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California Baby First to Have DNA Sequenced Before Birth

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A California father who doggedly pursued a genetics company for his son's DNA profile is the first to have completed the sequencing of a baby's genetic makeup before the infant was born. The father, Razib Khan, is now finishing a Ph.D. in feline population genetics at the University of California, Davis. With his doctor, Kahn worked to obtain the raw data "drawn from a tissue sample from the placenta of the unborn baby during the second trimester." Khan is known to have a fiery tongue in the genetics world, keeping a blog which has criticized government regulation of DNA sequencing. "The future is here, deal with it," he wrote on his blog in May.

What's the Big Idea?

Kahn predicts that in five years, first-trimester DNA sequencing will be a common practice. But that idea is deeply controversial because the discovery of a genetic mutation could encourage parents to seek an abortion. Diana Bianchi, executive director of the Mother Infant Research Institute at Tufts University, adds that genetic mutations are not destiny since it is possible for a person to have a mutation without exhibiting symptoms. Currently, the Food and Drug Administration has banned genetic sequencing companies from offering their services directly to consumers, requiring the advice and consent of a doctor instead.

Read more at MIT Technology Review

Photo credit: Twonix Studio/Shutterstock

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