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Choosing a Pram and Choosing Whether to Sequence

New parents today may be debating breast- versus bottle-feeding, but Helen Thomas at New Scientist writes that a new discussion may soon focus on whether or to sequence their newborn's genome.

The BabySeq trial is starting this month in Boston, and as GenomeWeb reported in 2013 when the project grant was awarded, it aims to enroll 480 newborns and their families to determine the infants' risk of disease and how knowing this information affects their care and the relationship between parents, child, and their physicians.

"It sounds like a good idea, an extension of the heel prick test that newborns already receive," Thomas says. "But sequencing has the potential to reveal much more as time goes on and our knowledge of the genome increases — both about medical conditions and other traits."

She relates the experience of one of the participants in the related MedSeq trial that focused on adults. At age 50, a healthy woman learned she had a variant associated with long QT syndrome and was thus at higher risk of sudden cardiac death. Thomas wonders how different this woman's life would've been if she'd known about her risk since birth.

But, Thomas adds, if she shies away from getting her child sequenced, will her kid then be in the minority in 10 or 15 years and miss out on certain opportunities?

The trial, she hopes, will give a sense of how this may play out.