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‘Personal medicine’ landmark is hailed

Doctors hailed a landmark in the advance of personalised medicine yesterday with the first case in which the sequencing of a patient's complete genome revealed the genetic cause of his disease.

The advance demonstrates for the first time that the technology of gene sequencing is robust enough to yield clinically significant results. Fewer than 10 people in the world have had their personal genomes completed, and most of these were done as an intellectual exercise.

But the technology may herald a new era of medical neurosis rather than a new dawn of better health. Learning in advance of the risk of suffering diseases in the future might help prevent their occurrence, but would also lead to a life spent worrying about them.

Unlocking the secrets of the genetic code for people to reveal their risk of developing diseases has been limited by the high cost. But it is falling dramatically.

However, the new developments raise a host of ethical questions. Among them is how information about genetic risks of disease should be presented to individuals, and what the implications may be for insurance and employment.

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