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The Accuracy and Ethics of Genome Testing To Predict Babies’ Health

July 21, 2017

The uncertain future of a newborn can be exciting and frightening. Now one Cambridge-based genetics firm claims it can answer new parents' questions about their baby's health, risk of disease, and even personality traits.

Veritas Genetics offers a service in China -- where the company operates a lab -- that uses babies' DNA samples to provide genetic information. For the lofty price of $1,500, customers get intel on everything, from snacking habits to risk of disease.

Antonio Regalado, senior editor for biomedicine at the MIT Technology Review, joined WGBH's Morning Edition host Bob Seay to discuss the ethics surrounding this new service and why some experts are critical of it. Veritas Genetics is listed in the journal's 50 Smartest Companies in 2017.

The biotech firm is currently barred from conducting this part of their business in the U.S., as some American medical associations argue that gene interpretation isn't accurate enough to make such predictions. 

"The information that you're getting from the genome, they don't think it's going to be helpful to doctors in diagnosing or treating disease immediately for newborns, so they don't think there's a reason to have it," said Regalado.

To hear the full conversation, click on the audio player above.

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