The Genetic Gold Rush Is On: New Direct-to-Consumer Genetic Tests Offer Information but Also Risks

Article ID: 537870

Released: 19-Feb-2008 10:40 AM EST

Source Newsroom: Halstead Communications

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Newswise — "The increasing popularity of direct-to-consumer genetic tests to determine if you have a gene associated with a particular disease or medical condition is not without its risks," says Caroline Lieber, M.S., and Director of the Joan Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics at Sarah Lawrence College (the first and still largest such program in the country and internationally). A genetic counselor herself, Lieber points out that it's important to be careful because these tests can be confusing and not necessarily reliable.

Advances in human genetics are occurring so rapidly that even a primary-care physician with a basic background in genetics would have trouble keeping up with developments in gene therapy and genetic testing. There is a tremendous amount of learning needed to properly understand the ramifications of tests to detect multiple markers for a wide range of diseases. Prices vary for these kits depending on the number of markers researched as does the quality of results analyzed.

It was announced recently (February 9, 2007) that a personal genome readout is currently available for $350,000 " with plans underway by a bioscience lab on the west coast to try and produce an individual's entire genome in minutes for less than $1,000. "Putting these tests into the hands of the uninformed, or even those without the time to thoroughly process the results, is risky," according to Lieber.

To be most useful, a genetic counselor should be there from the beginning, helping the patient/client decide if a test is advisable and then helping him or her choose the next step once the results have been discussed. The role of the genetic counselor is to help the patient process accurate information and make sound decisions," she added.

Caroline Lieber is available to discuss:

"¢ The pitfalls and limitations of direct-to-consumer genetic tests.

"¢ The importance of working with a trained genetic counselor to discuss where risk and choice converge in prenatal testing.

"¢ How to create a medical family tree and interpret the results.


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