Reading genes: How much of your future do they reveal?

PolygenicRiskScoring
Image credit: Lauren Solomon/Broad Communications

The journal Nature Genetics recently published an enormous study demonstrating yet again how multiple sites on the genome can play a role in determining our fates.

[Researchers] showed that they could use these 1,271 spots in the genome to compute a score that predicts — mildly, and on average across a group — [someone’s] likelihood of completing college. That’s all from a cheek swab. How is this possible? The research technique used here is called a genome-wide association study.

[These predictions can be] wildly misinterpreted, even abused, in the wrong hands. There are fears that they’ll give rise to an industry that feels more like genetic astrology than genetic prediction.

A big hope behind GWAS: If scientists can identify spots on the genome associated with a disease or a behavior, they can begin to trace the pathways from genetics to organ tissues to symptoms. And along that pathway, they can possibly find places to intervene and discover new cures.

Related article:  Epigenetic Zs: Could a bad night's sleep alter your genes?

In the more immediate future, some researchers say, doctors will use the tests to predict who is most likely to develop diseases. There was a recent GWAS effort to help make significant predictions about who is most likely to develop coronary artery disease in their lifetime. If these polygenetic tests are used at an early age, some doctors hope, patients can be given early preventive measures.

Read full, original post: How scientists are learning to predict your future with your genes

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