Thursday, April 07, 2005

Labs selling DNA assessments - Highlights -

Labs selling DNA assessments - Highlights - MSNBC.comLabs selling DNA assessments
Costly tests offer predictions of future illnesses
By Ariana Eunjung Cha

SEATTLE - The boxes arrive in the mail by the dozens each day and are stacked in neat rows in the laboratory. Inside are swabs of the inside cheek, drops of blood, material that the senders hope will give them a peek at the life they have been dealt by their genes.

Over the next few weeks, Genelex Corp. technician Dascena Vincent and her colleagues here will conduct what they call a nutritional genetic assessment, analyzing the DNA samples for certain deficiencies. Problems in the genes that handle dietary fats? That could put you at risk for heart disease. Trouble with those that help rid your body of toxins like smoke? Cancer could be an issue later in life. And how about those associated with metabolizing vitamin D? Be watchful for signs of deteriorating bone strength.

Based on the findings, the company provides recommendations on diet, lifestyle changes and categories of medications that might work best for an individual. Depending on how many tests the customer has ordered, the bill -- which typically isn't covered by insurance -- could be $400 or more.

• More health coverage
Companies such as Genelex are pushing medical science into territory that was once the realm of gods and horoscope writers. They are making predictions about what someone's health might be in five, 10, 20 or more years. Other testing facilities around the country offer genetic assessments of what they claim is people's future propensity towards diabetes, liver disease, blood clots, dementia -- even alcoholism and gambling.

There are now tests for more than 1,100 ailments, double what was on the market five years ago, according to GeneTests, a public education service based at the University of Washington and funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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