Boston-based DNA sequencing company is offering to decode the complete genomes of newborns in China, leading some to ask how much parents should know about their children’s genes at birth.
Veritas Genetics says the test, ordered by a doctor, will report back on 950 serious early- and later-life disease risks, 200 genes connected to drug reactions, and more than 100 physical traits a child is likely to have.
Called myBabyGenome, the service costs $1,500 and could help identify serious hidden problems in newborns, the company says.
But some doctors say the plan is a huge overstep. “I think it’s vastly premature to peddle a completely unproven set of data, especially to a vulnerable population like neonates,” says Jim Evans, a professor of genetics at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
The problem is that the risk posed by many disease genes remains uncertain. Even if a child has a mutation in a gene, he or she may never be affected, prompting debate among doctors about whether it’s useful to inform parents.
The Veritas test also steps into uncharted territory by making predictions about how children will look and act: how wide their nose will be, whether they will overeat or have a “novelty seeking” personality, and even whether they are likely to go bald decades in the future.
Evans is sharply critical of any effort to predict traits. Especially with psychology, he says, genetic factors aren’t well understood. “You run the risk of predestination based on bad science,” he says. “Frankly, I think it’s a little bit crazy to do genetic tests on your newborn to find out if 40 years from now they are going to be bald.”
Here is the full story, it has further interesting points.