," said Lantos.
Lantos pointed out that the entire field of genomics is a relative newborn itself.
"Part of what we're learning is how much more complicated it is than what we thought 10 years ago," Lantos said. "It's like exploring a new continent."
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Learn more about Genomic Medicine at Children's Mercy