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Boston Researchers To Study Genome Sequencing In Newborns

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Diane Stern is co-anchor of “The WBZ Afternoon News,” broadcast on WBZ...
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BOSTON (CBS) — A new study will give Boston-area parents the chance to have their newborn baby’s DNA analyzed.

It’s part of a first-ever trial to explore the benefits and risks of genome sequencing among infants and it’s being done by researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital.

The five-year study will assess the baby’s risks of future diseases and how that information affects the baby’s medical care, and the relationship between the parents, baby and baby’s pediatrician.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern reports

Researchers Dr. Robert Green of Brigham and Women’s and Dr. Alan Beggs of Boston Children’s hospitals are both on the faculty at Harvard Medical School and leading the study.

“Parents want to know everything they can possibly know about their children, especially their newborns,”Green told WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Diane Stern. “When we’ve done surveys on hundreds of newborns’ parents, close to 80-percent said they wanted to know genomic information about their baby.”

Their study is funded through a $6 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Starting in January, Green and Beggs will enroll 480 newborn infants and their parents in the study  to compare what happens when genomic sequencing is added to the baby’s care.

“It’s a controversial area,” Green said. “There are people who are concerned this is going too far, too fast and parents will be overwhelmed with lots and lots of information they may not understand.”

Green said despite that, companies are already starting to gear up to offer the testing to parents. Doing the research now, allows researchers to have a better understanding about how the information can affect future care.

The newborns from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, will be divided into two groups.

One group will receive conventional state-mandated screenings and the other group will receive those screenings plus genome sequencing.

“These analyses will help illuminate the full spectrum of benefits and risks associated with genome sequencing of newborns,” said Beggs, director of the Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research and a professor of pediatrics and scientist in the Division of Genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital.

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