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Clin Perinatol. 2001 Jun;28(2):425-34.

Postgenomic medicine. Presymptomatic testing for prediction and prevention.

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Departments of Human Genetics and Pediatrics, UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, California, USA.


Significant changes are occurring in genetic screening paradigms. Genetic screening is moving from traditional analytes, such as small molecules and proteins, to molecular genetic testing involving DNA and RNA. There are significant consequences to these changes, involving issues for the family unit, such as misattribution of parentage, and concerns regarding discrimination, confidentiality, and privacy. Although these latter issues have broader concerns for medicine and medical information, in the context of genetic testing, information derived from one individual can have a significant impact on others within their family. Screening is also changing from mendelian disease ascertainment to predictive testing. Issues that arise involve appropriate age at testing for adult-onset disorders, the clinical validity and clinical use of genetic testing for complex diseases, and the efficacy of interventions following genetic testing. We are also learning that the phenotypes of even simple mendelian disorders are influenced by complex genetic and environmental factors. The observations that genotypes rarely predict phenotypes absolutely have significant ramifications for counseling based on mutation analysis, for example in neonates who have not yet manifested symptoms and in older children and in adults undergoing predictive testing. Molecular genetic testing often proceeds rapidly from the research laboratory to the clinical setting. We must recognize that for single-gene disorders with high penetrance, the information derived from such testing may be relatively easy to interpret and apply. For complex diseases, however, the populations studied and their demographic characteristics are extremely important for extrapolation to counseling of individual patients. The value of population-based predictive testing is exemplified by newborn screening. It is clear that the Human Genome Project, and the information and technologies from it, will have a much broader impact on public health by presymptomatic prediction and prevention of disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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