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Clinical News

Development of a Carrier Screening Test

01/10/2012

A newly developed test could screen would-be parents for hundreds of different disease genes, to make sure they are not passed on to any future children.

The test’s makers say it should cost less than $400 and that routinely offering it to prospective parents could someday eliminate many deadly childhood diseases.

“We definitely want it to be pre-pregnancy. We do want it to be couples,” says Stephen Kingsmore, a physician-researcher at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., who led the team that developed this new test. “I think it’s going to be a personal decision, whether a couple wants to be tested.”

The inspiration for this new test came from Craig and Charlotte Benson, of Austin, Texas. In 2008, their daughter Christiane was diagnosed with Batten disease, a rare neurodegenerative disorder that currently has no cure. It progresses from vision loss to memory problems and seizures, and eventually death.

“Both her mom and I carry a gene mutation, a single gene mutation,” explains Craig Benson. He and his wife didn’t know they were carriers before they had children — indeed, they’d never heard of Batten disease.

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