Affordable gene mapping on the horizon?

Jan. 10, 2012 at 1:05 PM

CARLSBAD, Calif., Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A California company says it plans to introduce a genome sequencing machine able to map an individual's entire genetic makeup for $1,000.

Life Technologies Corp. of Carlsbad says the machine it plans to offer by the end of the year and its microchip technology will deliver the information in a day, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

The current cheapest sequencing costs about $3,000 and requires a week, and scientists say breaking the $1,000 barrier -- about the price of an MRI test -- will kick start genetic discoveries and drug development.

The goal, they say, is to map variations in the human genome to accelerate or improve disease diagnosis and lead the way to medical treatments aimed at patients with a specific genetic makeup.

However, that will require extensive laboratory research far beyond merely analyzing the genome, some researchers say.

"We are just beginning to scratch the surface about what [genomic] changes are clinically relevant," says Karen Kaul, a molecular pathologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem in Evanston, Ill.

"I think we have to be realistic and a little cautious" about current genomic information, she said.

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