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Genome Scan Gives Man Insight Into Future Health Risks
Date:4/30/2010

'We're at the dawn of a new age in genomics,' researcher says

FRIDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- Stephen Quake, a Stanford University professor of bioengineering, now has a very good sense of his own genetic destiny.

Quake's DNA was the focus of the first completely mapped genome of a healthy person aimed at predicting future health risks. The scan was conducted by a team of Stanford researchers and cost about $50,000. The researchers say they can now predict Quake's risk for dozens of diseases and how he might respond to a number of widely used medicines.

This type of individualized risk report could become common within the next decade and may become much cheaper, according to the Stanford team.

"The $1,000 genome [test] is coming fast. The challenge lies in knowing what to do with all that information. We've focused on establishing priorities that will be most helpful when a patient and a physician are sitting together looking at the computer screen," Euan Ashley, an assistant professor of medicine, said in a university news release.

Those priorities include assessing how a person's activity levels, weight, diet and other lifestyle habits combine with his or her genetic risk for, or protection against, health problems such as diabetes or heart attack. It's also important to determine if a certain medication is likely to benefit the patient or cause harmful side effects.

"We're at the dawn of a new age in genomics," Quake said. "Information like this will enable doctors to deliver personalized health care like never before. Patients at risk for certain diseases will be able to receive closer monitoring and more frequent testing, while those who are at lower risk will be spared unnecessary tests. This will have important economic benefits as well, because it improves the efficiency of medicine."

In mapping Quake's genome, researchers designed an algorithm that overlaid his genetic
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