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A Genetic Sneak Peek

GenePeeks, the startup company that simulates hypothetical children to gauge their genetic disease risk, has partnered with a fertility clinic in Seattle and aims to expand its services soon, Buzzfeed News reports. It adds that one couple there has used the service thus far.

For slightly less than $2,000, the company screens potential babies for their risk of some 450 different genetic conditions. To simulate the child's disease risk, the company examines how genetic information from the father's sperm and the mother's eggs could combine. If the sperm or egg donor DNA in combination with the client's DNA shows a risk of disease, then that donor wouldn't be offered to the client, Buzzfeed notes.

In the next few years, the company wants to expand the number of diseases its tests for to about 1,000, include more complex conditions like diabetes and schizophrenia, and offer its services to fertile parents, Buzzfeed adds.

"Part of the premise of the company is that every single person walking on the planet is a carrier for multiple recessive diseases," Morriss tells Buzzfeed. "But that information alone is not particularly material — what matters is who you choose to reproduce with."

However, some say the company is overselling what currently can be gleaned from genetic data. "It makes people in the field a little nervous," says Laura Hercher, a genetic counselor at Sarah Lawrence College. "When you're talking about 20 or 100 genes working together to create a risk profile, we're still really in the Dark Ages there."

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