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Cheaper DNA Sequencing Coming Closer
Date:7/20/2011

in super fast and get the fingerprint and trace it back to its routes."

Other uses of DNA scans include better matching treatments to diseases, Jain said. So-called personalized medicine seeks to avoid trial-and-error by using genetic data found during a scan to better pair treatments with diseases.

These scans can also provide a snapshot of what may be to come with an individual's health. But knowing you may develop a disease isn't always helpful if there's nothing you can do to prevent it.

Jain noted that "if you are genetically predisposed to a disease like diabetes, you can change your lifestyle."

But some medical experts, including Dr. Peter Gregersen, director of the Robert S. Boas Center for Genomics and Human Genetics at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, N.Y., are taking a more cautious approach when evaluating the new technology

"Most of what genetics tell us is that there are a lot of fairly common variants that have a modest degree of risk for diseases," Gregersen said. "This is important from a scientific point of view, but the data itself is not actionable.

"The risk of disease associated with high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol is far greater than most of the genetic risks coming out of whole genome scanning," Gregersen added. For example, if your genome scan identified a mutation that put you at risk for macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, "you may see an ophthalmologist, and there are forms that are treatable, but knowing your genetics won't impact this much," he said.

"Getting it is one thing, but adequately interpreting the information it provides is another big part of this," Gregersen said. "It's a fun thing to do, and there are ways to do it now in which you can contribute to basic science, such as by taking part in a larger registry." But, he added, "In isolation, this information is not helpful yet."

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