Gene scan shows man`s risk for heart attack, cancer

Last Updated: Apr 30, 2010, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: A California college professor who sequenced his own genome has had it analyzed -- and discovered he has a high risk of dropping dead of a sudden heart attack, as well as a high prostate cancer risk.

The analysis, published in the Lancet medical journal, illustrates the challenges facing doctors, patients and healthcare systems as such DNA maps become easier to get and as people seek to find out their disease risks.

As for his own findings, Stanford University bioengineering professor Stephen Quake found them "interesting."

"I was curious to see what would show up," Quake said in a statement.

"But it`s important to recognize that not everyone will want to know the intimate details of their genome, and it`s entirely possible that this group will be the majority. There are many ethical, educational and policy questions that need to be addressed going forward."

The Stanford team designed a computer algorithm to bring together Quake`s known and genetic health risks.

For example, as a 40-year-old white male, Quake began with a 16 percent lifetime chance of developing prostate cancer. But after taking his genes into account, the researchers put his risk at 23 percent.

His Alzheimer`s risk, however, plummeted from 9 percent for most white men his age to 1.4 percent when genetics were considered.

Quake`s genome cost about $50,000 to sequence using a Heliscope sequencer from Helicos BioSciences It was double-checked using an Illumina Inc sequencer.

But the price is falling. The latest machines from companies like Illumina and Life Technologies Corp can map out a patient`s whole DNA code for as little as $5,000.

"The USD 1,000 genome is coming fast," said cardiologist Dr. Euan Ashley, who led the team analyzing Quake`s sequence.

Hours of expert interpretation went into Quake`s genome but Ashley said this could eventually be reduced to a computer algorithm.

Bureau Report