To try to tease out the cause of her daughter's breathing problems, Christine Rowan turned to genetic testing, but as she was waiting for the results, she tells NPR, she began to wonder about what else the testing might find. As the price of sequencing drops, NPR notes, all newborns, not just those who are ill, and possibly fetuses may eventually undergo whole-genome sequencing to catch genetic diseases early, raising a number of questions like those Rowan was asking herself.
"Instead of screening for currently something like 30 conditions, it would allow you to screen for hundreds, if not thousands, [of conditions] at birth," says Alan Guttmacher, the director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, tells NPR.
However, NPR notes that many adults choose not to know certain findings from genetic testing of themselves — like if they are at high risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or Huntington's disease —and children may eventually wish they did not know certain information about themselves. As for Rowan and her daughter, she says she decided to only receive information related to her daughter's breathing issues.
"As with any new technology, we should try to use it to benefit people, but when it's not very clear what its exact impact's going to be, we should go slowly. We should study it," Guttmacher adds.
NPR has had other segments on genomics recently, as well.