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Informatics approach helps doctors, patients make sense of genome data
Date:9/20/2012

ly, providing more timely results to physicians and patients," says Berg.

Berg notes that the researchers had to set a very high bar for the genetic variants reported to patients and physicians, taking into account that there are errors in all of the current databases of known disease-causing mutations and that they contain variants that are probably not disease causing, due to unavoidable errors in data processing and other aspects of genetic research. However, because most hereditary disorders are very rare, disease causing mutations are highly unlikely.

"In epidemiologic terms we valued specificity over sensitivity. We will have some false negatives because we are ignoring some genetic variants that we don't understand well or that are very unlikely to occur. However, as researchers who also work with patients, we know that there are significant consequences to false positive results for genetic disorders and given the rarity of many of these disorders we think this is an appropriate risk," he argues.

Berg and his collaborators, which include James Evans, MD, PhD, Bryson Distinguished Professor of Genetics Research and a member of UNC Lineberger, are also studying the practical consequences of our ability to pinpoint disease-causing mutations in the genome.

"We hope that this methodology will enhance our ability to quickly translate a large amount of data into findings that are useful to physicians and patients, allowing us to study important issues like patient preference for learning about their likelihood of developing or passing along a hereditary disease for which there is no treatment," said Evans.

"These are important ethical considerations, and currently there exist no best practices because this technology is still relatively new," he added.


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Contact: Ellen de Graffenreid
edegraff@med.unc.edu
919-962-3405
University of North Carolina Health Care
Source:Eurekalert

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