Dr. Robert C. Green wants to win the “Bright Futures Prize” to explore newborn babies’ genomes.
…if it might predict your baby’s risk of developing diseases like diabetes, heart disease or cancer later in life? Would you want your pediatrician to have this information? Should it be in your child’s health record? What would be the psychological impact on you and your growing child? Would it scare you or affect bonding with your child?
These are just some of the questions that Dr. Green (in video below) wants to answer if and when he wins the Bright Futures Prize offered by Harvard Medical School-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
A number of celebrities have had their DNA analyzed for a variety of reasons.
When 37 year-old Google Co-founder Sergey Brin had his DNA analyzed in 2009, he discovered that he has a 25% chance of developing Parkinson’s Disease by age 59 and a 75% chance of developing the disease by age 79. What if he had known these risks as a child? Would he have studied computer science and co-founded Google or perhaps instead have become a doctor and devoted his life to finding a cure?
Actress Glenn Close had her DNA analyzed when she was 63 years old to try and discover the reason why there is so much mental illness in her family. Her sister Jennie has bipolar illness (manic depression) and her nephew, Jennie’s son, has symptoms of both bipolar disease and schizophrenia. Ms. Close is working to erase the stigma and discrimination of mental illness through her foundation Bring Change 2 Mind.
In 2010, 61 year-old Ozzy Osbourne looked for answers in his DNA to the question of why he was still alive after decades of substance abuse and living a rock-star lifestyle, burning his candle at both ends. Ozzy reportedly found out that his genome contains some Neanderthal genes. (Are we surprised?)
The 1997 science fiction drama Gattaca came out about 4 years before the human genome (DNA) was fully decoded and when the cost of decoding 1 person’s genome was about a billion dollars. 15 years later, in the “not-too-distant future” of 2012, the cost of decoding a person’s genome is about $10,000 but will probably be only a $1,000 by 2013. Compared to the hospital bill for delivering a baby, that’s not very much.
Gattaca explored the unintended consequences of biotechnology. In the movie, one of the characters was denied the opportunity to become an astronaut based on his DNA. Since 2008, it has been against the law to use a person’s genetic (DNA) information to discriminate against them for health insurance and employment purposes. In other words, if your baby’s DNA revealed an increased risk of developing a disease, this information could not be used to deny him or her health insurance, a job or a promotion.
As explained in the video above, Dr. Green wants to explore what parents would want to know about their babies’ DNA. For instance, would you really want to know if your newborn baby had an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease when they grow older, or Parkinson’s disease like Sergey Brin? The $100,000 Bright Futures Prize would allow Dr. Green to decode the genomes of 10 babies. You can vote for his project here.
For more information on medical DNA, see Genomics for Primary Care Physicians in 5 Minutes or Less.
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