The DNA Death Test; Scientist's Every Gene Screened to Show Risk of Catching Diseases

Daily Mail (London), April 30, 2010 | Go to article overview

The DNA Death Test; Scientist's Every Gene Screened to Show Risk of Catching Diseases


Byline: Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent

FOR many of us, being told how likely we are to be hit by a range of fatal diseases is something we would rather not know.

But a scientist has been given the first ever prediction of his risk of future disease after his DNA was completely decoded.

He was prescribed anti-cholesterol drugs to tackle his heart disease risk after colleagues at a leading university sequenced his genetic code.

The American researchers who uncovered Professor Stephen Quake's future risk predict everyone could be offered such testing within a decade for a few hundred pounds.

They claim he is the first person to have a clinical 'diagnosis' made about his risk of suffering a range of illnesses.

The results revealed heightened risks of heart disease, cardiac arrest, diabetes and prostate cancer, as well as his likely responses to certain medicines.

Prof Quake, 40, made headlines last year when he used new technology to sequence his own genome, or genetic code, for less than $50,000 ([pounds sterling]33,000).

The latest study, published today in The Lancet medical journal, used his personal genetic data to make predictions about his health.

Prof Quake said: 'We're at the dawn of a new age of genomics. Information like this will enable doctors to deliver personalised health care like never before.

'It's certainly been interesting. I was curious to see what would show up. But not everyone will want to know the intimate details of their genome, and it's entirely possible that this group will be the majority.'

Colleagues at Stanford University School of Medicine near San Francisco, examined the scientist's genetic profile and combined the results with research information from studies about the genetic causes of different diseases.

Aspects of his family history were also taken into account, including the sudden death of a distant relative in his sleep at the age of 19. Prof Quake, pro-fessor of bioengineering at Stanford's medical school, was screened for 55 conditions, ranging from obesity and Type 2 diabetes to schizophrenia and gum disease.

In some cases the normal risk of developing a certain condition for a man of his age was scaled down, and in other cases up.

For instance, he entered the study with a 16 per cent chance of developing prostate cancer in his lifetime. But after incorporating information about 18 separate genetic variants from 54 studies, Prof Quake's personal risk of prostate cancer was put at 23 per cent. …

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